Like some prefer Star Wars and others prefer Star Trek, a growing interest and even loyalty between burgeoning EV fandoms is evident. Quick-witted banter pops up frequently on Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram about whether “Captain Picard,” i.e., RJ Scaringe of Rivian, or “Jedi Master,” i.e., Elon Musk of Tesla, is the world’s most electrifying leader. Dedicated fans relentlessly create clever and informative content to argue which EV company’s design is better, which battery is more sustainable, and whether Tesla’s FSD computer vision or Waymo’s LiDAR will rule the universe.
New online federations are forming, gathering in forums using code names like Trekkie, Padawan Wookie, and StarLord5000 to discuss even the minutest engineering, scale, and performance details. These alliances join local owner’s groups, assemble at car shows and convention booths, horde new factory openings, and repost and loop the latest footage on new concepts and evolving models not yet available to the public. Any mention of Tesla’s otherworldly, angular, stainless steel Cybertruck slated to be released sometime in 2023 creates a frenzy of mass posting and content sharing.
This up-and-coming EV and AV fever even bleed into the bipartisan political arena. EV enthusiasts and supporters, emulating their favorite fleet admirals or galactic senate politicians from galaxies far, far away, use their voice and online influence to challenge existing laws, grab the attention of local government representatives, and even lobby for tax credits, standards, and consortiums. Heeding the progressive call for alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles the US government established incentives for the wider adoption of plug-in electric vehicles, creating purchase rebates, tax exemptions, and tax credits in 2009. Many other global countries followed suit, allowing for exemptions and credits for the adoption of EVs, citing the need to reduce national and regional CO2 emissions.
According to Green Car Reports, a ZETA (Zero Emission Transportation Association) poll of 1000 US voters revealed that 79% support consumer incentives that help reduce the purchase price of EVs, and 69% of voters support federal, state, and local investments in EV charging infrastructure. The survey also found that one in five American car owners would “definitely choose” an EV as their next purchased vehicle. At the same time, 27% would “strongly consider” an EV—adding up to nearly half of vehicle owners in the poll leaning favorably toward a fully electric as their next vehicle.1
Notwithstanding the fact that EVs create less of a carbon footprint and are proven to be better for the environment and our planet overall, the draw towards the EV and AV doesn’t necessarily stem from that purpose alone. Drivers who feel the need for speed can’t deny the sheer power exploding from the battery pack underneath an EV. Rivian’s R1T pickup truck can hit 0.60mph in 3.0 seconds. Porsche’s Taycan Turbo S jumps the line and hits 0-60mph in 2.6 seconds. Lucid’s Air Dream Edition comes in just under the Taycan at 2.5 seconds, and Tesla’s Model S Plaid hits 0-60mph in a mind-blowing 2.1 seconds.
Screenwriters and producers may have dreamed up the self-driving vehicle. Still, no movie or cartoon ever anticipated autonomous sedans and electric pickup trucks outperforming the Ferrari Testarossa, Lamborghini Countach, Lotus Esprit, or Chevrolet Corvette. Granted, the Lexus 2054 from Minority Report and the Audi RSQ from iRobot look like sexy sports cars from the 1980s, but we never got to see them compete on the line, and they aren’t real. Ordering a Tesla Model S Plaid or a Porsche Taycan Turbo S is as easy as clicking a few buttons and marking your calendar for arrival. Once you take delivery of one of these true-to-life speedsters, you have a legitimate dragster straight from the poster you hung on the wall as a teen. You can line up on the street next to any modern gasoline-powered sports car, hit the pedal, and watch the reaction on the face of the guy or gal in the driver’s seat of the car that used to be next to you in your rearview mirror.
This brings to mind the scene in the 1985 Hollywood comedy, Better off Dead, when John Cusack’s character Lane Meyer trades his 1973 Ford LTD wagon for a shiny black 1967 Chevrolet Camaro hot-rod, he restored and sets up a race with his Howard Cosell-speaking Asian drag-racing nemeses. Except this time, the Camaro would be the one up against the Tesla Plaid, and it would lose.
