The world of self-driving cars has two giants: Tesla and Waymo. Each represents one family of startups, with their own strategies and technical choices.
Today, I want to describe these two strategies and see how they differ.
Before that, know that you can read the technical detail of each company:
Companies built self-driving cars for various reasons: reducing traffic, saving human lives, improving healthcare, gaining hours of productivity ...
nuTonomy, a self-driving car startup, chose to build self-driving cars because, according to them, ride-sharing will be the biggest takeaway.
They estimate a saving of billions of dollars annually thanks to ride-sharing.
Ride-sharing has a lot of benefits, but it can't really be implemented today.
To understand why, we need to have a look at the SAE - 5 Levels of Automation.
Nutonomy's vision is clear: If we want self-driving cars to be useful, to show benefits, we must have at least Level 4.
Without Level 4 or Level 5, every advantage (the comfort of not paying attention to the road, traffic reduction, ...) just doesn't exist.
In the two visions of self-driving cars, NuTonomy stands with Waymo.
They provide self-driving cars right now, but to a limited number of people.
On the other hand, Tesla offers limited self-driving cars but to a lot of people.
Here's a graph showing different path to level 4, and different strategies.
As you can see, one group has a vertical incremental approach while the other has a horizontal approach based on scaling.
This is why you are under the impression that Tesla is leading self-driving cars.
Tesla's are somewhat more accessible that any service implemented.
The question we're trying to answer here is: "It is harder to deploy Level 4 vehicles everywhere or to incrementally improve the autonomy level".
Tesla is providing a Level 2 vehicle, and then perform an Over the Air update to make it a Level 3. Then, another update will make it a Level 4.
Waymo has Level 4 vehicles, but need Mapping to drive and to open a new city. Therefore, they can't be everywhere.
Product vs Service
When building self-driving cars, you can either sell a product (Tesla is selling a self-driving car) or a service (Waymo is offering a mobility service).
👉 When building a product, you're building one car that you sell to one user.
You have to:
👉 When building a service, you're building one car, and rent it to multiple users at the same time.
Servicing, therefore, has several advantages.
This is why most startups are Mobility as a Service (MaaS) startups.
It also has clear takeaways:
Finally, let's talk about when these services will arrive in our lives.
We often place 2030 as a horizon where we'll have self-driving cars.
Here's a graph shared by nuTonomy.
According to this prediction:
What do you think?
The race to fully self-driving is more alive than ever.
For now, Tesla is leading.
Engineers from everywhere are getting hired in this fantastic industry.
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