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18-04-2024 | Automated Driving | dpa | News

Tesla Announces Presentation of a Robotaxi

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Elon Musk has been promising highly automated Teslas for years, but so far it has remained an assistance system. Now he finally wants to demonstrate a robotaxi in August.

Tesla plans to unveil its long-promised robotaxi on August 8. CEO Elon Musk announced the presentation on Friday, April 5, 2024 on his online platform X. No further details were initially given. According to earlier statements, the autonomous vehicle will be based on a new technical platform that is intended to make production more efficient and cost-effective.

Musk has been promising for years that Teslas will drive autonomously - and that this will radically change the value of the cars and the business model. So far, the "autopilot" technology in Tesla's electric cars is merely a driver assistance system that requires control and intervention by a human at the wheel.

Tesla Robotaxi Only Equipped with Cameras?

Unlike existing robotaxi providers such as Google's sister company Waymo, Musk has always maintained that he only wants to use cameras and not the more expensive lidars that scan the vehicle's surroundings. This approach is controversial among experts. In the past, accidents have occurred after "autopilot" cameras were dazzled by the sun - while drivers relied too much on the technology.

In California, for example, a trial concerning the death of a Tesla driver in March 2018 is set to enter the crucial phase soon. His car had crashed into a concrete bollard on a highway in Silicon Valley with the "Autopilot" system switched on. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) attributed the accident to system limitations and driver inattention. "Autopilot" may have followed an incorrect lane marking and steered the car at a speed of more than 100 km/h directly onto the bollard. The Tesla had not given a timely warning of an obstacle. The data recordings showed that the driver did not have his hands on the wheel. He may have been using a smartphone game. Tesla wants to point out in the trial that he was distracted.

Tesla FSD is Already Being Tested

In the USA, Tesla drivers can currently test an advanced "Autopilot" version called "Full Self-Driving" (FSD). Despite the name, this does not yet turn the cars into self-driving vehicles. The people at the wheel are still responsible and video footage showed that they had to intervene time and again to prevent accidents caused by software errors. It is unclear whether Musk wants to continue driving the robotaxis with cameras only.

Tesla shares jumped by almost four percent in after-hours trading on Friday following the announcement. Tesla is currently under greater pressure following a decline in deliveries in the past quarter. The electric car pioneer is feeling the effects of competition from cheaper models from Chinese manufacturers, particularly in China. According to earlier statements by Musk, production of a cheaper Tesla car could begin at the end of 2025. In the past, it took several years after the presentation of new Tesla models before they were available.

This is a partly automated translation of this German article by dpa.


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