The electric car manufacturer is getting a fresh purpose.
Elon Musk never seems to be done planning Tesla's future. Every few weeks, it seems like Tesla is announcing a new model, adding a feature, or sending out a software update. Tesla has gone from an unknown start-up to a household name churning out several mass-produced EVs in about a decade, but the company is not done evolving. At a presentation for investors on Monday, Tesla CEO Musk boldly declared that Tesla will transition from a traditional automaker to an operator of a fleet of autonomous "robo-taxis."
At the meeting, Musk called attention to the fact that every Model S, X, or 3 built starting in April has had the Full Self-Driving hardware installed. While he acknowledged that for the vehicles to be able to use their full self-driving abilities they must first obtain regulatory approval, he still believes that the cars will be able to run in full autonomous mode in certain locations by the end of next year. The spread of the Full Self-Driving abilities will begin the transformation of Tesla towards an autonomous ride-sharing company.
As Tesla recently announced, Model 3 lessees must return their vehicle at the conclusion of the lease. These cars will begin to form the Tesla Network of robo-taxis, and Musk expects the initial Tesla Network taxis to be running by 2020. Meanwhile, Tesla owners will also be able to share their cars on the Tesla Network when they don't need them and have them operate as robo-taxis, with Tesla taking 25-30% of the revenue. Musk predicts that Tesla Network riders could be spending as little as 18 cents per mile, and he estimates that cars on the Tesla Network will have at least three times the utilization rate of a typical privately-owned vehicle.
In preparation for this transformation, Tesla will begin engineering its cars and batteries to last one million miles, double the current durability target. Tesla has been collecting information as drivers spend time using the Autopilot system, using this data to improve the self-driving system for future use. Musk is confident that the system will work regardless of rain, snow, or darkness, and the company recently released a video of a Model 3 in Full-Self Driving mode cruising around public roads with no intervention from the driver. While Musk loves to make bold claims, the follow-ups on said claims are often delayed, or not entirely the same. We look forward to seeing in which direction Musk takes Tesla in the coming years.