In the driver’s seat of driverless cars – ET Auto

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Musk has been struggling to lay his hands on enormous amounts of data to feed AI in cars to be able to drive themselves.

Elon Musk‘s vision for personal mobility is cars running on clean fuel and driving themselves. He has got the fuel bit right with battery-operated Tesla cars recharging on electricity generated from solar or nuclear energy (revealed last year in the ‘nuclear diamond battery’). Musk’s problem with this is, so have others. The second part of his vision – driverless cars – is still elusive. And this applies equally to Tesla as it does to its competitors.

Musk has been struggling to lay his hands on enormous amounts of data to feed AI in cars to be able to drive themselves. His visit last weekend to China, where collecting data on driving behaviour is relatively easier than in the US or Europe, could yield the breakthrough Tesla has been seeking for a decade. It could also avert price wars that EVs are going through.

China has amassed a ferocious pack of EV-makers, led by the world’s top producer BYD, that are not only forcing price cuts but are also pushing the envelope on autonomous vehicles. This is helped by the fact that some of its EV-makers such as Huawei started out as smartphone manufacturers and have been quite adept at making cars smarter. Baidu, China’s answer to Google, has also moved ahead on lane navigation using data from the world’s largest fleet of EVs equipped with sensory capabilities to avoid collision.

Tesla may gain from these developments, but may have a fight on its hands introducing cars running on Baidu in other countries. Though, for now, Tesla, which recently laid off 10% of its workforce, cannot afford to stay away from the world’s most elaborate test bed for smart cars.

Musk will have to go further with driverless car technology than his Chinese competitors to convince sceptical Western buyers that the tech is, indeed, safe. Driverless cars being developed are branded as fully supervised by humans, a claim that is called into question by driver behaviour like eating and texting in the smartish cars of today. The question is: who’ll be in the driver’s seat when it comes to driverless cars?

  • Published On May 1, 2024 at 04:22 PM IST

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