During a conference call with analysts following Tesla’s first quarter financial results yesterday, CEO Elon Musk gave several updates on Tesla’s new vehicle programs, like Tesla Semi and Model Y, but he also made it sound like the company could let go of its minibus program.
He said that after “having given a bit more thought to it”, he is not sure “if that’s actually going to be something that makes sense in the shared, fully autonomous environment.”
Interestingly, the remarks come just a few days after the CEO said that Tesla Network, Tesla’s autonomous ride-sharing platform, will eventually be cheaper than public transport.
During the call yesterday, he added:
“Because it may cost like very little, like it costs less than a bus ticket to make use of a shared autonomy fleet to go wherever you want to point to point. Well, why wouldn’t you just use that?”
Musk first announced his plans for the Tesla minibus in his ‘Masterplan part 2‘ product roadmap for the company. At the time, he said that it was still in the early stages of development, but he revealed a few details about the vehicle, like that it would be built on the Model X platform and the designed was inspired by the “California Custom VW combi design art”.
While he is cooling down on the idea of an all new minibus, he seems to still like the idea of a Model X with higher passenger density. He added on the call yesterday:
“It does helps with density to some degree. But then you — I mean you could basically have something like a higher density Model X or something like that, that’s got 10 or 12 seats in it. But would you want more than that? I don’t know.”
What it sounds like is that Musk is now more interested in his idea for tunnels to alleviate traffic instead of busses. He continued when talking about the minibus:
“And then when you factor tunnels in — big round tunnels anyway — yes, then the density — urban density in traffic, and it can be fully alleviated with tunnels.”
In the video of the unveiling of his vision for tunnels in cities, there was a special vehicle that could be described as an autonomous minibus – pictured above. Some speculated that could be a glimpse at Tesla’s minibus even though it didn’t fit the previous description at all.
In other words, it looks like the Tesla minibus is not on top of the list of Tesla’s vehicle programs.