Grab And Tesla Might Soon Compete In The Self-Driving War

If the number of tests for autonomous vehicles in Singapore is anything to say, the future of driving in the Republic is, it seems, driverless.

In recent years, the country has also warmly welcomed electric vehicles (EVs), with plans to phase out all vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2040. These two trends are found combined in carpooling, which overlaps public and private transport.

Currently, Singapore’s running market is dominated by tech unicorns Grab and Gojek – the first launched in 2013 and the second entering the market in 2018. However, a new and powerful challenger may soon join the fray. : You’re here.

The American automaker presents a double threat: it is both a major player in the electric vehicle market and has velocity ambitions, which will see it leverage its autonomous vehicle technology and the private company Teslas to create networks. robotaxi in certain markets as soon as possible. this year.

To be clear, Tesla cars are not yet capable of fully autonomous driving, as the company is still fine-tuning its autonomous AI. Drivers must pay to access the autonomous driving feature and are still required to stay behind the wheel while the technology is in use.

While Gojek has been quiet on the autonomous driving front (at least in Singapore), Grab is more involved on that front. Its chairman Ming Maa had previously stated that the company aims to market its robotaxi service “definitely before” 2022.

Tesla is also set to enter Singapore this year with its Model 3 cars, as drivers here gradually switch to electric vehicles following the government’s push. The US automaker may well make its bid for cycling dominance once its vehicles gain a foothold in the market.

Catch up against Tesla on their autonomous driving ambitions

On the autonomous driving front, Tesla is more deeply invested than Grab.

tesla autopilot
Tesla Autopilot / Image Credit: David Paul Morris via Bloomberg

Since 2016, the company has been developing Tesla Autopilot: a vision-based driver assistance feature that is a preview of its autonomous driving artificial intelligence (AI) program. It uses eight cameras, radars and ultrasonic sensors to allow its vehicles to navigate the streets.

Tesla’s technology has been criticized by experts as being less secure, but more adaptable and scalable than LiDAR, the dominant sensor-based technology in the development of autonomous vehicles.

On the other hand, Grab’s involvement in autonomous vehicles is limited to partnerships. The super app teamed up with driverless taxi provider NuTonomy to conduct robotaxi trials in Singapore in 2016 and was in talks with Chinese giant Didi Chuxing over autonomous partnerships in 2018.

Since the autonomous driving projects tested in Singapore are primarily LiDAR-based, Grab only needs to partner with an approved service provider, such as NuTonomy, to roll out its robotaxi offering, while the Regulatory approval for technology based on Tesla’s vision could be trickier to get.

However, it’s also possible that Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative means the government is more open to new technologies, and Tesla’s approval could come faster than expected.

It may also be possible to interpret that the sales clearance of the Model 3 – which contains opt-in access to autonomous driving technology – could be a positive signal that the automaker’s technology has withstood some degree of failure. regulatory review.

One of the advantages of Tesla’s technology over LiDAR is the amount of real-world data that was used to train autonomous AI.

tesla autopilot miles
Image Credit: Lex Fridman

According to Bloomberg, Tesla collected more than three billion kilometers of driving data in 2020, while Aptiv – which is affiliated with NuTonomy – only collected more than one million kilometers. Tesla can leverage this data to refine its AI and achieve the levels of security demanded by governments.

Tesla sells cars, but Grab owns none

Assuming Grab and Tesla both have clear security rules and at the same time roll out standalone phone service, the next battle will be over costs and network size.

Grab, the most established carpooling player in Singapore, has already developed a mature ecosystem of driver-partners.

On the other hand, Tesla is a new entrant, and the success of its robotaxi network depends, among other things, on the number of subscribed drivers.

With Tesla’s price on par with luxury sedans, it remains to be seen whether owners will be motivated enough by the promise of additional income to release their cars onto the grid.

Nonetheless, a nationwide transition to the use of EVs means more potential Tesla buyers, and therefore grid participants. Additionally, Tesla has indicated that it is willing to license its autonomous driving software, which could potentially see its network beefed up with cars from other brands.

On the cost side, Tesla has the advantage because of its business model. This is mainly to sell cars, so the price of software and hardware for autonomous driving is borne by the buyer.

Grab’s costs, on the other hand, involve obtaining a full fleet of autonomous vehicles or installing LiDAR technology on the vehicles of its partner drivers. This means that a robotaxi network will result in significantly higher costs which, if passed on to price-sensitive drivers or consumers, could impact businesses.

Grab might rule now, but Tesla can catch up

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

With the massive adoption of autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles several years away, it may be some time before cycle touring players enter the robotaxi sphere, but on the basis of their investments in the region, it’s Grab and Tesla competing to get out. High.

In the short term, Grab is the likely winner, as Tesla’s ability to deploy its remote support network is entirely dependent on regulatory clearance, while the super-app has the flexibility to use any approved software.

Additionally, Tesla needs time to build up market share and, in turn, its ridesharing network, while Grab already has a well-established ecosystem.

Yet Tesla is better positioned to succeed in the medium to long term, as its proprietary autonomous driving technology is more refined, scalable and cost effective than Grab’s.

Therefore, if the two companies get government approval around the same time, the automaker might just give the super app a run for its money.

On the other hand, Grab may not even develop its own robotaxi, but will team up with Tesla instead of competing. It would then be a win-win situation for both parties.

Featured Image Credit: PR Daily / Grab

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Jothi Venkat

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