Ford and Tesla’s EV Rivalry Heats Up

Ford boss Jim Farley took a jab at Tesla by highlighting how the two companies are nothing alike when it comes to testing driverless tech.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Ford CEO Jim Farley made it clear that Ford (NYSE: F) and Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) have major differences when it comes to testing driverless technology. In a message about Ford’s forthcoming hands-free driving system plans, Farley took a stab at Tesla, tweeting:

“BlueCruise! We tested it in the real world, so our customers don’t have to.” 

Farley was referring to how his company did not use its customers as guinea pigs on public roads to test their vehicles. The tweet was seen as a dig against Musk because, in October 2020, Tesla released an unfinished version of its luxury driver-assist system, which the company marketed as “Full Self-Driving” to customers.

The tweet has received mixed reactions but not as bad as the criticism Tesla has suffered recently for not only using customers to beta test its system, but for also marketing the tech as fully self-driving. 

Ford added fuel to the fire by announcing the company’s developments of its own hands-free driverless system which is seen as a direct competitor to Tesla.

Is Tesla full self-driving? 

In Musk’s most recent update, the entrepreneur tweeted on April 9th that Tesla is:

“Almost ready with FSD Beta V9.0. Step change improvement is massive, especially for weird corner cases & bad weather. Pure vision, no radar.”

However, despite its name, Tesla stated that “neither Autopilot nor FSD Capability is an autonomous system.”

The public has criticized Tesla over the name because the EV maker has told regulators that it is not autonomous and requires drivers to remain attentive and ready to drive at all times. Furthermore, a German court has also barred the EV maker from using the words ‘Autopilot’ or ‘Full Self-Driving’ in advertising. 

Unfortunately for Tesla, there have also been a number of recent crashes involving its cars which has prompted a federal investigation into the company’s driver assistance technology. Currently, there are 27 investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles.

How are Ford’s driverless efforts developing? 

Ford confidently claimed that its BlueCruise system will be released later this year. The company will debut its new hands-free driving features on the 2021 F-150 pickup truck and on some 2021 Mustang Mach-E models through a software update, tech that will rival Tesla and General Motors’ systems.

Ford’s hands-free capabilities — including the use of cameras, radar sensors, and software to offer cruise control, lane centering, and speed-sign recognition — have apparently undergone 500,000 miles of development testing. Farley was sure to emphasize the amount of vigorous testing in his tweet within his not-so-subtle dig at Tesla.

The Detroit-based company’s hands-free system will be available on cars equipped with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 Technology. While Ford’s driverless systems may offer fewer capabilities than Tesla’s FSD system, the former won’t require drivers to ‘check-in’ by touching the steering wheel as a camera will monitor the driver’s eyes and attentiveness to the road. Another difference between the two company’s systems is that Ford’s will be restricted to certain pre-mapped highways in the U.S. and Canada, while Tesla doesn’t restrict the use of Autopilot, FSD, or FSD beta in the same way.

The BlueCruise software comes at a hefty price though. The software, which includes a three-year service period, will cost drivers $600. To upgrade the hardware on the F-150 models, owners will have to drop a further $995, while upgrades to the Mustang Mach-E models will cost $2,600. Ford may find it difficult to convince customers that its systems are worth the extra cost but doing so will be vital for the company to meet its goal of selling more than 100,000 vehicles equipped with BlueCruise in the first year.

Ford stock is up over 43% year-to-date, while Tesla shares have broken even in the same time period.

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