Tesla’s plan for Level 5 not feasible, experts say

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Within the past 18 months, even the most optimistic industry players have conceded automating vehicles has been more challenging than anticipated, and many have canceled or delayed plans to deploy Level 3 and Level 4 vehicles. An annual automated-driving leaderboard published by consulting firm Navigant Research, now Guidehouse Insights, assesses strategy and execution of 18 companies developing self-driving tech. Published in March, the report ranked Tesla last — not only behind leaders such as Waymo, Argo AI and Cruise, but behind upstarts such as May Mobility, Voyage Auto and Navya.

Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights and author of the report, says Tesla is not reaching Level 5 any time soon, nor doing so with existing vehicles on the road, as Musk touted.

“The cars they are building will never be Level 5, period,” he said. “It’s nonsense. He needs to shut up until he can deliver something.”

Exactly what Musk means by completing and achieving Level 5 remains nebulous, in the sense he didn’t offer a specific timeline for enabling such operations in cars. Asked about Musk’s comments in general and a time frame for Level 5 deployment, a Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment or further details on plans.

Abuelsamid said Tesla’s current fleet, which can receive over-the-air updates to its software, does not have necessary hardware for cleaning sensors that would enable vehicles to operate in adverse weather conditions. And that’s just for starters; he doubts the company’s plans to achieve Level 5 solely with camera and radar sensors is plausible.

“The premise of making highly automated systems on cameras alone is fundamentally flawed,” Abuelsamid said. “Their approach to software doing end-to-end AI systems is almost certainly not going to work. I don’t believe it can work. AI is too brittle.”

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Saurabh Shukla

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