Zoox cofounder Jesse Levinson says there's 'no chance' Tesla will launch fully self-driving cars next year, despite Elon Musk's claims

jesse levinson

When asked if there's "any chance" that Tesla will have fully self-driving cars ready next year as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has claimed, Zoox cofounder and CTO Jesse Levinson had a one-word answer: "No."

Speaking with transportation reporter Mark Matousek on stage at Business Insider's IGNITION: Transportation event in San Francisco Tuesday, Levinson said that the existing technology for fully autonomous vehicles simply doesn't exist yet - it's something that both Tesla and Zoox, a startup designing autonomous ride-share vehicles, are still developing.
Musk said in April that, by mid-2020, Teslas will be capable of fully autonomous driving, meaning drivers wouldn't even have to look at the road while riding. While Tesla currently offers autopilot mode for driving on the freeway, its cars are not capable of driving on city streets without driver oversight.

"They don't have enough sensors or computers to do that given any remotely known technology that exists that humans have ever created," Levinson said. "And by the way they're great cars, the [Tesla autopilot system] on the freeway is I think the best out there ... I think if [Musk] focused on that aspect it would be better received."

A Tesla spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

During the interview, Levinson touted the progress being made in self-driving car software and hardware across the industry. He also said that Zoox has differentiated itself from the competition by extensively testing self-driving cars on city streets, rather than quiet suburban roads.

"The reality is the societal need for this technology and economic need for this technology is insidious, it doesn't just exist in suburbs," Levinson said.Zoox, which was most recently valued at $3.2 billion, hopes to release a fleet of self-driving rideshare vehicles that users will be able to hail with a mobile app by 2021. Right now, its primary challenge is ensuring its autonomous vehicles are safe to avoid car crash deaths that have resulted from self-driving car tests by Uber and Tesla.

"The status quo is almost 45,000 Americans are dying every year in car crashes," Levinson said. "But if you rush the technology … society's not going to accept that, and I dont think they should."

Watch Levinson's full interview from Business Insider's IGNITION: Transportation conference below:


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