Tesla has even bigger dreams than Model 3
Ten years ago, Tesla Motors very nearly predicted its own future in a blog post CEO Elon Musk called the “Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan.” Today, the automaker has revealed part two of that master plan, and it’s a duesy. As expected, Musk details his plans to integrate SolarCity into Tesla, but the document also lays out the company’s strategy to revolutionize transportation, manufacturing, and shipping. Also, there’s a Tesla pickup truck on the way.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the whole master plan:
So, in short, Master Plan, Part Deux is:
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 part we’ve known about for a long time. Musk even points out that “Provide solar power” has been listed as one of the company’s goals on its website for 10 years. Tesla recently announced its intention to buy SolarCity, a company which Musk is also involved with. The goal is to integrate the solar side of the business with Tesla Energy and its Powerwall to create a unified sustainable energy provider.
Now we get into the juicy bits. Musk has hinted before that he likes the idea of a Tesla pickup truck, but now we have our first confirmation that one is actually in the works. The CEO also announces a sub-Model X compact crossover.
“Today, Tesla addresses two relatively small segments of premium sedans and SUVs. With the Model 3, a future compact SUV and a new kind of pickup truck, we plan to address most of the consumer market.”
Not only that, but Musk also plans to move into heavy-duty and commercial transportation with an electric bus and semi-truck, which he says are in the early stages of development. Musk says the Tesla semi will “deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.” It’s unclear how battery range will be addressed on these long-range vehicles, but they should be ready to unveil by next year, Musk says.
Here, Musk illustrates his vision for future buses:
“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. Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses. It 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.”
Tesla engineering has no doubt been busy with the above projects, but Musk says the company is also focusing its efforts on improving manufacturing. The CEO believes that scaling up production volume is the key to accelerating a sustainable future, a belief that’s evident in his targeting of a 500,000-car annual production capacity by 2018.
“A first principles physics analysis of automotive production suggests that somewhere between a 5 to 10 fold improvement is achievable by version 3 on a roughly 2-year iteration cycle. The first Model 3 factory machine should be thought of as version 0.5, with version 1.0 probably in 2018.”
Finally, the Tesla co-founder talks more about autonomy. In response to the recent fatal Tesla Model S crash that occurred while in Autopilot mode, Musk touches on Tesla’s reasons for labeling Autopilot as a “beta” system.
“This is not beta software in any normal sense of the word. Every release goes through extensive internal validation before it reaches any customers. 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.”
Musk says that as the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will be capable of fully autonomous driving, and will be fail-operational. That means that if one part of the system breaks, the car can still function autonomously and drive safely. He notes that validation of the software will take much longer than installing the required cameras, sonar, radar, and computing hardware. Tesla expects worldwide regulatory approval of autonomous cars to happen after 6 billion autonomous miles are racked up. “Current fleet learning is happening at just over 3 million miles per day,” Musk says. Tesla drivers have cumulatively traveled more than 130 million miles in Autopilot mode.
Once full autonomous driving is universally approved, however, Musk promises that you will be able to “sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.” You’ll also be able to summon your Tesla “from pretty much anywhere.” With this capability, a Tesla phone app will allow you to share your car when you’re not using it to earn extra income. Musk say this will lower the cost of ownership since most cars are only used 5-10 percent of the day. This is also Musk’s reasoning for not building a car that costs less than a Model 3, which will start at $35,000.
Full autonomy will also put Tesla in the ride-hailing business. Tesla says it will operate its own fleet of vehicles “in cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars.”
The blog post lays out some pretty pie-in-the-sky ideas, but then again so did the first part of Tesla’s masker plan. Do you think the company’s goals are achievable? Tell us in the comments below.
Read the full Secret Master Plan here.