New Statesman letter: Musk’s achilles heel

Elon Musk may, as Will Dunn, suggests ‘be a more interesting person to occupy capitalism’s top spot’ but watch out for his downfall. While his space rocket development has been successful thanks to huge government payments, his promises about producing a fully driverless car have been broken so many times he will eventually lose credibility.

The very name of the ‘Autopilot’ software installed in Teslas is misleading since drivers must pay attention at all times even when the system is engaged and several Tesla drivers who failed to realise this have paid for their mistake with their lives. Moreover, Musk has promised numerous times since 2015 that cars would soon be able to drive themselves and even go off on their own to be used as robotaxis earning revenue for their sleeping owners.

For example, in April 2019, Elon Musk said that by 2020 Tesla would have ‘one million robo-taxis’ on the road, and that they would be ‘significantly cheaper for riders than what Uber and Lyft cost today’. Without  blush, Musk then said last July that ‘I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level five [full capability in all conditions] autonomy complete this year’. More realistic independent assumptions suggest this will not be feasible till 2030 at the earliest. So far stock markets have swallowed all these predictions but won’t forever. The question Dunn should have asked is ‘when will the Musk bubble burst and he will no longer be in the “top spot”’?

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