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Can Tesla Deliver A Self-Driving Electric Car Before 2020?

Can Tesla Deliver A Self-Driving Electric Car Before 2020?

Elon Musk has been a media darling for quite some time and his stature as a real life ‘Iron Man’ is growing with each passing day. With PayPal, Tesla Motors, Solar City and Space X, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Musk has so far managed to prove many of his skeptics wrong.

In spite of all the fanfare and hype, it is also known that Elon Musk often sets lofty goals for his companies. The latest development comes through an interview that Musk gave to a Danish Television network this September. Musk predicted that Tesla Motors would be able to produce EVs that would have a range of close to 745 miles as well as being fully ‘self-driving’ by the year 2020.

How does this stack up with other claims that Musk has made previously?

On September 29, Tesla finally launched its much awaited Model X. However, the Model X, just like a lot of other Tesla models, had been delayed several times in the last few years. Tesla previously announced a launch date of late 2013 for its Model X. Related: Lithium Market Set To Explode – All Eyes Are On Nevada

However, the project was delayed for several reasons related to its range ratings, issues with its Falcon doors and safety ratings. Tesla’s low cost Model 3 (to be priced at close to $35,000) will likely hit the markets once the upcoming Gigafactory starts producing batteries. Once the factory produces lithium-ion batteries in sufficient quantities, the Model 3 might well go under production by 2017 (as stated by Tesla Motors) as the Gigafactory is slated to open by 2016. This could end Tesla’s track record of delaying its car launches.

Tesla Motors might just succeed in bringing out a model that could come close to its stated 745 mile range (in controlled conditions though), thanks to the new batteries that will be manufactured at the Gigafactory. However, the claim of ‘self-driving technology’ is a much more uncertain proposition, as it might take longer to resolve certain technical issues related to sensors and the federal laws associated with self-driving technology. Tesla Motors is currently testing its Autopilot system which it hopes to launch (partially) in the next few months. However, Tesla Motors is not the only one that is gunning for the ‘Self driving’ technology.

Will other car manufacturers be able to match this claim?

Similar to Tesla Motor, Toyota Motors recently announced that they would be able to introduce a ‘self-driving’ car by the year 2020. The Japanese auto giant recently unveiled a car that could ‘self-drive’ on a highway and it used advanced sensors for navigation and overtaking other vehicles.

Although this car could only be self-driven on a highway, the company aims to launch a completely automated car by 2020 during the Tokyo Olympic Games. Even BMW is teaming up with Chinese search engine giant Baidu to introduce an autonomous driving feature in all its cars, again by year 2020. Related: Oil Fundamentals Improve But Inventories Will Keep Prices Low

Search giant Google (who is looking to collaborate with the likes of Toyota and Ford) has already made a self-driving car prototype without steering wheels, accelerator pedals or breaks, but the vehicle is far from commercial use. Even Mercedes Benz maker Daimler announced in 2013 that it would be the first car maker to launch a fully automated car by the end of this decade. Mercedes Benz’s F015 Luxury in Motion concept car can be seen in the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016.


An inside of a Self-driven concept car from Mercedes

Image Source : TechInsider

However, Tesla Motor’s biggest competition could come from Apple, which is secretly working on a self-driving car project, named ‘Project Titan.’ Although Apple is not revealing any information, its CEO Tim Cook had series of meetings with car executives and has been successful in poaching several engineers and auto experts from Tesla Motors and Mercedes Benz. “Important engineers? They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.” This is what Elon Musk had to say when asked if Apple was poaching Tesla’s employees for its own self-driving car project. According to a report published in Tech Insider, Apple’s self- driving car might have a ship date of 2019, which would be before Tesla’s target of 2020. Related: Has Oil Finally Bottomed?


What does this mean for Tesla?

With all this, it seems that Tesla might just manage to bring out an EV which not only has a range of over 700 miles but would also be fully automated. But the question here is not how Tesla does it; it is all about when it does it. There are other big players like Apple, BMW, Toyota and Mercedes who are developing their own versions of self-driving cars. But, will these players be able to manage a 700-plus mile range for their self-driving cars? And, will they be able to introduce these cars and keep to their set targets? Regardless of who ultimately wins the race, it seems that 2020 will be a very interesting year for the automotive industry.

By Gaurav Agnihotri for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • peet365 on October 12 2015 said:
    What most people don’t realize is that the main reason for Model X delay was success of Model S, which was able to take whole production capacity of Freemont factory and Panasonic battery supply. If Model S would struggle with demand they would introduce Model X much earlier with fewer features.
    I fully agree that 2020 will be very interesting year in car industry and I believe it will be definitely year with more than 1 million of new electric cars sold. Still far from significantly effecting oil demand, but after that, it will go fast.

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