What is Self-Driving?

Russ Mitchell who covers the rapidly changing global auto industry (with special emphasis on California, including Tesla, electric vehicles, and driverless cars) at The Los Angeles Times once again joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss what is self-driving.

The conversation begins with Grayson posing the question to Russ: are we in an electric vehicle bubble?

Yes, we are in an EV bubble, but that’s part of a greater stock market bubble.

– Russ Mitchell

The conversation evolves into the electric vehicle charging market and if that market is in a bubble. The conclusion is yes. Staying on the economics theme and price performance of companies and markets, Russ discusses Tesla’s current public market valuation.

A large portion of the general public believes that a Tesla is a self-driving car due to the vehicle’s FSD (Full Self-Driving) feature. This feature has created scenarios that are dangerous and have led to crashes as members of the public are overly confident that their Tesla will drive them home safely. While in fact, a Tesla is not a self-driving car (today).

Regulators and politicians are beginning to take notice and ask questions about whether Tesla’s FSD system is a self-driving vehicle or if it’s a Level 2 ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) that requires drivers to be fully engaged at all times.

California Senate Transportation Committee Chair, Lena Gonzalez recently sent a letter to the CA DMV questing the CA DMV’s approval in allowing Tesla to operate vehicles with the FSD (Full Self-Driving) feature enabled on public roads in California.

The letter from California State Senator Gonzalez raises the question does the CA DMV even has the legal authority to impose regulations on FSD since it’s technically an ADAS system and not a self-driving vehicle.

As an example, there have been multiple police reports of Teslas with FSD engaged being involved in crashes and nothing happens from a regulatory standpoint. When Pony AI, which is authorized to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in California, got into a crash on October 28, 2021, the company had its testing permit suspended by the CA DMV.

With multiple regulatory bodies vying to regulate autonomous vehicles in California, will passenger AV companies look to follow non-AV businesses by relocating to Texas and Florida? It’s possible, but Russ brings up the point that engineering talent is located in the Bay Area.

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Russ discuss what the AV industry will look like in California over the next 10 years and what consumers can expect in the market.

People shouldn’t assume that any car for sale right now can drive itself because it can’t.

– Russ Mitchell

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Recorded on Thursday, December 16, 2021.