Elon Musk said it’s ‘debatable’ whether it’s worth paying $199 for Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ subscription

Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a black suit walks on stage in front of an image of a Model Y vehicle
Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks in front of a Model Y image in Shanghai.

  • Elon Musk discussed Tesla’s new Full Self-Driving (FSD) subscription in the company’s earnings call.
  • Musk said it was “debatable” whether it’s worth paying the subscription right now.
  • He said people subscribing to FSD, which doesn’t make your Tesla autonomous, were “betting on the future.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elon Musk says it’s “debatable” whether Tesla’s new “Full Self Driving” (FSD) subscription is worth paying for.

Tesla announced last week it would let customers purchase FSD with a $199 monthly subscription, rather than paying $10,000 up front when they buy their vehicle, which was the only option before.

During the company’s earnings call on Monday, Musk said: “We need to make Full Self-Driving work in order for it to be a compelling value proposition.”

He added customers were essentially “betting on the future” by buying the subscription because FSD is not yet widespread.

“Right now, does it make sense for somebody to do FSD subscription? I think it’s debatable. But once we have Full Self-Driving widely deployed, then the value proposition will be clear,” Musk said.

He was answering a question from an analyst about the subscription’s pricing.

FSD does not make Tesla cars fully autonomous – rather, it adds various driver-assistance features. Tesla says drivers must stay fully attentive with their hands on the wheel while FSD is enabled. The company warned on July 10, following the release of FSD’s most recent software update, that the vehicle may do the “wrong thing at the worst time.”

Read more: Tesla and China dominate electric vehicles right now but Europe is the place to watch. Meet its 10 most important innovators and investors.

Earlier in the call, Musk said the company expected FSD to “build slowly” but gather “a lot of momentum over time.” This is more cautious than some of his previous predictions.

In July 2020, Musk told a conference in Shanghai Tesla would have the “basic functionality” for truly autonomous vehicles by the end of that year. In April 2019, Musk also said the company would put 1 million autonomous “robotaxis” on the road in 2020 – the company has yet to release any.

In July 2021 Musk tweeted that building a fully autonomous car had turned out to be harder than he expected.

Tesla’s FSD, along with its more rudimentary Autopilot system, have come under public scrutiny over safety concerns. Musk said in April that a Tesla on Autopilot mode was 10 times less likely to get into an accident than a regular car, although experts told Insider’s Tim Levin that this stat was misleading.

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The dream of the truly driverless car is officially dead

Google driverless car
This May 13, 2014 file photo shows a row of Google self-driving Lexus cars at a Google event outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

  • Driverless technology has been heralded as a way to save costs and save lives.
  • But driverless does not mean humanless. Technology still requires human oversight.
  • This often means increased, not reduced, costs for business and consumers alike.
  • Ashley Nunes is Director for Competition Policy at the R Street Institute.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lyft’s quest for driverless cars is over. The company recently announced the sale of its self-driving unit to auto giant Toyota. The move isn’t surprising. Despite hefty investment, Lyft’s driverless utopia, like many others, remains more fiction than fact.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In 2016, Lyft President John Zimmer predicted that driverless cars would, “account for the majority of Lyft rides within five years.” By 2025, Zimmer reasoned, private car ownership will all but end in major US cities.”

Such reasoning was largely rooted in “techno optimism:” a deeply held belief that machines are superior to humans in terms of servitude. Sensors and software, after all, don’t complain, don’t tire, and don’t demand pay hikes – or salaries at all for that matter. This trifecta is purportedly a surefire way to lift profits. Hence, the tech-centric spending spree on all things autonomous. Ride-hailing companies have burnt millions over the years on perfecting the technology.

Yet, autonomous does not mean humanless. In Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy,” Historian David Mindell explains why. “There are no fully autonomous systems,” Mindell reasons. “The machine that operates entirely independently of human direction is a useless machine. Only a rock is truly autonomous.” Put another way, the type of automation ride-hailing companies are betting on to boost earnings doesn’t exist. It never has.

