When most of America and much of the world was relaxing after the holiday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was busy on Twitter pondering the future and polling his many fans.
“What should Tesla do with in-car gaming in an autonomous world?” Musk asked, before receiving over 6,000 responses and then ultimately answering his own question.
“Entertainment will be critical when cars drive themselves,” Musk quipped.
As much as the eclectic billionaire is thinking about Polytopia and other fun things to do while rising in a Tesla, there’s still one big problem in the way of that happening; autonomous vehicles (AVs) — or fully self-driving (FSD) vehicles, as Tesla calls them — don’t exist yet.
“Is he getting ahead of himself? Yes, I think he is,” Fred Lambert, editor-in-chief at Elektrek wrote in response to Musk’s latest public commentary.
“This feels like a distraction from the fact that Tesla is missing another important FSD timeline put forward by Elon,” Lambert added in reference to Musk’s previous prediction to have a million robotaxis on the road by the end of 2020. “Right now, the focus should really be on solving autonomous driving and not finding what to do when they achieve that.”
Distraction Or Planning Ahead?
Envisioning an autonomous car that is so safe and self-sufficient that you can play games in it may be a bit forward looking, but that has never stopped Tesla or other companies from pondering the future. While that AV or FSD future still feels distant to most consumers, to the engineers and automakers that are up close and personal with the problem every day and trying to resolve it, it’s not that far out.
In fact, the prospects of this actually happening saw reports surface last week that said Apple was moving forward with plans to launch an autonomous iCar in 2024 and go head-to-head against Tesla.
Even though the increasingly digitized automotive industry already builds machines with as many as 3,500 semiconductors in them, at least one analyst warned of getting overly excited about the iCar given that Apple would be arriving late to an already crowded contest.
“If Apple car wants to succeed in the future, the key success factor is big data/AI, not hardware” Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International wrote after the recent iCar report. “One of our biggest concerns is that when Apple car is launched, the current self-driving car brands will have accumulated at least five years of big data and be conducive to deep learning/AI. ‘How does Apple, a latecomer, overcome this lagging gap?'” he asked.
Groceries Before Gaming
While Elon Musk ponders the driverless future for individuals, lots of other companies are busy tackling the technology to serve other commercial purposes with lower stakes.
Just last week, Nuro announced it had been granted the first-ever permit to deploy autonomous vehicles on public streets from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and plans to start delivering pizzas, groceries and other goods next year — but not people.
“It is a zero occupant vehicle, so there’s no space for a human inside of it,” said Aidan Sullivan, Nuro’s director of public policy and government relations, noting the vehicle’s ability to change the temperature of its dual trunks depending on what’s inside. Nuro also allows consumers and businesses to track its location to coordinate delivery.
Outside the U.S., companies like Baidu in China are using 5G technology to improve data analytics and safety while also trying to bridge the public’s trust gap when it comes to actually getting in an AV and going somewhere.
Given the increased digitalization and reliance on data inherent in AVs, Forbes pointed to recent cyberattacks as another area of concern that consumers should consider before handing over the keys.
Whether it’s a new vaccine or a FSD car, the public is generally willing but slow to embrace new technology as long as there aren’t any major setbacks suffered by the early adopters.