In just a matter of a few months, we’re living in a very different, difficult time, and everyone who sees a way they can help needs to pitch in. We saw that this week from a surprising source. It’s surprising on its own that Tesla is not in front of the pack amongst other self-driving car developers, but CEO Elon Musk is willing to drop that business temporarily and make masks to fulfill the shortage of them in light of the continuing health crisis caused by coronavirus COVID-19.
Tesla Falls Behind Self-Driving Car Contenders
Navigant Research published its current leaderboard examining automated driving technology developers. Companies were judged on production strategy, marketing, capability, staying power, and reliability, among other factors.
The surprising thing for most was that Tesla wasn’t just not the leader but fell into a group of “also-rans.” Waymo was ranked the highest in both strategy and execution in the “Leaders” section. Tesla did not show up there, while Ford, GM, and others did. The “Contenders” section is where other automakers showed up, such as Hyundai, Toyota, and Volkswagen, but not Tesla.
The also-rans showed up in a category called “Challengers.” This is where Tesla could be found, placed with Volvo and the alliance of Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi. Navigant’s reasoning for Tesla’s placement was that the company “continues to make high-profile promises,” yet “the performance of its systems remains inconsistent, and its products do not match its proposed mobility business model.”
Perhaps we are expecting too much from Tesla. While they aren’t meeting up with promises, they’re still the only company that has cars with a self-driving option on the road at a consumer level. These cars still require a human as backup, but it’s further than the other companies are.
Yet, maybe that’s the point. They make so many promises and are so far ahead, why are they not even further?
Addressing the Shortage of Ventilator Masks
With so many people dealing with the new coronavirus worldwide, it’s caused a shortage of ventilator masks at hospitals. Doctors, nurses, and staff need those to keep themselves safe. Without them, they get sick and are not around to help everyone else. This is a necessity.
Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk, who is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX, was asked on Twitter if he would repurpose his factory to make the ventilator masks. Musk replied, “We will make ventilators if there is a shortage.”
Pressed for details, he noted the complicated equipment his companies create and added, “Ventilators are not difficult but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?”
This brought New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio into the conversation. He tweeted, “New York City is buying! Our country is facing a drastic shortage, and we need ventilators ASAP – we will need thousands in this city over the next few weeks. We’re getting them as fast as we can, but we could use your help!”
But before too much praise is heaped on Musk, he’s also been criticized for saying that people panicking over COVID-19 was “dumb.” The comments about producing masks were made on his post explaining, “danger of panic still far exceeds danger of corona imo.”
But this draws the question of whether the social dissatisfaction with Musk is behind the placement of Tesla being judged and placed at the back of the pack of other self-driving car manufacturers.
Is that really a deserving place for Tesla in the self-driving car market? Or do his comments regarding the new coronavirus showcase why his company has fallen out of favor? Or does it perhaps have to do with the autopilot crash that killed an Apple engineer who was playing a game on his phone while riding in his Tesla?
Regardless, maybe those criticizing Tesla and/or Musk need to step back and see if he follows through to produce ventilator masks. The mayor of New York City said he’ll buy them. Helping out in this area could go a long way to repair his and his company’s image.