And if it did, humans would still play a role. The reason? Machines – much like humans – can’t be trusted to get it right all the time, every time. Take what is arguably the longest serving piece of automation today: the airplane autopilot. First introduced in 1912, the system is designed to balance an airplane so human pilots don’t have to. The result is a smoother, safer ride for passengers. But as we know, there have been hiccups. In 1985, a jetliner nearly crashed after the autopilot failed to inform the crew about an imminent ‘loss of control’ – a dangerous condition that can cause a crash. Because of such oversights, autopilot use today is contingent on human supervision.

This also explains why driverless cars remain, after years of development, not so driverless after all. Look beyond the headlines and you’ll find human overlords watch from afar over purportedly automated systems. Customer support staff are also on hand to answer rider queries – such as “What if I want to change my destination during the trip?” And then there’s an armada of pricey engineers standing ready to solve vexing road problems, like what to do when a lane is blocked by double-parked cars, orange traffic cones, or the occasional taco truck.

All this human capital means more, not less, expense; bloated, not pared down, balance sheets. And that’s problematic for an industry that has struggled to turn a profit. In 2019 alone, ride-hailing companies lost over $10 billion, their financial statements being described as, “a hemorrhaging fountain of red ink with no path to profitability.” Company execs had hoped self-driving investments would provide relief. The available evidence suggests otherwise.

It’s time we see the driverless dream for what it is: a Disneyland-style spectacle that can’t “live up to its sci-fi imaginings, a series of very expensive and glitzy pilot projects that can’t cut it in the real world.” Driverless technology may,, on its best days, be astounding, but those days have been few and far between. Self-driving algorithms may – given the frequency of human folly – make intuitive sense but intuition isn’t always right.

Earlier this year, the UK government suggested that driverless cars could soon hit the A10, an major road in England that connects London to various cities to its north. “We’re on the cusp of a driving revolution,” noted Transport Minister Rachel Maclean. But turning that revolution into reality demands a guarantee of technological perfection – a guarantee that few, if any, driverless tech developers can give. Until that happens, expect human drivers to stick around.

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MicroVision skyrockets 50% after announcing progress on Lidar tech for self-driving cars

MicroVision Lidar rendering.
MicroVision Lidar rendering.

  • MicroVision announced progress on its Long-Range Lidar (LRL) Sensor on Thursday causing share prices to soar.
  • The company says it will meet its April milestone of completing A-Samples of the LRL Sensor.
  • Sumit Sharma MicroVision’s CEO says the company expects its censors to meet or exceed OEM requirements.
  • MicroVision’s stock has appreciated 1225% in the past six months causing short-sellers to take note.
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MicroVision stock skyrocketed as much as 50% on Thursday after the company announced it has made significant progress on its patented Lidar technology for autonomous vehicles.

MicroVision said it received the necessary components and equipment to meet its April milestone of completing A-Samples of its Long-Range Lidar (LRL) Sensor and it started outdoor testing of key performance features on its development platform.

“We expect MicroVision’s Long-Range Lidar Sensor, (LRL Sensor) which has been in development for over two years, to meet or exceed requirements established by OEMs for autonomous safety and autonomous driving features,” said Sumit Sharma, Chief Executive Officer of MicroVision.

MicroVision’s CEO also said he expects his company’s first generation Lidar sensor to have a range of 250 meters and “the highest resolution at range of any lidar with 340 vertical lines up to 250 meters, 568 vertical lines up to 120 meters, and 944 vertical lines up to 60 meters.”

Read more: BANK OF AMERICA: Buy these 7 online-retail stocks that are ‘structural winners’ set to build on strong 2020 gains – including one with 41% upside

MicroVision’s stock has gained 1,225% in the last six months and over 3,000% throughout the past year. The rapid rise in share prices for a company that doesn’t produce any significant revenues caused short-sellers to take notice.

In December Hindenburg Research blasted MicroVision calling the company a “corporate husk.”

