from the one-more-thing dept
Build sports carNow it's 10 years later, and Tesla is in the process of trying to buy another of Musk's companies, Solar City, which he argues helps target the final point in the list above, while the runaway demand for the Tesla Model 3 suggests that the "even more affordable car" is soon to be reality as well.
Use that money to build an affordable car
Use that money to build an even more affordable car
While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Don't tell anyone.
And thus, Musk has now released the next part of his master plan, which spends a fair bit of time trying to justify the merger with Solar City, and then focuses on a bunch of the self-driving efforts that Tesla is working on. Obviously, the company has been in the spotlight recently over some autopilot accidents that have killed drivers. The company's PR reaction to that hasn't been great, though there is a really good point that tons of people die in regular car accidents all the time. If Autopilot can be just marginally safer, even if there are still some accidents, that's still a big improvement. But, even so, Musk argues that their goal is to get Autopilot to be 10x safer before Tesla would remove the "beta" description on the feature.
But, of course, the most interesting bit comes at the end, where he basically announces that once Tesla really gets Autopilot working, they'll more or less turn the company into an Uber competitor, where any Tesla owner can just put their car to work earning money for the owners while they wouldn't normally be using the car:
When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.Now that's interesting. Of course, lots of people have predicted how the idea of car sharing may change in the age of autonomous vehicles. That part isn't entirely new. But a lot of the predictions I've seen about it focused on the idea of a big company (generally Uber) owning the fleet itself. The idea was that if you could summon a car at super low cost whenever you needed it, why would you ever need to actually own a car. And that makes some amount of sense. But Musk's vision appears to be slightly different, in that people could "own" their own cars, but put them to work, drastically lowering the net cost of the vehicle itself for those who choose to own, rather than just make use of ride sharing. Now, that does raise other questions. It would certainly increase the wear and tear on the car, and lower its value at a more rapid rate, but perhaps that doesn't matter so much if the options are cheap enough that you could replace the cars more frequently.
You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you're at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.
In cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars, Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.
Who knows how any of this will play out in reality -- we're still a pretty long distance from it becoming reality. But the very nature of transportation and car ownership may be about to undergo a fairly fundamental shift. And that's a pretty big deal.