EV vs. AV

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.

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