Does Tesla expect Model 3 owners to let its car shuttle people around when it's not in use?
Elon Musk has such a voracious appetite for futuristic change that it seems the man has a hard time keeping still. He meddles with electric cars by day and reusable rockets whenever he has the free time, but in the same way he saw the current way NASA was using spaceships and thought it could be improved upon, he believes cars must evolve in order to be viable transportation in the future. And by that, we're not just talking about the Autopilot system.
Last October, Tesla posted plans highlighting how Autopilot would be bundled into something called the "Tesla Network." By the sound of things, the Tesla Network was supposed to be a rideshare service, which, assuming full autonomy comes online during the Model 3's lifetime, could be used so Model 3 owners not using their car can schedule it to give rides without anyone having to drive the car. All of that would be done to make the owners spare cash in order to pay off the Tesla or use as supplemental income. The Drive, fresh off a drive with the Model 3, put together its own list of features that seem to be geared for Model 3 sharing. The first and most obvious is the Model 3's reliance on a smartphone as a key.
The actual owner of the car uses the Bluetooth on their smartphones to unlock the doors when approaching and can use an app to operate many of the Model 3's functions. For the valet or a friend who's borrowing the car, Tesla provides a key card that can fit into a wallet, much like a hotel room card. While it serves as a practical way to give an owner more space inside their pockets, it also makes perfect sense for ride sharing because it means the borrower doesn't use a master copy of the key. And then there's the dead giveaway, a camera embedded in the rear-view mirror that faces the driver and occupants inside. Tesla has acknowledged the camera's existence and claimed it's inactive at the time.
However, the automaker does not want to make mention of what it's used for just yet. In theory, the camera could be used to check in on a driver to see if they are paying attention to the road while operating under a version of Autopilot that doesn't offer full autonomy (like the current Autopilot hardware and software combo). However, it could also be used during rideshare scenarios, either to identify the rider who gets inside the car or monitor for unruly behavior (we hope not, that sounds intrusive). In either case, the viability of Tesla's rideshare service all depends on how quickly the technology comes out, how soon it can ramp up Model 3 production, and how comfortable customers are with sharing their cars.