Faraday Future gets green light to test autonomous cars in California

Faraday Future FFZERO1 Concept, unveiled at 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas

Faraday Future FFZERO1 Concept, unveiled at 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas

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The first all-electric cars from start-up automaker Faraday Future are expected to go on sale around 2018 (initially: 2017). In preparation for that event, the company has received approval from the state of California to begin testing its autonomous vehicles on public roads. 

Sources say that those tests will begin later this year. However, it’s unclear whether the cars being tested will be fully autonomous, as Google’s are, or partially autonomous, like the Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode. 

Faraday’s long-term plan is to offer battery-electric, fully autonomous vehicles–and to do so quickly. Outside Las Vegas, Nevada, the company broke ground earlier this year on its first manufacturing facility, and it’s recently sought approval for a second plant in California. 

But while the company has gone into a fair amount of detail about the power of its electric powertrain, it’s been less forthcoming about its autonomous driving system. The head of Faraday’s self-driving program, Jan Becker, has only said that the vehicles will offer “state of the art driver assistance systems”. Which sounds less like a fully autonomous vehicle and more like a car with Tesla Autopilot or Infiniti’s Active Lane Control. 

Our take? We admit, we’re always a little skeptical of start-ups, especially those that barge into the marketplace spouting grand ideas and lofty goals as Faraday Future has done.

Then again, Tesla did the same, and in just a few short years, it’s built a massive base of fans and excitement for its new offerings.

Can Faraday Future pull off the same trick?

Faraday has plenty of money, that’s for sure, and it’s building a strong team of employees. However, the only model Faraday has shown to the public has been a supercar with limited mainstream appeal. You could argue that Tesla did the same with its sporty Roadster–but then, you could also counter-argue that the Roadster had far more mass-market draw than the FFZERO1 concept.

There’s also the question of leadership to consider. Love him or hate him, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a big thinker with Steve Jobs-level charisma. So far, there’s no recognizable public face for Faraday Future, no evangelist stalking the stage at events, inspiring passion in would-be buyers. To be the revolutionary auto brand that Faraday wants to be, having a strong front-man or front-woman will be important.

For now, we can’t predict whether Faraday will become a true Tesla rival, or if it’s doomed to be another V-Vehicle or Coda–or if it’s angling to become an ultra-niche automaker like Detroit Electric. Based on the way it’s spending money like there’s no tomorrow, though, it seems as if Faraday Future wants to sell on a broad scale. To do that will take a considerable amount of work.

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