Time's Up: Tesla Missed the Deadline for Its Nationwide Autonomous Test Drive

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

While The Truth About Cars has occasionally been accused for having it in for Tesla, the honest-to-god-truth is that we just possess a severe aversion to unbridled hype. Autonomous cars have made a lot of progress in the last few years, but there’s something about the way manufacturers talk about them that makes us want to say, “Interesting, but we’ll believe it when we see it.”

Automakers love making grandiose claims and Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk may be the prince of hyperbolic statements and lofty promises. He should be commended for delivering on many of them. Still, though there have been many occasions where the other shoe dropped and it was our job to report it. We’re having to do that again, now that Tesla has missed its initial deadline to dazzle the world with an autonomous cross-country road trip.

You may have forgotten but, back in October of 2016, Musk said he wanted to showcase his company’s self-driving prowess by having a vehicle drive itself across the entirety of the United States. “It will do this without the need for a single touch, including the charger,” the CEO claimed at the time. The car was even supposed to park itself at the end of the journey. The self-imposed deadline for this event? January 1st, 2018.

Had Tesla achieved that goal, the whole world would be losing its mind right now. No automaker seems even remotely prepared to take on that kind of endeavor — either because the technology isn’t ready or the associated risks are too great. But it’s another example of Musk making a promise he couldn’t back up. In fact, he even said as much this summer during an earnings conference. “It is certainly possible that I will have egg on my face on that front, but if it’s not at the end of the year it will be very close,” Musk said on the matter.

Tesla hasn’t provided an adjusted timeline as of yet. We expect Musk to give the firm another 12 months to do the deed. However, now that we’ve seen the deadline pushed back once already, we’ll be less inclined to believe it. That’s kind of what our hype aversion all boils down to. We know companies have to make big promises to keep investors and the general public interested. But, as we are neither, it doesn’t work out the same for us.

Maybe we’re simply weary because we’ve seen other EV companies promise big and deliver nothing. We certainly don’t revel in seeing Tesla, or any other carmaker, fail when it’s clearly doing its utmost to thrive. But it would be nice if all brands spent a little more time down here on Earth making more measured statements. Tesla has a lot going for it and doesn’t need relentless gimmickry to succeed. The associated expectations are unsustainable and largely unnecessary. We’re ready to be blown away, but manufacturers needs to make sure they’re ready, too.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Stuki Stuki on Jan 03, 2018

    Building autonomous cars ready for human populated roads, is hard. Hyping promises about things one don't understand, and getting rich selling paper on those's backs, is not. Noone does hard things in the US anymore. As not-hard ones are much more rewarding in financialized dystopias.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jan 03, 2018

      Flying into space is hard; SpaceX does that. Building cars seems pretty hard, too - especially as their price goes down.

  • EBFlex EBFlex on Jan 03, 2018

    It's a great day when you can read about yet another Tesla f*ck up.

  • 28-Cars-Later Seville - LS400Bhp 295 250Ft-tq 280 260Reliable No Yes
  • 28-Cars-Later No, and none of you should be either.
  • Arthur Dailey No.
  • Arthur Dailey My father had multiple Northstar equipped vehicles. He got one of the first Northstar equipped STS's in Canada and continually drove STS's on one year leases for nearly a decade. One of them did 'crap out' on him. It went into 'limp' mode and he drove it to the nearest GM dealer. The vehicle was about half way through its lease, and he was in cottage country (Muskoka). GM arranged to have it flatbedded back to Toronto. He rented a vehicle, drove it home and then took delivery of a new STS within about 4 days. There were no negotiations regarding repairs, etc. The vehicle was simply replaced. Overall he was pleased with the performance of these vehicles and their engines. We also found them a pleasant environment to be in, with more than enough power.
  • Bd2 If they let me and the boyz roll around naked in their dealership I'll buy a Chinese car.