The completely autonomous Hollywood-based science fiction future we dreamed of is almost here. Despite self-driving technology’s infancy, the stars and planets are aligning. New breakthroughs happen every day that edge us closer to our childhood fantasies of jumping into cars that drive on their own while traveling to work and for leisure. Futuristic transportation to have and to hold is becoming a tangible reality, much to the excitement of young and old. EV automakers like Tesla, Rivian, Waymo, and NIO will continue to trailblaze cutting-edge autonomous technology. Whether they be Jetsons, Trekkies, or Jedi, online enthusiasts continue to celebrate and promote this new and upcoming autonomous age.
If innovators and dreamers continue to make the impossible possible, roads won’t be the only place where the dreams of our youth can come true.
1 Halvorson, Green Car Reports, “Poll finds bipartisan support for policies supporting EV adoption,” March 29, 2022 https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1135438_poll-finds-bipartisan-support-for-policies-supporting-ev-adoption
With the FSD feature, structural and programming revisions, and scalable manufacturing facilities popping up in Texas and Berlin, Germany, Tesla has and continues to dominate the US and global electric car market this past year. No other car company seems able to compete, but it’s not for want of trying. New EV companies are rising, working to keep pace with Tesla’s record-breaking numbers and FSD admirers. Waymo, backed by Google and led by co-CEOs, Dmitri Dolgov, who incidentally worked at Stanford on the winning DARPA Urban Challenge team, and Tekedra Mawakana, uses hybrid (electric and gas vehicles) to advance the self-driving innovation map. Waymo focuses mainly on the San Francisco and Phoenix metro areas. The Chinese-based company, Nio, whose offices span across China, Europe, and the US, uses NAD (NIO Autonomous Driving) in their EVs, which uses a combination of cameras, sensors, and LiDAR to assist drivers looking for the self-driving option.
Although these companies don’t offer full self-driving options yet, Rivian, backed by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Lucid, founded by Peter Rawlinson, who led the Model S engineering team at Tesla, Proterra, directed by Gareth Joyce, former CEO of Mercedes-Benz Canada, are all attempting to introduce and advance their concepts, autonomous capabilities, and increase adoptability and deliveries. Dreams are coming true, and it is unstoppable at this point.
According to the 2022 State of the American Driver Report released in January 2022, 47% of polled Millennials are interested in buying an EV as their next vehicle. Gen Z followed at 41%, Gen X at 38%, and Baby Boomers at 28%. Men were more interested (43%) compared to women (36%).1
Even the good old boys seem to have noticed the public’s desire to make fiction a reality through the electric and autonomous vehicle movement. OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) like Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Dodge, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen, Daimler, Porsche, and BMW are investing millions of dollars in R&D and marketing advertisements each year to secure their financial futures in the EV market. Everyone knows Super Bowl ads are some of the most coveted and expensive slots on television. During Super Bowl LVI, seven companies, including BMW, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Polestar, Chevrolet, and Porsche, each spent $6.5 million for a 30-second spot to highlight top A-list Hollywood stars driving and admiring their own unique electric car concepts. The exorbitant cost does not even consider the fee for the actors.2
It is quite ironic to note in a short 32 years, Arnold Schwarzenegger transitioned from riding in the fictional Johnny Cab in Total Recall to portraying a fictional character named Zeus riding in a real-life BMW iX electric car. Fiction is now modern real-world science, and this science is meshing into our modern society’s social circles.
1 Doll, Electrek, “How many Americans expect to never drive an EV in their life? New driver report reveals it is more than you think,” January 4, 2022 https://electrek.co/2022/01/04/how-many-americans-expect-to-never-drive-an-ev-in-their-life-new-driver-report-reveals-it-is-more-than-you-think/
2 Mitchell, Newsweek, “Exactly How Much Do Super Bowl Ads Cost?” February 13, 2022 https://www.newsweek.com/how-much-do-super-bowl-ads-cost-commercials-nbc-1677924
On April 8, 2022, Bloomberg reported, “The world is about to pass another important milestone in electric vehicle adoption: 20 million plug-in vehicles on the road globally, come June, according to BNEF estimates. That’s remarkable growth from only 1 million EVs (electric vehicles) on roads in 2016. In the second half of 2022, almost a million EVs a month will be added to the global fleet. That’s about one every 3 seconds.”1
Out of those millions of global EVs, without question, one company holds the advantage of amassing these monumental numbers. According to Experian Automotive, 69.95% of EVs purchased in the US in 2021 rolled out of Tesla factories. Nissan came in second place at an underwhelming 8.51%.2 Embodying the likes of the eclectic Marvel characters Howard and Tony Stark, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, stands out as a strong thought leader and innovator in the evolving EV automotive industry space. Musk’s determination, innovative business style, and expansion of unique projects continue to wow and intrigue a public already hungry for the coveted autonomous utopia from the silver screen.
