Monday, March 23, 2015

Tesla Goes on Autopilot

When it comes to Tesla, one thing has begun to set the brand apart – our future is their present. Cool looking electric cars could not be done? They did it. High-performance electric cars? They did that too. Now they are working on cars that work on autopilot. Check that, Ronn Torossian says, they are about to release it.

Tesla has been shipping its “Model S” electric cars complete with the hardware needed for its “Autopilot” semi-autonomous system for several months, leaving early adopters waiting for the software to make their cars “run themselves.”

Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the wait may soon be over. In a recent press report, Musk said the system will “go live in about three months.”

When Tesla announced the launch of the Autopilot system, they described the technology as enabling the vehicles to steer themselves, “…from San Francisco to Seattle without the driver doing anything…” Musk said.

The distances and cities involved might sound like magnanimous marketing, but it’s really a clever way to announce the inherent limitations in the technology as it stands now. Initially drivers will only be able to use the system on highways, and the program will only steer the vehicle. Traffic response will still be up to you, so put down that smartphone and pay attention to the road! Musk insists that the system will still be able to get a driver from “parking lot to parking lot” but, due to concerns related to the “unpredictability of suburban streets” the initial production cars will not have that capability.

And there’s yet another hitch in the whole program. Autopilot may not, precisely, be legal on many public roads, so the joyriding without touching the wheel could be restricted to private property. Not that this “minor detail” impacts the “cool factor” of the technology in the slightest.

The lesson here, though, for anyone in the innovation business, is to consider all the potential drawbacks and complications before crafting your market communication plan. As usual, Musk has that part down…but many brands fail in that step, sacrificing the cool factor to the dragons of reality.

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