Cathie Wood Dubs Tesla’s Controversial FSD Tech the ‘Most Impactful A.I. Project’

Cathie Wood believes Tesla is "almost there" in achieving true self-driving. If true, that could make Tesla 11 times more valuable in four years, according to Wood's analysis.

A collage of Cathie Wood in a gray shirt and a Tesla steering wheel.
Tesla is the top holding in Cathie Wood’s Ark Innovation Fund. Getty Images

Cathie Wood, the founder and CEO of ARK Invest, recently predicted Tesla’s stock price could reach $2,000 by 2027—more than 11 times its current level. That bold forecast hinges largely on the success of one product: Tesla (TSLA)’s autonomous driving technology, whose safety and branding tactics have drawn widespread controversy.

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The National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA), a federal regulator, has investigated dozens of accidents involving Tesla’s driver assistance systems and found, in certain situations, these features lead to heightened risk of crashing. Wood said she is not concerned with these regulatory probes because data actually shows that Tesla vehicles equipped with driver assistance systems are much safer than most cars on the road.

“A Tesla with FSD is six times safer than an average car on the road,” Wood said during an onstage interview at the Axios BFD event in San Francisco on May 10, citing data disclosed at Tesla’s Investor Day event in March. “Tesla FSD has one accident every 3.2 million miles, whereas an average car has one accident every 500,000 miles.”

Tesla is the top holding in Ark Invest’s tech-heavy portfolio.

FSD, which stands for “full self-driving,” is an advanced version of Tesla’s driver assistance software. It also offers a basic package branded as Autopilot. Neither system is capable of driving a vehicle without a driver’s attention, so the branding suggestive of self-driving has drawn criticism that Tesla may have crossed the line of false advertising.

Both Autopilot and FSD are classified as level 2 (out of 5) autonomous driving systems under the standards of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). It means a human driver needs to stay alert at all times during a vehicle’s movement.

How far is Tesla from achieving true self-driving?

Wood believes Tesla is close to achieving true autonomous driving because of its unique underlying technology. Most driver assistance systems on the market guide a vehicle’s movement by pre-mapping an area using a “lidar” (a radar using light instead of radio waves). But Tesla’s system relies on cameras that capture a real-time view around a vehicle. An algorithm then processes these video streams in order to guide motion.

“He is almost there…I think it’s the most impactful A.I. project out there,” Wood said yesterday of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the company’s autonomous driving technology.

“I think he’s our renaissance man,” she continued her praise of Musk. “He’s the inventor of our age. He’s got an enormous capacity to take on new projects.”

“Cathie is awesome, interviewer less so,” Musk tweeted yesterday (May 11) in response to a video clip of Wood’s interview.

When its autonomous driving system matures, Tesla plans to roll out a robotaxi service using a fleet of self-driving Tesla vehicles. In a report last month, Wood’s Ark Invest team predicts robotaxi could make up 25 percent of Tesla’s annual revenue and 58 percent of its enterprise value in 2027. By that time, EV sales will account for just 62 percent of Tesla’s revenue, according to Ark Invest’s model. That number currently stands at 90 percent, according to Tesla’s latest earnings report.

Cathie Wood Dubs Tesla’s Controversial FSD Tech the ‘Most Impactful A.I. Project’