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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on March 16th, 2020 | by Maarten Vinkhuyzen


Navigant’s Nonsense About Tesla Autonomous Driving

March 16th, 2020 by  

It is that time of year again. We see all the self-appointed experts extol their superior vision on the subjects that are most clickbait worthy. For a few years now, Navigant Research has produced its “Leaderboard” about the race to full autonomous driving. It is highly respected in the media, not so much among those that know a tiny bit about the subject.

The problem with writing about research projects that happen behind closed doors is, you guessed it, the writers have no hard data to base their writings upon. That goes as much for this article as for many other articles. (All reasons to be very careful about what you write.) But when you collect $4,000 to $6,000 from every customer you sell your report to, it is tempting to try to find a way around this problem.

Navigant has decided to “score” all (the most visible) companies developing autonomous driving on a number of features. The features are characteristics they have some information on or can guess about. The name of the report is: “Navigant Research Leaderboard: Automated Driving Vehicles.” But read the more important subtitle: “Assessment of Strategy and Execution for 18 Companies Developing Automated Driving Systems.”

Read it twice. I knew it and I missed it. It is not about the systems. It is about the strategy and execution of the development efforts. Yep, we all know what the whole MBA-trained world thinks of Elon Musk’s management. That Tesla is last in this evaluation is logical.

After this spoiler about the contents of the report, let’s examine what is in it. All the companies are scored on:

  • vision
  • go-to market strategy
  • partners
  • production strategy
  • technology
  • sales, marketing, and distribution
  • product capability
  • product quality and reliability
  • product portfolio
  • staying power

Most answers for most companies would either be “unknown” or “does not matter.” The x- and y-axis of the Navigant quadrant are called “Strategy” and “Execution,” respectively. We see three product categories and production strategy among the topics the companies can earn points on. Without any products or production, they should all be zero. Or could there be a valuation on “product capability” strategy, and how well that strategy is executed?

As an example, we could look at the many EV concept cars / prototypes presented over the years and their capabilities. Even just look at the suggested performance and price when the product was announced with a start of production/delivery date. According to all the vaporware press releases, most EVs should be over 400 miles range, if not 500 miles. The capability strategy was great. It is one big overpromise, underdeliver fest. There is one glaring exception when looking at capabilities at launch and at final production. That is Tesla. Tesla always exceeded the specs at launch.

In the eyes of Navigant, this is likely bad strategy and bad execution.

For anyone interested in finding out who the 17 other companies are and how they score on these 10 very important features, you can buy the complete report for $3,950.

Navigant does not even pretend to judge the future products of these companies, let alone who is likely to be the first to market with a viable product. It’s almost like that doesn’t matter at all. 


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About the Author

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. And putting my money where my mouth is, I have bought Tesla shares. Intend to keep them until I can trade them for a Tesla car.

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