“We are short $MVIS. In a market gone mad, this $1.2 billion market cap corporate husk with almost no revenue or intellectual property value is a standout.” Hindenburg Research tweeted

“It has risen 5,000% from lows this year on misguided retail euphoria over its LiDAR IP portfolio amid a broad EV bubble,” Hindenburg continued. “No one buys patents these days for any real money unless the patents have been put through the test of at least an IPR, our IP attorney told us.”

MicroVision claims its Lidar sensors are some of the best, most scalable products in the industry.

Read more: BlackRock says investors haven’t fully priced in the structural changes brought about by the pandemic – and pinpoints 2 areas of the market that can still run for years

“We expect the capability of our LRL Sensor to meet or exceed OEM requirements, based on technology we have scaled multiple times over the last decade, as being a very strong strategic advantage,” Sharma said. 

“Additionally, our sensor being designed on scalable silicon wafer and laser diode technologies will be capable of achieving scale at costs below $1,000 ASP, a key price point expected for commercial success,” added Sharma.

The company posted just $639,000 in revenue during the three months that ended in September and a net loss of $2.8 million.

MicroVision traded up 29.57%, at $18.14, as of 3:32 p.m. EST on Thursday.

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Amazon’s autonomous vehicle startup Zoox just unveiled a robotaxi EV without a steering wheel that can go 16 hours without charging – see what it looks like

zoox autonomous vehicle threequarter view
The firm says its first vehicle can run for 16 hours at a time.

  • Amazon-owned autonomous-taxi company Zoox unveiled its first vehicle Monday. 
  • Zoox designed the vehicle for cramped city streets, giving it the ability to drive in both directions and steer with all four wheels. 
  • The electric vehicle can travel 16 hours between charging, Zoox said. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After six years in business, Zoox – Amazon’s autonomous vehicle company – unveiled its first self-driving taxi

The firm on Monday took the wraps off of an electric “purpose-built robotaxi” that it developed for its future ride-hailing service. The “carriage-style” vehicle has two bench seats that face one another and accommodates up to four passengers. It’s designed to be fully self-driving and doesn’t have a steering wheel. 

Zoox Autonomous Vehicle   Studio Side Female Entering Vehicle
The firm’s new vehicle will be deployed as part of a future ride-hailing service.

Zoox developed the vehicle to shuttle passengers around in dense urban environments. As such, it’s only 143 inches long – shorter than a Mini Cooper. It also has bidirectional-driving capabilities and four-wheel steering, which enables it to maneuver in small spaces and change directions without needing to reverse.

The taxi has a top speed of 75 mph and can travel up to 16 hours on a full charge of its 133 kWh battery. 

zoox autonomous vehicle interior
The taxi seats four passengers.

With a system of lidar, radar, and cameras mounted at all four corners, Zoox said its vehicle eliminates “typical blind spots” and allows for a 270-degree view at each corner. 

Zoox hasn’t revealed when it will launch its ride-hailing service but confirmed to Bloomberg that it won’t be in 2021. The company is currently testing its technology in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Foster City.

Zoox Autonomous Vehicle   Single Side   Coit Tower SF
Zoox is currently testing its technology in San Francisco, Foster City, and Las Vegas.

Zoox is one of several companies sprinting to bring autonomous vehicles to city streets. This year, Waymo and GM’s Cruise announced plans to begin testing fully driverless cars to the streets of Phoenix and San Francisco, respectively.

Read more: Aurora is buying Uber’s self-driving unit and Amazon grabbed Zoox as the autonomy industry consolidates. Experts say these 7 companies could be acquired next.

And Cruise revealed its own dedicated, autonomous six-passenger vehicle called the Origin in January. But many major players integrate their automated-driving technology into existing cars – so Zoox’s new taxi sets the company apart in that respect. 

Zoox Autonomous Vehicle   Reveal Front Half
Zoox said its system of radar, lidar, and cameras gets rid of typical blind spots.

The vehicle’s debut comes as the autonomous-vehicle space has started to consolidate – the industry is coming to terms with how challenging it is to develop driverless cars without immense financial resources.

Amazon bought Zoox for a reported $1.2 billion earlier this year, and Aurora Innovation announced it would acquire Uber’s self-driving division, Uber ATG, this month. 

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