How Tesla Owners Can Make Money Repurposing Their Cars Into Robotaxis

Ann Santiago
April 24, 2019

Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk expects the electric vehicle (EV) maker to have robotaxis as early as next year, the manager said at the Tesla Autonomy Investor Day on Monday.

"Probably two years from now we'll make a vehicle with no steering wheels or pedals", Musk predicted, while acknowledging he is often late to meet aggressive targets. Last month, Tesla started shipping cars that are said to be capable of fully autonomous driving, thanks to new hardware designed in-house. Tesla's idea is to create a business model in the on-demand taxi hailing market that incumbents like Uber and Lyft envision - running self-driving taxis. "Because in the real world, insane things happen". Particularly if, like one YouTube commenter, you view it in quarter speed to fully appreciate what the vehicle is capable of. The fundamental utility of your vehicle will increase by a factor of 5'.

Tesla has been working on a self-driving chip since 2016 and Musk had previously forecast that cars would be fully self-driving by 2018, a target Tesla has missed. This quarter, he said Tesla will have 500,000 vehicles on the road, each equipped with eight cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar gathering data to help build the company's neural network, which will serve as the digital equivalent of the self-driving cars' consciousness. But unlike its competitors, Tesla's cabs won't have a driver inside. He shared these plans as part of a broader vision for an autonomous ride-sharing network during the company's Autonomy Day.

Riders would be able to "summon" a vehicle through Tesla's ridesharing app. The computers are roughly the same size as older computers in Tesla cars already, and use the same power.

The presentation comes two days before Tesla is expected to announce a quarterly loss on fewer deliveries of its Model 3 sedan, which represents Tesla's attempt to become a volume vehicle maker.

Musk did casually admit that there might be a few "fender bender" situations, implying that people might get hit if conditions go awry.

FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019. The system would let owners add or remove their Tesla cars from the robotaxi service, and split revenue with Tesla-up to 30 percent.

Users would be able to "summon" a Tesla when they need a ride. He also pointed out that these robotaxis won't be available in all jurisdictions "because we (Tesla) won't have regulatory approval everywhere".

Central to this promise is a new microchip for self-driving vehicles unveiled by Musk on Monday during a webcast presentation.

"All you need to do is improve the software".

"Sometimes I'm not on time", he said, laughing.

'Once regulators are comfortable with us removing the steering wheel we'll delete that'. Teslas still require human intervention and are not considered fully self-driving, according to industry standards. An average ride-hailing journey now costs users between $2 and $3 per mile, but Musk claims Tesla's service would cost users less than $0.18 per mile.

It's expensive and unnecessary, and anyone relying on expensive sensors will be doomed, Musk said.

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