Tesla Leads The Self-Driving Race – Can The “Little Guy” Stay On Top?


MAR 14 2017 BY EVANNEX 49

Inside a Tesla Model S


News coverage of autonomous vehicles is everywhere but, as we have often pointed out, few observers realize how transformative the effects on society are going to be, and many in the mainstream media ignore or minimize Tesla’s role in the coming revolution. ARK Investment Management is one of the outfits that gets it. In a recent white paper called “Mobility-As-A-Service: Why Self-Driving Cars Could Change Everything,” the company notes that fully autonomous vehicles may become commercially available before 2020, and predicts that this will enable the rapid growth of autonomous taxi networks, and transform the automotive industry.

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris.

While there will certainly be losers (taxi drivers, slow-moving automakers), ARK sees the brave new self-driving world as not only an extremely valuable investment opportunity, but an overall boon to society. Autonomous taxis will reduce the cost of mobility. ARK estimates that they will cost consumers $0.35 cents per mile, which is about half of what a typical car owner pays to drive today, taking all the costs into account. ARK expects traffic to increase dramatically, to three times today’s levels by 2030. However, it believes fewer people will choose to own vehicles, which will decrease global auto sales, cutting them nearly in half in developed markets.

Tesla Model S

Many would expect lower auto sales to be bad news for the economy, but ARK foresees just the opposite. Various types of new services will generate revenue, people will gain more productive time once they are relieved of driving, and land now used for parking lots will be repurposed for more profitable uses. By 2035, ARK predicts that autonomous taxis will add more than $2 trillion to US GDP. And it’s not only money that will be saved. ARK expects auto accident rates to decline by over 80% as machines take the wheel from drunk and distracted drivers. In the US alone, autonomous vehicles could save as many as 140,000 lives by 2035, most of them young adults.

Model X rolls out on to the stage to be handed to the first owner in Hong Kong. Credit: Tesla

ARK’s research indicates that the global market for “mobility as a service” will grow to over $10 trillion by the early 2030s. The company expects autonomous taxi networks alone to have a market cap of $4 trillion, three times that of the automotive manufacturing industry. ARK CEO Cathie Wood recently discussed her company’s bullish stance on autonomy and Tesla [NASDAQ: TSLA] on Bloomberg Technology. “We think between electric vehicles and autonomous taxi networks [the $10-trillion global mobility market] is going to be disrupted severely. We think Tesla has its eye on the autonomous taxi market, and of course, we know it’s leading the charge in electric vehicles, so we’re very excited about Tesla.”

Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson makes a half-hearted attempt to rebut Ms. Wood’s argument, suggesting that investors should buy Ford instead of Tesla, because it has a similar market cap while currently producing 100 times more automobiles, and also has “a focus on self-driving.” Ms. Wood replies, pointing out that Tesla is not just an automaker, but “a technology company, a battery company, an internet of things company. We don’t think you can put it in the same category as Ford. Ford has to overcome the internal combustion engine, shifting over to electric vehicles. That’s one big transition, and then on top of that, they’re going to have to try and face this autonomous taxi network… so we’re very focused on who’s leading the charge into this new age.”

Above: Cathie Wood, Ark Invest’s chief executive officer and chief investment officer, explains why she is excited about the future of Tesla (Youtube: Bloomberg Technology)

While all the major automakers, including Ford, are investing substantial amounts in both autonomy and electrification, to equate their R&D efforts to Tesla’s established leadership is quite a stretch at this point. There is a valid argument to be made that, once the majors finally do catch up, their vast resources and economies of scale will give them an advantage. However, Tesla bulls will counter by pointing to past cases in which incumbent giants found themselves paralyzed by the classic Innovator’s Dilemma, and lost their lunches to agile new competitors.


Source: ARK Investment Management

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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49 Comments on "Tesla Leads The Self-Driving Race – Can The “Little Guy” Stay On Top?"

