Elon Musk: Tesla Autonomous ‘Robotaxi’ Coming Next Year, Thanks To New Microchip

The new Tesla Model Y
Soon, Teslas will feature full self-driving capability, using a new chip as the heart of a ‘Robotaxi’ service. [Photo: Tesla]

Tesla may be close to a self-driving vehicle breakthrough

Today is Earth Day — as well Tesla’s first Autonomy Investor Day presentation, where CEO Elon Musk laid out plans for a self-driving future. The pivotal moment of that presentation was Tesla’s aggressive plan to bring autonomous cars to market sooner than you might expect.

“Probably two years from now, we’ll make a car with no steering wheels or pedals,” Musk said. A general and vague statement, perhaps, if not for the unveiling of a new microchip designed for self-driving vehicles. Musk hailed the chip, built by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in Texas, as the key to beating Tesla’s rivals to the self-driving market, according to a Reuters report. Automakers all over the world, from General Motors to Uber and Waymo to Toyota are working toward an autonomous solution for the future’s cars.

The Full Self-Driving Computer, or FSDC chip, relies on 360-cameras and forward-facing radar for information. Unlike many other systems, it does not rely on lidar sensors that some experts say are a flaw in current technology. “Lidar is a fool’s errand,” Musk said during the presentation. “Anyone relying on lidar is doomed.”

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Will it really come within two years?

In the past, Tesla made bold, ambitious promises on its vehicles and R&D projects. Musk acknowledged that fact during his presentation. Even the presentation itself started 30 minutes late. Investors seem to be underwhelmed, as Tesla stocks closed three percent lower after today’s event.

Tesla is currently working with regulators to bring complete self-driving technology to market. At the moment, Musk is confident Tesla’s Autopilot system will accommodate full hands-off driving by the end of 2020. From there, the company plans to roll out its Robotaxi network through its ride-sharing app.

Whether the FSDC chip is the key to unlocking the Robotaxi’s potential is unclear. However, Autonomy Day is a start toward showing investors and future Robotaxi customers how and when Tesla will bring the technology to market.