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Transit agency to lease Tesla vehicles to create a ride-hailing service

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Reports came out today that Tesla is partnering with a transit agency in Florida, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), to “create a ride-hailing service for transit users.” While it looks like Tesla vehicles will be used for a local ride-hailing service, we are told it has nothing to do with the anticipated ‘Tesla Network’.

‘Tesla Network’, an upcoming ride-hailing service powered by a fleet of self-driving Tesla vehicles, has been at the forefront of Tesla news since last week. So when a transit agency claims to be working with Tesla to implement a ride-hailing service, of course, it fuels the fire.

But we reached to Tesla and we are told that while HART is working with Tesla to lease a fleet of vehicles, the relationship is only of transactional nature and any ride-hailing service would be on HART’s side of the deal.

Tampa Bay Business Journal reported on HART CEO Katharine Eagan announcing the service yesterday:

“The new feature called HyperLINK is the first of its kind worldwide, according to HART. It uses rideshare technology including demand response dispatch, a smartphone app and credit card payments, all with the guarantee of transit. By law, publicly funded transit agencies must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The service will be available almost all day. The Tesla partnership is part of a first/last mile solutions project within the innovation district.”

It sounds like an interesting new service for transit agencies. Tesla’s upcoming ‘minibus’ built on a Model X chassis could be a good fit for this type of project. It is also expected to feature a self-driving system and when he announced it, Musk described the vehicle as a solution for transit applications:

“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.”

As for ‘Tesla Network’, it still looks like it will only be implemented once Tesla’s self-driving software becomes available.

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