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When Ford intents to get serious about electric cars and self-driving, after 2020, Tesla will produce about one fifth the number of cars (Ford ~7m and Tesla ~1.4m).
Ford will be looking for a battery maker willing to invest $10 billion on behalf of Ford (price of battery production capacity for 1m cars). Tesla will have 3-4 Giga Factories producing batteries and cars.
Ford will launch its first fully autonomous car. Tesla will have ~3m on the road.

Who is David and who is Goliath in the next decade?

David, the little guy, is obviously Tesla, and he slew Goliath with technology. The only reason Ford is putting effort into autonomy and EVs is because Tesla is forcing them and everyone else.

I don’t really get how Tesla is leading the self driving race. Not that they don’t have a better solution than most out there but are they really leading?

Tesla probably does $ wise more with less (which is no small feat) but do they have any vehicles that are constantly driving around town without people having to have their hands ready to take over the vehicle?

Seems that the vehicles that are decked out to do it and that are actually doing it are in the lead if you ask me.

Yes, they are leading. If you don’t see how, well you can lead a horse to water…

The only comprehensive data available which can bu used to compare how every company is doing is collected in California. The data shows Waymo is far ahead, needing only .2 (that’s point two) human interventions per thousand miles. Next is BMW with 1.6, followed by Ford, Nissan, and GM, with 5.1, 6.8, and 18.5, respectively. Tesla is way back of Waymo (pun intended) at 330.

GM may be a dark horse. It’s sharply reduced its number after acquiring Cruise Automation, but it has forever to go to catch Waymo.

Tesla is only using cameras which likely won’t ever be sufficient. The leaders are using lidar and mapping.


Seems to me with “learning” interjected into Tesla’s auto pilot, Tesla should be learning at a much higher rate than those competitors….and if those competitors are so great why don’t they have it offered in a production car?

Typical foot dragging especially by the big 3.

Because the tech isn’t actually ready yet for mass market and to safely cover the situations dumb humans would put it in.

When you’re one of the worlds largest automakers you have a lot to lose and putting out a car that isn’t ready, a car where idiots get in the back seat on the free way and record it doing something it’s not supposed to do is a very bad idea.

I think most people would agree that the NHTSA reporting that Tesla cars with AutoSteer installed having a nearly 40% reduction in accident rate is vastly more important than a few dumbasses posting “look Ma, no hands!” videos on YouTube.

Refusing to deploy a technology that has been proven to save lives just because it hasn’t yet been perfected*, or made idiot-proof, would be the worst possible case of “The perfect driving out the good”.

This is the same argument as the one that said we shouldn’t wear seat belts because it’s possible someone might be trapped inside a burning car by a seat belt that gets jammed in a very bad accident. And it’s just as wrong as that argument was.

The important question isn’t whether it has been perfected, or even whether it has been improved enough to be as close to perfect as one can reasonably hope it ever will. The question is whether or not using it now will save lives now.

*And speaking as a computer programmer, it never will be perfected since nothing this complex can ever be 100% free of errors.

The crash rate is not the fatality rate. By my reckoning, Tesla Autopilot has still killed more than it has saved.

As a serial anti-Tesla FUDSTER here, “your reckoning” 4E is nothing more then you showing your bias against Tesla by your constant trolling here.

Since you have ZERO evidence and never do why don’t you crawl back under your bridge.

Elon Said internet access would be FREE to everyone eventually,, GREAT! Now they have Free WIFI under Bridges too! W0W ! I did not know that ! L M A 0..

There is a difference between accident avoidance systems and self driving systems. No one here I think is saying they shouldn’t have the accident avoidance systems and that they don’t save lives.

This article is about self driving and how Tesla is a supposed eager despite having a system that requires more user interaction than many others because of the likely limitations of the tech they have chosen to utilize.

Who knows, maybe in the long run they will have the superior system but for now they are not the leaders.

Are we supposed to go on your word? The evidence available strongly suggests not only that Tesla leads but that they are way ahead.

