The Tesla Comeback

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By Greg Guenthner

In 2018, a pedestrian was killed in Arizona by an Uber branded “self-driving” Volvo SUV. Both the sensor-laden car and the driver monitoring the Volvo failed to stop in time, reports ABC News.

Tempe Police recently conducted tests on similar vehicles and found that the accident was “entirely avoidable.” Even though the car was supposedly able to drive itself, sensors can’t do anything to mitigate the risks of inattentive drivers.

As you can probably imagine, incidents like these could easily shake the public’s confidence in the safety of autonomous vehicles.

So I have to ask — Will we see self-driving cars become a reality in the next decade? Or will autonomous autos end up on the tech scrap heap?

Related imageVolkswagen is betting on the former.

The German carmaker is making serious investments in autonomous driving. VW is investing $2.6 billion in Argo AI, a company mostly owned by Ford, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Volkwagen already has a self-driving division spearheaded by Audi. This new investment will allow Argo to use VW personnel and work to beef up Audi’s Autonomous Intelligent Driving division.

Although they are working together, don’t get too excited about any merger news in the future. Autonomous driving efforts are bringing all the major manufacturers together, from GM and Honda to Waymo and Fiat Chrysler.

The trend is clear. Although truly autonomous vehicles are still several years from reality, that hasn’t stopped car companies from throwing down a lot of cash to stay ahead of the game.

In fact, Tesla has long touted the “full self-driving” capabilities of its cars.

The autopilot feature on Tesla’s cars is impressive — but it’s a long shot from a truly autonomous car. It still requires the driver’s full attention.

According to Tesla, the Autopilot enabled vehicles carry a Level 2 classification. The NHTSA uses six levels to classify automated driving. Level 0 is no assistance at all (think of any car prior to standardized automated emergency braking systems). Level 5 is a fully automated car — a robot that drives you to work.

Does Elon have something up his sleeve to update Tesla’s autopilot game?

It’s possible. Despite Elon’s antics and plenty of negative press, the Model 3 and new Model S continue to win critics’ praise.

Tesla stock is also looking a lot stronger these days. When we last checked on Tesla shares back in June, they were consolidating after a quick rally off their lows near $175. The stock was resting just below its downward-sloping 50-day moving average — which it promptly topped and hasn’t looked back since.

Tesla stock has jumped more than 42% off its June 3 low. That’s an impressive rally for this embattled stock, and potentially a major change in character. It’s next big test will come at $260.

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