Here's a fun mental exercise: if you did want to run a self-driving car scam starting in 2016, how would you have made it different from Tesla's "Full Self-Driving"?

It's genuinely difficult to think of a better way to pull that off than exactly what Tesla has done.
Start with the most important consideration: the marks. Do you target VCs? Sure, they are hype-susceptible and fallible but they also have access to experts and lawyers. No, you would target the public, who know nothing.

Incidentally, only one AV developer takes consumer cash.
What's the pitch? Well, everyone else is pitching Level 4 robotaxis because the tech is pricy, so not that. Sell the dream: SAE Level 5 autonomy, but in a car that you can afford to own yourself. Better yet, it can be a robotaxi that works for you and pays for itself!
Needless to say, it helps a lot if you've been selling a Level 2 system with high control authority, no ODD limits, and no camera DMS. Especially if you've been hinting for a while that it's practically self-driving. People will believe you: it does steering, brakes AND gas!
Of course, you'll still need some misinformation to explain why they can make videos and offer rides in tough urban zones while you're stuck at Level 2 on easy suburban roads. Say theirs only works in a few square miles. They gotta map every day. Lidar makes AVs worse. Pile it up
Critical point: when you get called out on the misinformation, you have to, HAVE TO say it's because they're scared of you. You can't afford to get deep into actual technical discussions. Just blow them off with unshakeable confidence and some laugh-crying emojis.
You also need a really simple explanation for why you're going to win. Like, really, really, REALLY simple. Something like "we have x cars with cameras and a cellular connection, so we get the most data and the most data always wins in AI." That's it. Never, ever go deeper. Done.
Claim that victory is right around the corner a couple of times a year. Not so often it becomes a complete joke, but enough to show your confidence. Raise the price on a regular basis to "prove" you're getting closer, and drive FOMO.

Ignore the scattered laughter.
Obviously you also need to have spent years developing a culture of blind fanboying around your company and its leader, who should probably be a billionaire with at least one independent way to build his credibility (familiarity with internet culture should help too).
Anyway, if you can think of a better way to structure and run an AV scam than this I would love to hear it!

I genuinely don't think I can come up with a better one, but perhaps I just lack imagination. Help me out here.
This is an important one too: people will assume that there are regulators who are so zealous in their guardianship that they might stop a bold innovator from changing the world. That also implies that they would stop this whole thing if it were a scam
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