I’m not sure that “learning” is the critical factor at this stage. I’m thinking it’s mapping. Waymo is so far ahead because it’s been using Lidar and mapping. That works because it’s easier to compare something to a known base than to figure out how to deal with new things. Hence the base map is key.

If you look at the numbers, if this were a golf game, Waymo would be shooting an 80 and Tesla would be shooting a 132,000. (BMW would be shooting a 640). That’s a lot of strokes!

In that race Tesla is at a distinct disadvantage because it doesn’t have a ton of vehicles (the data collection vehicle doesn’t need to be electric).

What a perfect illustration of the saying “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.

Ahh, so when you are unable to rebut, you call them a liar.

There was no rebuttal at all. Just a bunch of nonsense.

Don, George,
Tesla is both camera and radar based, for AP1 and AP2. Important to know, and why I put the link below, is that Mobileye is Tesla’s AP1 radar system. The problems with AP2 seem related to Tesla’s own radar programming not yet surpassing Mobileye, since they broke away from them.

George, The learning is neat to watch, as you experience “falsing” less. That said, the “falsing” makes for some dangerous moments that require intervention (or “beta” moves). I can understand the major OEMs not wanting to expect that from their customers. With Tesla’s AP, you learn where it works, and doesn’t work, then it becomes almost as consistent as a computer. There’s a level of trust and responsibility in operating it within its limits. Beyond that, it’s amazing. Exceptionally well integrated.

“George, The learning is neat to watch, as you experience “falsing” less.”

Yes, I think as the system gets more miles it gets better. Thus it is to your advantage to have lots of cars out there learning.

The advantage is massive.

When you look at the Actual Tesla report you see that they had four cars on the road in October and one in November. With a total of 530 miles. All but fifteen of those disruptions happened on wet roads.
It is like they needed to make a video to show it off. So they tested the routes in the rain, updated the software, and then did the tests when the roads were dry so they could upload it to youtube.

Here are all of the reports.

DonC said:

“The data shows Waymo is far ahead, needing only .2 (that’s point two) human interventions per thousand miles.”

Typical anti-Tesla FUD, using cherry-picked figures.

The important question isn’t which system is “better” according to some arbitrary measure of user interface; the question is which system is actually reducing accidents and saving lives.

Given the recent statement by the NHTSA that Tesla vehicles with AutoSteer installed have an almost 40% reduction in accident rate, I think the answer is pretty clear.

The reason Tesla is ahead in this field isn’t so much that its tech is actually better; arguably Google has more advanced self-driving tech. The reason Tesla is ahead is that it has been bold enough to actually put into a commercial product for use by the masses the technology that other companies are just experimenting with.

The interventions are safety issues, not user interface issues. In the race to full autonomy, Tesla is quantitatively behind.

They have the most advanced product in the market and clearly the most effective way to improve their product but based solely on opinions the are behind.

Only in terms of feeling good posts by random uninformed people on the internet…

An anti-Tesla FUDster calling someone else “uninformed”.

Almost like irony. 😉

An idiot using made up words. How appropriate…

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous


If they have one, I’ll take a “Model à trois” without the hardware for autonomous crap.

Sadly though, it won’t be available.

“I’ll take a “Model à trois” without the hardware for autonomous crap”

Ever driven long distances on California freeways?? It’s nerve racking. There’s no such thing as constant speed driving.

The white paper is behind a paywall, so can’t read the details. I do think the lower cost per mile travelled, higher overall vehicle miles per year, lower ownership %, and much lower fatality rates all make sense. The valuation size of the MAAS seems is a WAG. It will really depend on how much cheaper/convenient MAAS is over ownership. The one conclusion left out is this is a stake in the heart of mass transit.

I think is just a matter of how quick the transition happens. The slower the better for the big automakers.

Boomers retiring and teens more interested in phones than cars is a gloomy outlook for auto sales next decade.

” The slower the better for the big automakers.”

That certainly seems to be the case on all issues and not just AP.