Tesla’s first product, the Roadster sports car, debuted in 2008, and the company’s first fully electric sedan, Model S, arrived only four short years later in 2012. While drivers only purchased 500 Roadsters in 2008, Tesla quintupled its output of EVs, delivering 2,650 Model S sedans in 2012.3 Since 2009, over 1.9 million EVs have rolled off the line. Tesla delivered 936,222 EVs in 2021 with a staggering revenue totaling $53.82 billion. Of the 1.9 million Tesla EVs purchased worldwide since 2009, over half were delivered in the short 12 months of 2021. Q1 of 2022 showed Musk’s year-over-year growth again exceeding expectations, delivering 310,000 EVs and pocketing over $18.5 billion.4 The exponential production, distribution, and mass public adoption of Tesla’s S3XY line of EVs, Model S, Model 3, Model X, and Model Y, from 2008 to 2022, sounds like a page written right out of a science fiction screenplay.
As if the idea of fully electric cars wasn’t extraordinary enough, in October 2014, Elon Musk announced an autopilot suite featuring Autosteer, Autopark, and TACC (Traffic-Aware Cruise Control). This feature enabled drivers to ease into the novelty of owning a car like Disney’s Herbie or K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider that could drive all by itself. There’s little doubt Tesla’s ingenious scientists and engineers gleaned inspiration for self-driving technology embodying AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning through on-screen influence. It’s possible some even took note in 2005 when a Stanford robot won the DARPA Grand Challenge for autonomously driving 131 miles along an unrehearsed desert trail.
Musk assures Tesla owners will continue to receive updates to the Autopilot Hardware feature using the internal FSD (Full Self-Driving) and Dojo chips every few years, which as of 2022, marks version 3.0.5
1 McKerracher, Bloomberg News, “The World’s Electric Vehicle Fleet Will Soon Surpass 20 Million,” April 8, 2022 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-08/plug-in-ev-fleet-will-soon-hit-a-20-million-milestone
2 Lambert, Electrek, “Tesla still dominates US electric car market, and it’s not even close,” March 17, 2022 https://electrek.co/2022/03/17/tesla-still-dominates-us-electric-car-market/
3 Cole, InsideEVs, “Tesla Model S – Over 2,400 Sold, 2,750 Built in Last Quarter of 2012,” February 20, 2013 https://insideevs.com/news/317209/tesla-model-s-over-2400-sold-2750-built-in-last-quarter-of-2012/
4 Lambert, Electrek, “Tesla (TSLA) releases Q1 2022 results: beats both revenue and profit expectations in record quarter,” April 20, 2022 https://electrek.co/2022/04/20/tesla-tsla-q1-2022-results/
5 Tesla, “Artificial Intelligence & Autopilot,” May 4, 2022 https://www.tesla.com/AI
We all grow up watching movies at home and on the big screen, where Hollywood does the impossible. Producers and directors bank on their audiences expecting the unexpected. Each new action-adventure and science fiction flick raises the bar of the age-old question of what if and titillates the imaginations of all ages. Sit tight in your seat after a wildly creative movie or tiptoe into the room when little ones watch the latest superhero cartoon and listen. The innate desire for people to experience the world of autonomous living is tangible.
For over sixty years, movies and cartoons alike have tantalized audiences with the idea of a utopian future. In the fall of 1962, Hanna Barbera enchanted families with The Jetsons. This charming, animated sitcom illustrates a futuristic family living in 2062, enjoying idealistic comforts, fully equipped with self-driving cars and robot maids. In 1968, small children and their parents marveled at Disney’s beloved self-driving car, Herbie, with its iconic red, white, and blue stripes and circular number 53 on the hood. Herbie performed all sorts of crazy antics by himself as he raced across the screen with passengers Jim and Carole in tow.
Hollywood’s journey of showcasing an autonomous future didn’t stop there. In the early 1980s, David Hasselhoff’s self-aware, self-driving black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, K.I.T.T. entertained audiences with its mesmerizing red light and crime-solving British satire. A decade later, an odd, whistling retro robot in a Johnny Cab chauffeured Arnold Schwarzenegger around the streets of Mars in Total Recall.
