Fleet operators want Teslas. But not “fully self-driving.”
Local governments like Westport and businesses large and small all hail the benefits of electric vehicles like Teslas. Westport has saved thousands on fuel and maintenance since purchasing the Model 3 in 2019.
Police departments are among the fleet operators that are increasingly turning to electric vehicles for the sake of the economy and the environment. Koskinas said he’s received more than 500 requests from agencies around the world asking about Westport’s use of electric vehicles.
He said Westport has saved nearly $7,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs. There could be more savings. Westport hopes to save $5,000 a car if it can use Tesla’s in-vehicle computer, instead of setting it up separately for important features like license plate scanning, lights and siren controls. , and at the same time broadcast to colleagues. Koskinas said discussions are ongoing between Westport and Tesla.
But for all their Tesla enthusiasm, there’s one feature they really haven’t touched – “full self-driving”. Some say the technology is not ready yet.
The $10,000 optional software feature includes driver-assistance features that Tesla hopes will one day enable self-driving cars. (Price will likely increase as in the past, so the best time to buy might be now, for those who believe in the technology’s future.) Not all Teslas have “self-driving capabilities.” completely”. Currently, “full self-driving” is available in Beta form and has only been released to a limited group of people. It can change lanes under certain circumstances, respond to most traffic signals and steer the vehicle.
The technology is far from perfect and requires the driver’s attention behind the wheel for immediate control. Tesla “could do the wrong thing at the worst time”.
Koskinas can envision the benefits if his department’s cars can be trusted to drive responsibly, always doing the right thing. He said officers responding to incidents sometimes end up in ambulances going to the hospital, to offer assistance. But they had to leave their patrol car behind.
“How wonderful would it be if that car drove itself to the hospital and met the officer there?” he say.
If Teslas can do that, he can buy “fully self-driving cars,” he said.
Koskinas said of today’s technology: “We weren’t there. A “full self-driving” option could be added to Teslas in the future even if it wasn’t purchased at the time of sale.
Westport, Connecticut is one of six police departments to tell CNN Business that they have purchased at least one Tesla, but without the “full self-driving” feature.
The police department weren’t the only ones passing through.
Most Tesla buyers declined to say why they didn’t buy a “fully self-driving car.” But the technology’s limits seem obvious and could be a factor.
Thilo Koslowski, a consultant at AutoDGTL focusing on automotive technology, told CNN Business that “full self-driving” isn’t currently a good value for fleet operators, given the technology’s limitations. and its cost.
“They didn’t get the benefits they were looking for,” says Koslowski. “It’s not a fully self-driving car. The question is whether it’s worth the money.”
According to Koslowski, fleet operators want safer driving and more efficient vehicles. He said there is no objective data to prove that “full self-driving” is safer than human driving. “Full self-driving” has not been proven to make today’s Teslas more productive, he said.
According to Koslowski, fleet operators could theoretically face the risk of liability if “full self-driving mode” was active during a crash.
“That risk overshadows any potential benefits you could get from doing this,” says Koslowski. “It’s such a murky, gray area that I think the risk is too high for the rental companies to do that.”
Some Teslas using “full self-driving” mode veered off the roadside, damaging the car’s wheels. A person claiming to be a Tesla owner reported to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration this month that their Tesla was severely damaged after crashing into a vehicle while driving. use “full self-driving” mode. The agency is seeking more information about the crash, according to spokeswoman Lucia Sanchez.
Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hinted at the limits of “full self-driving”.
“We need to get the self-driving work done for it to be a compelling value proposition,” he said during Tesla’s earnings call this summer.
At the time, he also questioned the value of paying for a “fully self-driving” subscription version. At that time, “fully self-driving” drivers will get some limited features, such as automatic lane change.
“Like right now, isn’t it – is it reasonable for someone to do so [full self-driving] register? I think it’s debatable. But once we’ve rolled out full self-driving extensively, the value proposition will be clear,” Musk said.
Tesla has repeatedly missed deadlines when it wants its self-driving system to be widely deployed, and hasn’t released a recent estimate of the widespread rollout of “fully self-driving cars.”
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment and generally did not engage with the professional media.