Will next year bring the rise of the robotaxi? Not according to Uber’s CEO.
In late April, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said that his pure-electric car brand would have over one million robotaxis on the road by the end of next year.
This week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi contradicted that assertion. “I thought: If he can do it, more power to him,” Khosrowshahi told CNBC. “Our approach is a more conservative approach as far as sensor technology and mapping technology. The software’s going to get there. So I don’t think that his vision is by any means wrong. I just think we disagree on timing.”
So, if we are not going to see robotaxis in 2020 as Musk claims, what sort of timeline is reasonable? “I think it will be quite a few years beyond,” Khosrowshahi said when pressed on the subject.
It is important to point out that autonomous technologies from both Uber and Tesla have killed people. An autonomous Uber test vehicle struck and killed a cyclist in Arizona a year ago. And several Tesla vehicles have been involved in fatal collisions while the car’s Autopilot system was engaged.
Clearly Uber has learned its lesson and has decided to proceed with much more caution — a “conservative approach,” as Khosrowshahi put it. Have Musk and Tesla had a similar epiphany? It doesn’t appear so, no.
Despite their disparate views on and approaches to robotaxis, Khosrowshahi does agree with Musk on at least one thing: the future of mobility is electric.
“We think that’s a no-brainer,” Khosrowshahi said of electrification. “It’s good for the environment. It’s where the world is going. And we’re playing our part, for example, in London to move it electric.”
Amusingly, just this week AAA released a survey that found Americans are more likely to believe that — by 2030 — the majority of vehicles will automated driving capabilities than they will be electric.
It seems virtually no one agrees with Musk’s timeline.