It’s no secret that Elon Musk is highly focused on artificial intelligence (AI). There’s no reason he shouldn’t be. Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, this revolutionary new technology is set to disrupt entire industries. Musk knows that this emerging market is just starting to grow. He recently began work on building a based AI chatbot of his own after issuing criticisms of ChatGPT. Musk, who co-founded OpenAI and was previously on its board of directors, has accused ChatGPT of spreading false information and showing “liberal bias.”
However, according to one industry expert, Musk may not be the expert and AI leader he’d like to be. In fact, he sees him as being incorrect about most of the emerging AI market. That should worry Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) investors who are banking on both Musk and AI.
Gary Marcus is qualified to have an opinion on leaders in AI, as he’s one himself. Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University (NYU), he’s founded multiple AI startups, one of which Uber (NYSE:UBER) acquired in 2017. He’s served as the tech company’s director of AI labs and has written multiple books on the subject. And while he doesn’t think that Musk has gotten everything wrong about AI, he certainly sees some errors in the Tesla CEO’s judgment and assessments.
Marcus on Elon Musk and AI
In his argument regarding Musk and AI, Marcus calls attention to Tesla’s autonomous vehicle problems. Specifically, he highlights the trend of Musk incorrectly estimating his company’s ability to meet deadlines regarding AI-based technology. He describes Tesla’s use of the term autopilot as “more marketing than reality,” citing the claims levied against it in 2022.
Marcus clearly sees Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) software as buggy and problematic. Tesla vehicles on autopilot have indeed been involved in plenty of crashes, some very recently. But Marcus also highlights another error in Musk’s judgment regarding AI: his inability to recognize the importance of light detection and ranging (lidar) technology. In his words:
“Musk also seems to consistently misunderstand the relationship between natural (human) intelligence and artificial intelligence. He’s repeatedly argued that Teslas don’t need Lidar — a sensing system that virtually every other autonomous vehicle company relies on — on the basis of a misleading comparison between human vision and cameras in driverless cars. While it’s true that humans don’t need Lidar to drive, current AI doesn’t seem anywhere close enough to being able to understand and deal with a full array of road conditions without it. Driverless cars need Lidar as a crutch precisely because they don’t have human-like intelligence.”
This argument is similar to other experts who don’t think Tesla can win the driverless race. In October 2022, InvestorPlace spoke to Thomas Fennimore, CFO of Luminar Technologies (NASDAQ:LAZR), and Taylor Ogan, CEO of hedge fund Snow Bull Capital. Both expressed concern regarding Tesla’s self-driving tech. And both made strong cases for why they see lidar as the technology that can help automakers perfect autonomous driving.
Musk May Be Missing the Mark
Marcus’s argument on Musk’s misunderstanding of AI should serve as a warning to investors. The Tesla CEO claims to be focused on delivering driverless cars. But if Marcus’s characterization of him is accurate, and it seems to be, then he may not be the leader who can take a company to that critical milestone.
Other CEOs have recognized the importance of lidar in autonomous technology, indicating that their understanding of AI may be greater than that of Elon Musk. If true, they will beat Tesla to the front of the race upon which many automakers are focused.
On the date of publication, Samuel O’Brient did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.