At the turn of the new millennium, Hollywood turned up the tech as audience interest and obsession with futuristic possibilities grew. Tom Cruise crawled up and over several driverless Lexus 2054s, rolling on 360-degree rotating wheels as they weaved through traffic at breakneck speeds in Minority Report. In 2004, viewers sat on their hands to avoid biting their nails, eyes glued to the screen as sentient humanoid robots descended on Will Smith’s Audi R.S.Q in iRobot. There is no question the tapestry of technological fantasies and autonomy weaving throughout the Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, and DC franchises over the last four generations continues to inspire directors, cinema groupies, and even patent inventors with technological visions. No matter what movie franchise people favor, millions of hearts secretly long to actually own one or more of the vehicles from their Mattel toy collection.
It’s 2022. Although The Jetsons’ autonomous reality is technically forty years away, and entire autonomous civilizations on other planets and our own remain fictional, some of the so-called pipe dreams from childhood are now a true-to-life reality for worldwide rising generations. Hollywood-inspired ideas, mingled with sparks of innovative, creative genius from early 1800s engineering to Tesla’s humble 2003 beginnings, are creating a modern revolution that is growing exponentially faster than anyone could’ve thought possible, even 20 years ago.¹ Every week, new and electrifying advancements bring autonomous innovations to life in many different industries, most notably in the automotive industry.
1. Wilson, Car and Driver, “Worth the Watt: A Brief History of the Electric Car, 1830 to Present,” March 15, 2018 https://www.caranddriver.com/features/g15378765/worth-the-watt-a-brief-history-of-the-electric-car-1830-to-present/
In today’s world, we have come to a point where most people know that “EV” stands for electric vehicle. Just as many people knew what “VHS” meant in the ’80s, the average citizen begins to recognize the terms that the geeks have been using for years. Well here’s a new one to help you feel more ahead of the times. “AV” – autonomous vehicle. What’s the difference between an electric vehicle and an autonomous vehicle? As the transportation industry becomes more electrified, the majority of vehicles are now just computers on wheels with a human telling it what to do by giving it input through the steering wheel and pedals. However, many companies are trying to solve one major problem in this equation: how to subtract the human.
Tesla has a master plan which included electric vehicles and self-driving vehicles. Given that they have been moderately successful with these plans, everyone even remotely in the same space is trying to copy them by making their own autonomous electric vehicle. Because this is such a massive opportunity, there are even some companies that are just going after autonomy. Waymo is one of them. Zoox, which Jeff Bezos just acquired is another. Players such as Lucid are pioneering what they call “Dream Drive”. GM has Super Cruise and Ultra Cruise, Rivian is working on Driver+, and Ford uses BlueCriuse. However, the one thing that Tesla has over all of them is data. Billions of miles in fact. As Tesla’s fleet grows the number of miles collected grows at an insane exponential rate that our human brains cannot comprehend. Yes, Waymo and others are also gaining new miles every day, but the rate at which Tesla is far exceeds anything all of those companies combined are doing. It’s like Google’s search engine: do other search engines exist? Yes. Which one is generally the best? Google Search. Why? Because it has the most amount of data and because of that, more people use it and as more people use it, it gets more and more accurate. Could Bing, DuckDuckGo, or Yahoo ever catch up and overtake Google? Yes, but the likelihood of that ever happening is next to impossible.
Elon Musk has talked about the possibility of Tesla licensing the Full Self Driving software to other auto manufacturers, but whether or not they will take him up on that is to be seen. He also said that anyone else could use Tesla’s Supercharging network, but no one else has taken him up on that. However, with the amount of money and different approaches that are being directed towards solving autonomy – we will get there someday, and when that happens, the world will change more than we realize. How much would Amazon pay to have autonomous delivery vehicles that never have to stop for a bathroom break or sleep? What would that change for Walmart and UPS to no longer have to pay for a driver? Maybe that’s part of the reason that multiple companies have ordered a dozen or more of Tesla’s Semi trucks. The cost of maintenance on an EV is a lot less, but the addition of autonomy will be the biggest benefit.
In conclusion, “EV” is a vehicle powered by an electric powertrain and “AV” is a vehicle that can drive itself with no human interaction, but the reality is that these two things are becoming one in the same just as smartphones have also become music players. Full Self Driving is just around the corner. However big that corner is, it will be passed before we realize it.