Top Shelf: Tesla Robotaxis Ready By 2021?

New York City has always been the taxi-cab capital of the world, if you ask me. It’s where I’m from, so I can share a ton of taxi stories, based on experiences in them since the 80’s. Things have changed a lot since back in the day, when we would actually stand on the corner and try to physically hail cabs. Some drivers would even pull off super dangerous driving moves to jump two or three lanes over just to pick us up and score a quick fare. Those are the yellow cabs. If you’re a true “New Yawkuh”, you know all about the gypsy cabs too. These were unmarked vehicles that were also taxi’s, but that had no meter in them to show you what the price would be for the ride. So you would literally negotiate with the driver on the price, and hope that he didn’t try to clean you out for all of the cash in your pocket. 

In Brooklyn, there used to be something that was widely and famously known as the “dollar van”. This was usually a pretty beat-up looking generic van, that would have a nice amount of people in it (other passengers), who were all heading in the same direction, and had also paid a dollar to ride. You’d stand on the corner or on the curb, and this dusty van would pull up and some random dude would open the door and ask where you were going. If you were going where they were, you gave him a dollar and you were off in this van with a bunch of people that could’ve totally kidnapped you and asked your family for ransom money in exchange for your life.

Things have changed a lot since this was the norm. And now most of us are either relying on Uber or Lyft more, when we’re not all driving. Being able to summon a car from your phone and watch it come to you on a map, is not only super convenient, but a lot safer than catching a cab or dollar van on a street corner. We’ve all gotten so used to riding in share rides or Uber’s and have pretty much strayed away from hailing cabs like we all did way back. It’s become our new way of doing things, and a huge part of how we commute, or travel, in general. 

By way of halting everything we held as normal, our current pandemic has definitely affected car production globally as well, but this hasn’t derailed the ambitions of one Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, who has reaffirmed that he still plans to launch a self-driving robotaxi fleet, sometime next year. Most critics have written this off as just another pipe dream, especially given the limited state of self-driving car technology, but we think this would be a pretty interesting concept, if brought to life. And the tech titan is claiming that this is very close to being a reality. Musk has noted that the program could even be ready to launch by the end of this year, should he be able to secure government approval. 

When asked BY CNET, for specifics in regard to development, Tesla responded, “Functionality still looking good for this year,” and that “Regulatory approval is the big unknown.” This would suggest that their autonomous vehicle technology has most likely taken some pretty major steps forward over the last year or so. The company’s current Autopilot suite offers an impressive array of driver assistance options, but it is still lacking actual full self-driving capabilities. This is, at least by SAE International standards. So as it stands, no automaker is currently close to being able to offer what it graded as a “Level 5” autonomy, which states that no driver would be required. Which would be a must for any self-driving taxi. 

But Musk wasn’t done with his robotaxi reveals. It would seem that the company has been thinking about robotaxis for quite some time. That much clear from Model 3’s hardware. Since its inception, the electric vehicle has featured an inactive driver-facing interior-view camera embedded in its rear-view mirror, and now we know why. Stay tuned. We’re all waiting to see how this story develops. 


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