‘Tesla Network’, the automaker’s upcoming ride-sharing platform, is one of the most anticipated new services that Tesla plans to offer. It’s expected to be released with Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ update on second generation Autopilot cars.
CEO Elon Musk recently elaborated on his vision for Tesla’s autonomous ride-sharing future, which is likely to have a significant impact on its business.
Musk actually ties his vision of shared autonomy with his new tunnel boring project because he sees the advent of car-sharing with autonomous driving ultimately increasing traffic – and tunnels can alleviate that. He said during this interview at TED:
“A lot of people think that once you make cars autonomous that they’ll be able to go faster and that will alleviate congestion and to some degree that will be true. But once you have shared autonomy where it’s much cheaper to go by car. And you can go point to point. The affordability of going in a car will be better than that of a bus. Like, it would cost less than a bus ticket. So the amount of driving that will occur will be much greater with shared autonomy and actually, traffic will get far worse.”
In other words, Musk thinks that once a service like ‘Tesla Network’ offers electric and autonomous mobility services without having to own a vehicle, it will be competitive with public transport while offering point-to-point transportation without having to be limited to transit routes.
Last year, we reported on studies showing that a ride in a self-driving Tesla Model 3 on ‘Tesla Network’ could end up costing only ~$0.60 per mile.
It could result in people who currently rely on the subway and buses to switch to autonomous car-sharing, which will ultimately result in more vehicles on the road. Hence why Musks think that networks of tunnels underneath cities will be needed to reduce traffic at the surface, which is already quite awful in a lot of metro areas pre-shared autonomy.
While Tesla previously said that it will have its own cars on the ‘Tesla Network’, in the same interview, Musk also explained how Tesla owners will be able to put their cars on the sharing platform:
“So there will be a shared autonomy fleet where you buy your car and you can choose to use that car exclusively. You can choose to have it used only by friends and family… or other drivers who are rated five star. You can choose to share it sometimes but not other times. That’s 100 percent what will occur. It’s just a question of when.”
The answer to that question is most likely the same as when Tesla will push its ‘Full Self-driving’ software update. Musk said that Tesla is still on track to demonstrate full autonomy by the end of the year and have a full level 5 autonomous driving system, where someone could sleep in the driver’s seat, within 2 years.