The Tesla Mater Plan, Part 2 is now a reality. It took a littler longer than promised, but yesterday, after allegedly “pulling an all nighter,” Elon Musk posted the plan online. Here is the short version:
- Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
- Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
- Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
- Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it
The first objective is no surprise. Last month, Tesla submitted an offer to buy SolarCity for $2.8 million in Tesla stock. This week, the url teslamotors.com began redirecting to tesla.com. That change as much as anything else proves that the company is in the process of rebranding itself as an energy company that also builds vehicles. Here’s how Musk explains it.
“Create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.”
The second part of the plan includes a Tesla pickup truck, a Tesla Semi, and new forms of urban transportation with high passenger density. “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”
He goes on to say, “With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager. [The bus] would also take people all the way to their destination. Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don’t have a phone. Design accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and bikes.”
Part three is all about reducing the annual carnage on the highways. “We expect that worldwide regulatory approval will require something on the order of 6 billion miles (10 billion km). Current fleet learning is happening at just over 3 million miles (5 million km) per day.” Th at statement agrees with findings by the Rand Corporation published recently that say billions of miles will be needed to prove self driving technology is statistically safer than cars driven by the traditional nut behind the wheel.
Musk takes some care to explain why the current version of Autopilot is called beta. “It is called beta in order to decrease complacency and indicate that it will continue to improve (Autopilot is always off by default). Once we get to the point where Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, the beta label will be removed.”
Despite calls to disable Autopilot by Consumer Reports and others, Musk makes it clear he will stay the course. Here’s why: “I should add a note here to explain why Tesla is deploying partial autonomy now, rather than waiting until some point in the future. The most important reason is that, when used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible (emphasis added) to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.”
Finally, in part four of his plan, Musk says car owners typically use their cars less than 10% of the time. Once fully autonomous driving is perfected, they will be able to share their cars with others, generating income that can partially offset the costs of ownership. Then he comes clean on a topic that first popped up last year.
During the 2015 Q2 conference call, analyst Adam Jonas asked Musk if Tesla was planning to offer its own ride hailing service. Musk looked like the cat that ate the canary and did a fast transition into “on the advice of counsel” mode as he declined to answer. Now his reveals that answer. “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.” Take that, Uber and Lyft. Elon is coming for YOU!
That’s it in a nutshell. A bold new plan that takes the original not-so-secret plan and expands upon it in important new ways. Musk restates and reinforces the underlying purpose for everything he and Tesla do. “The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what “sustainable” means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone.
“By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.”