Self-Driving Electric Vehicles: Navigating the Path to Full Autonomy

10/17/2023 / Gail Alfar

We are living in a time when we are seeing cars operate and make decisions without human input. Self-driving capable electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model Y that I own, are being built and sold everyday. Cruise and Waymo driverless vehicles operate daily in cities such as San Francisco, Austin, and Pheonix. 

Embracing the Future: Self-Driving Vehicles Set to Transform Daily Commutes into Productive and Relaxing Escapes

As we approach the era where manual driving becomes obsolete, self-driving vehicles are poised to revolutionize our daily journeys. Envision a scenario where, rather than being confined to the driver's seat, you can luxuriate in the back, accomplish tasks, or unwind while indulging in your latest favorite series on Netflix. Considering that the average American spends around 19 full working days annually stuck in commuting traffic, the potential to reclaim such a significant amount of personal time is remarkable.

What Is A Self-Driving Vehicle?

Waymo says, “Fully autonomous vehicles were once the unimaginable future. For many San Franciscans, they’re now a daily reality and an essential mode of transportation. Since late 2022, thousands of SF residents across all neighborhoods have relied on our fully autonomous Waymo One service to get around the city 24/7.”

Cruise says, “Sensors can see 360 degrees, hundreds of feet ahead, and around that double-parked car. Cruise cars make sense of this data in a split second, tracking every important object in view.”

What Is A Self-Driving Capable Vehicle?

Tesla specifically terms their vehicles as having Self-Driving capabilities. Tesla vehicles, unlike those owned by Cruise or Waymo, are currently not intended to be driverless. When Tesla enables Robotaxi in vehicles, then it will be driverless, or fully autonomous. 

Tesla vehicles can currently enable Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features. All require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.


Tesla says, “Full autonomy will be dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions.” 

Self-Driving Electric Vehicles and Shared Mobility Hold Key to Emission-Free Future

Imagine a future where self-driving electric vehicles dominate roads, outperforming human-driven counterparts in efficiency. A University of California, Davis study suggests that by 2050, adopting electric self-driving shared vehicles could lead to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, if shared mobility isn't embraced, the same study warns emissions might rise by up to 50% due to increased car ownership. This underscores the need to rethink private car ownership to realize the environmental benefits of self-driving technology, as the physics of emission reduction intertwines with social dynamics. 

What You Need to Know About Safety and Autonomy

Data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that the leading factor contributing to road traffic accidents is driver miscalculation and misjudgment, along with behaviors such as excessive speed, driving under the influence, and mobile phone use. Remarkably, as much as 94 percent of severe collisions stem from mistakes made by human drivers. The introduction of fully autonomous vehicles would eliminate the variable of human error, resulting in enhanced road safety not only for drivers but also for passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians. This is why the NHTSA has actively advocated for the safety advantages brought about by self-driving vehicles.

Unlocking Urban Potential: How Autonomous Vehicles Could Transform City Living and Spaces

Autonomous vehicles offer the potential to alleviate parking challenges in cities such as where I live in Austin. This is achievable because self-driving vehicles could drop off passengers and continue to their next destination. This possibility becomes even more feasible if future drivers opt for autonomous ride-sharing or taxi services instead of owning their own self-driving cars. An additional benefit is that as the demand for parking diminishes, large parking lots could be repurposed for housing or refreshing green public spaces, addressing urban development needs. 

Chandler, Arizona, has already adjusted its zoning regulations to accommodate autonomous vehicles. Developers can now construct buildings with fewer parking spots, as long as they incorporate convenient curb-side passenger loading zones. This could lead to a future where extensive and unsightly parking lots give way to green parklands and designated areas for passenger drop-offs and pickups.

Revolutionizing Autonomy: Tesla's FSD v12 Software and Beyond

Tesla's newest innovation – the Full Self-Driving (FSD) v12 software, has many Tesla vehicle owners excited. FSD v12 is a revolutionary leap in autonomous driving that breaks away from the ordinary. Unlike conventional methods with their multitude of sensors and intricate simulations, FSD v12 simplifies with merely eight cameras and a specialized computer. Through the power of neural networks, the system learns and evolves, utilizing video data from Tesla's expansive car fleet. This ingenious AI-driven approach endows Tesla vehicles with the ability to smoothly navigate various real-world scenarios, all without needing explicit programming. 

But it doesn't stop there – this breakthrough isn't confined to just self-driving cars. It sets the stage for broader real-world AI applications, extending its reach to the realm of robotics, including the awe-inspiring Tesla Optimus Bot. Many people are keeping their eye on this future of innovation!

Where will the first Self-Driving Electric Vehicles be?

In August, California regulators welcomed Cruise and Waymo to operate their driverless cars 24/7 across ALL of San Francisco and accept payment for rides.

Waymo’s ride-hailing service also operates in Phoenix, and is currently ramping up in Los Angeles County and Austin, Texas. 

Cruise also operates in Austin and Phoenix, during evening hours only.

Tesla has not yet released a ride hailing or Robotaxi service. There are hints that Tesla might produce their Robotaxi car at their Giga Mexico factory. Elon Musk stated, in an interview in March with Morgan Stanley, the vehicle, which will be built at Tesla’s newest factory in Mexico, is expected to operate “almost entirely in autonomous mode.” 

Tesla Gigafactory Tweet

The world of self-driving electric vehicles is advancing rapidly, guiding us into an era where human control over driving becomes a thing of the past. Leading this transformation are Tesla, Waymo, and Cruise, redefining our daily commutes and urban environments. As we wholeheartedly welcome autonomy, the future brims with diverse possibilities, each mirroring the multifaceted potential of this technological leap.

Gail Alfar

Gail is an independent writer who created the publication “Whats Up Tesla” Her writing focuses on increasing knowledge among people on the details of humanity’s path towards a sustainable energy future for all. Her dedication and passion is powered by her motivation to reach out to people from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, and share her enthusiasm for electric vehicles, solar energy, battery storage, and autonomous driving software.