“The white paper is behind a paywall”

Once we tear down the walls we can use that blank sheet to write history.

Luckily we are facing a time where the idea of Silvio Gesell becomes reality.

Negative interest rates are a funny indicator of what is happening.

I just hope no one will build a wall before robots take over our economy.

In a world where robots take our work, we will be free to go fishing whenever we want to.

We will reach a time where we are not just free in our speech, but also free in our thoughts.

The walls are in our heads and hearts.

Solar will free us from energy slavery.

Robots will free us from work slavery.

Who the heck is going to free us from mental slavery?

For a land of the free!

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité


Difficult to tell leadership when one is very public and the others all have private fleets in testing and we really don’t know their capability.

Most other companies have bought into the LIDAR concept that requires scanning laser beam and have various roof or hood mounted scanners. They look awkward, but who knows it may become normal and acceptable. Tesla does it all with cameras (behind windshields) and radar(behind front grill) and are not visible from the outside and non-intrusive. I personally don’t think there is any advantage to LIDAR. Mimicking human eyesight to me is a pretty good way to recognize objects.

Tesla is taking the bold approach of including the hardware in all new cars which means they can be updated later and costs are being brought down by large volume purchases. The normal industry approach is to market the latest advances as costly options in their most expensive models and take years for the technology to trickle down to the cheaper models. Tesla used vehicles will command a premium price for years as they won’t be obsoleted by self-driving technology. A 2017 Tesla will be more desirable than a 2021 Ford!

“I personally don’t think there is any advantage to LIDAR. Mimicking human eyesight to me is a pretty good way to recognize objects.” There may or may not be an advantage to using lidar over radar, but certainly there is a very demonstrable advantage of using an active scanning system, such as lidar or radar, over a camera-based, passive optical scanning system. Certainly if we could reproduce by software and hardware the exceptional visual acuity of the human eye and human brain, that would be pretty good… altho radar works much better for penetrating fog and “seeing” in the dark. But no one who has looked at the limitations of computer-driven optical object recognition would ever claim that the tech of cameras and computer software available today can be even remotely as good as the “Mark I eyeball”. If Tesla’s semi-autonomous system didn’t formerly rely overly much on optical object recognition, then the fatal accident in which a Model S’s computer “brain” confused the white side of a semi trailer with a “brightly lit sky” wouldn’t have happened. Active scanning would likely have prevented the accident. And even now, Tesla’s system is relying on optical recognition for scanning to the… Read more »

Does anyone worry about massive numbers of people being put out of work by self-driving vehicles?

I very much like the idea of AI acting as a safety system to hit the brakes or keep from running off the road. The goal of using AI to take away people’s jobs just seems wrong…

I had a friend who drove a taxi. Its a terrible job. The sooner AI takes it away the better IMHO.

Most jobs are terrible, because they steal your lifetime. We should carefully look at our lives and determine how much time we spent on buying stuff, bringing it home, putting it somewhere and finally throw it away without ever having used it. Unless we spend more of our time to build another garage or shed to put all that stuff away. 90% of all the things we own, we barely ever use, so wouldn’t it be great if we all just work 10% of the time we now do, and use the rest of our lives in a better way? In Japan they are creating really useless jobs (sign holder etc) just to keep the people busy. We should really start about more useful ways of defining ourselves than just a job. Why is it that we think we have to work in order to be happy? Of course everyone wants to be a “useful” part of the society, but maybe we can achieve that by thinking, talking and helping. Why make it work? We all are so afraid of losing our jobs, but why? The post-scarcity world is already reality in us Europe and some other parts of the… Read more »

Agreed. An early TNG episode (Star Trek: The Next Generation) was about the Enterprise happening upon a derelict spaceship that had people from the 1990s frozen at the point of death to await future medical treatments. Three survived the hibernation, and were readily revived and cured of their diseases.

One guy, a shrewd and successful businessman, was dismayed that there was no money anymore on Earth. He asked Capt. Picard, “What’s the challenge?” Picard replied that the challenge was to better oneself – learn music, history, philosophy, whatever you wish. Find your talents and develop them.

