I’m going to say something you wouldn’t expect from the CEO of a car company: America’s roads are a warzone. Over 40,000 traffic fatalities in 2021. Millions of car accidents per year. Our streets and highways are dangerous, and it’s clear that the current system isn’t working. Years of preventable tragedies inspired me to start this company, and I’m proud to say that our self-driving cars will someday save countless lives. But, and I want to be upfront about this, they will kill some of you first.
We all think we’re above-average drivers, but let’s face it: humans make mistakes. We get tired. We get angry. We drink. Combine any of those with an automobile, and you’ve got a recipe for tragedy. Our autonomous vehicles don’t make human mistakes. Instead, they make errors that only a machine could make, like confusing a cyclist for an open roadway, or mixing up a pedestrian for an open roadway, or making a small oopsie and thinking that playing children are an open roadway. Nobody’s perfect.
With state-of-the-art sensor technology combined with our proprietary artificial intelligence, our vehicles will be the safest thing on the road. Imagine a world in which every vehicle you see is self-driving, a whole fleet of interconnected cars communicating with each other, making minute adjustments in speed and following distance, updating based on road surface and weather conditions, and doing everything in their power to keep people safe.
Now, imagine the gap between that world and the one we’ve got, and imagine that before we perfect the technology, there’s going to be a couple of years where cars are rocketing into highway embankments at seventy miles per hour due to completely impossible-to-predict events, like a dog running into the road, or drizzle.
Just like human beings, our cars will have to learn, and yeah, we’re not going to get it right every time. Sometimes green means go, like a traffic light, but sometimes green means stop, like a person’s green shirt. You can imagine how frustrating this is for our machine-learning experts. Why was the person wearing a green shirt? Didn’t they realize that’s the same color as a traffic light? This stuff isn’t easy, and before we get to a world with zero traffic deaths, we’ll—briefly, I hope—have to increase the number of traffic deaths just a little. We feel really bad about that.
In a way, the people our cars mow down are doing just as much as our highly paid programmers and engineers to create the utopian, safe streets of tomorrow. Each person who falls under our front bumper teaches us something valuable about how humans act in the real world. This pedestrian walked in front of the vehicle right after the walk signal had stopped. Another person’s tie-dye shirt bewildered and overwhelmed our car’s sensors, triggering the now-shuttered “getaway mode.” A third person, our car just didn’t like for some reason. Haven’t figured that one out yet. But we’re confident that with a couple of thousand more data points like these, we can put an end to traffic-related fatalities.
You’ll notice our cars out on the road. Sometimes, thanks to our whisper-quiet electric motors, you won’t notice them until they’re milliseconds away. In the moments before impact, we hope you’ll take the time to appreciate the classic lines and slick engineering, and join us in envisioning a world without car crashes. Here’s to a safer tomorrow.