Elon Musk admitted Tuesday that Tesla is delaying a planned $1,000 price increase for its full self-driving package. The move comes after Tesla failed to release “smart summon” technology for parking lot navigation in mid-August, as Musk predicted Tesla would do in a July tweet.
Musk now says that he expects smart summon to be released in “about 4 to 8 weeks.
” But there’s ample reason to doubt this new timeline.
“Tesla advanced Summon ready in ~6 weeks,” Musk tweeted back on November 1, 2018. “Car will drive to your phone location & follow you like a pet if you hold down summon button on Tesla app,” Musk promised. “Also, you’ll be able to drive it from your phone remotely like a big RC car if in line of sight.”
Musk’s tweet suggested that the feature would be released in December 2018, but December came and went with no advanced summon feature.
In March, the Tesla fan site Eletrek got its hands on a version of the enhanced summon technology being tested by a participant in Tesla’s Early Access Program, though Tesla cautioned that the technology could change before it was released to the general public.
In April, Musk announced, “Tesla Enhanced Summon coming out in US next week for anyone with Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self-Driving option.”
But this apparently didn’t happen. In June, Tesla pushed out another revision of the technology to Early Access Program members.
In July, Tesla was still struggling to get the technology working. “Parking lots are a remarkably hard problem,” Musk tweeted. “Doing an in-depth engineering review of Enhanced Summon later today.” Three days later, he announced an August 16 price hike of $1,000 for the full self-driving package, adding, “that’s approximately date when we expect Enhanced Summon to be in wide release.”
But August 16 came and went with no price hike and no release of smart, enhanced, or advanced summon technology. Now Musk admits that the technology is still a month or two away.
Maybe Musk should stop predicting Autopilot release dates
Tesla is far from the only company to miss a self-imposed technology deadline—especially in the self-driving sector. We certainly don’t fault the company for delaying release of a safety-sensitive technology that’s not ready for prime time. But we do wonder if Musk should be more cautious about projecting technology release dates.
Last year Alphabet’s Waymo missed a self-imposed deadline to launch a fully driverless service in Phoenix, Arizona. GM’s Cruise was aiming to launch a commercial service of its own by the end of 2019 but recently admitted that this wasn’t possible.
But unlike Musk, these companies seem to have learned from their mistakes. Neither company has set a new deadline for beginning fully self-driving operations.
By contrast, Elon Musk has made unrealistic launch promises for self-driving technologies over and over again in the last four years. Way back in 2015, Musk predicted that fully self-driving technology would be developed within two years, arguing that it was a “much easier problem than people think it is.” He made similar predictions in subsequent years, with full self-driving always seeming to be 18 to 24 months away.
Most recently, in April of this year, Musk declared that Tesla’s self-driving technology would be “feature complete” by the end of 2019 and would be safe enough for fully driverless operation a few months after that. He predicted that Tesla would have thousands of fully self-driving taxis on public roads by the end of 2020.
Yet Tesla is now more than eight months overdue on technology to enable cars to drive in parking lots—a feature that has a projected top speed of 5mph (8 km/h). So there’s reason to be skeptical Tesla that will be able to solve the much harder problem of fully driverless operation on public roads, at speeds as high as 70 miles per hour, in the next six or even 18 months.