The futurists of the 1960s said that, by now, everyone (at least in the developed world) would have 2-day workweeks. That was based on the unfortunate assumption that, with improved efficiency, no business would demand more work. They assumed the same amount of weekly output, combined with a need to keep people employed. They missed the whole unbridled greed part of expecting more work from fewer people.

“Does anyone worry about massive numbers of people being put out of work by self-driving vehicles?”

Let’s see, who is gonna be put out of work by fully autonomous vehicles?

1. Taxi drivers

Given the reputation that taxi drivers have, and how stressful and poorly paid that job is, I’d say humanity is far better off without them.

2. Teamsters

Given the high rate of penetration by organized crime into the Teamsters’ Union, I’d say that’s another thing that society as a whole is better off without.

3. Couriers

Well now, this is one place where it will be a tragedy to lose reasonably good paying entry-level jobs.

* * * * *

The overall benefit to the economy, from lower shipping/delivery costs, should far outweigh the loss of jobs.

And there are other benefits to fully autonomous cars, such as a lower accident/death rate from traffic accidents, as well as enabling those who can’t drive for some reason (physical disability, age, legal restrictions) to have and use their own car.

Isn’t there a national shortage of truck drivers right now? Seems like we need this tech sooner rather than later (at least for semis)

No. Screw poor people. The sooner we take all opportunities for them to work away the better. Poor, idle people with little to no future other than a little hand out… that’s when things get interesting. The dystopian future everyone seems to be abscessed with is just around the corner and automation will help us get there fast.

The beautiful perfect people living behind walls with nothing to do all day but recite poetry and contemplate the meaning of life while their robots service all their needs will be unaware. Meanwhile the seething masses outside the wall plot their demise and will get it with their shear size of numbers. We have seen this story before, the pretty people behind the walls always lose.

I hate that Trump is around to slow CAFE, but glad he’s not going to ruin driving on ridiculous beliefs like “80% lower accidents”. Autonomous driving is the most over-sold technology, and if Mobileye weren’t ahead of Tesla they wouldn’t have fetched 15 billion from Intel.


These cars are going to gum up the roads, bad. I can no longer get AP1 to follow closer than 2-3 car lengths, even at 5mph. No, that doesn’t take up more road. /sarc

People will get more distracted when more super-slow autonomous cars take the roads. Better would be technology that blocks distracting technology. But the tech gods would rather the accidents, the touch-screens, and your eyeballs. This place needs more drivers 😉

They will speed up traffic throughput according to every reputable study but somehow they will “gum up the roads”.

Based on this insane video:

… GM is way ahead of Tesla in the race to full autonomy. Tesla was first to put a man into orbit; others are going for the moon.

If sven shows up to join 4E, DonC, DJ and Taser54, we will have almost all the shills, shorters and Tesla haters here to whine together!

It’s going to be especially fun reading their collective FUD garbage in about 6 months when Tesla starts rolling out the first of what will be hundreds of thousands of Model 3s.

I’m more optimistic about the production timeline after the latest conference call, but still a part of me is hesitant to get too excited. Also, I’d like to hear about more service centers, and see a production interior.

So you can put be somewhere between the haters & the fanboys 😀

I am ~115k in line (online reservation, just before the unveil) and in Texas. Even after the CC, I am still figuring March 2018 to get a Model 3 and it will need to be a pretty well optioned car (~$50k before tax credit).

I would say that is my nominal case right now, best case would be January (unless tons of the people who stood in line at stores are base model buyers). My worst case scenario is September 2018 if things go more like Model X.

I plan to see/drive a Bolt before having to confirm my order. It would have been nice to also drive a LEAF 2.0, but I have given up on that at this point. But I am leaning heavily towards 3.

The Big 3 are still pushing to roll back the MPG limits so they can go back to burning gas. With strategies like that, don’t expect to see them last much longer.