Part two of Elon Musk’s Tesla Masterplan has landed – just over a week after he hinted at its release on Twitter – firming up plans to merge Tesla and Solar City into a solar and battery storage powerhouse, and revealing the scale of the company’s ambition to dominate the autonomous vehicle and car-sharing space.
In a blog post published on the Tesla website late on Wednesday, Musk summarised the “Tesla Master Plan, Part Deux” thus:
“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 updated schedule comes, as noted, 10 years after Musk first blogged about a Secret Tesla Master Plan that involved building what would become the first luxury sports Model S.
As Musk noted in his blog on Wednesday, that first master plan – essentially, create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive; use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price; use that money to create an affordable, high volume car; and… provide solar power – is now in the final stages of completion.
Now, it is clearly time to think bigger and further into the future. Here’s how Musk explains it:
“The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what “sustainable” means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing – it matters for everyone.
“By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilisation will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.”
One of the most interesting parts of the new plan include Musk’s thoughts on car sharing, in which he imagines a Tesla shared fleet that customers can access anytime, anywhere, “just by tapping a button” on an app. Sound familiar? It’s basically Uber, but with Teslas on autopilot.
As with Uber, the main aim of this part of Tesla’s plan is to find a way of generating income for Tesla EV owners when they’re not using their cars. And Musk says that in cities where demand exceeds supply of customer-owned cars, “Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.”
Going beyond Uber, however, the service would be taken to the next level via Tesla’s autonomous driving technology, which Musk says will mean drivers will be able to summon their Tesla from “pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.”
Fully autonomous driving, while not a new or even far-fetched concept, might seem like a bold prediction coming from Tesla so soon after the much publicised death of a Model X driver whose car is believed to have been operating in autopilot mode when it ploughed into the underside of a truck in Florida in May.
But Musk argues in his blog that the technology “is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves, and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.”
Musk also explains why Tesla labels its Autopilot system as “beta:”
“This is not beta software in any normal sense of the word… 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,” he said.
On the Tesla Auto EV range, the plan is to expand it to cover all major forms of terrestrial transport, namely heavy-duty trucks and public transport vehicles. According to Musk, both are already in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling in 2017.
“We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate,” he said.
As for solar and battery storage, Musk says the plan to “create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world,” hinges on the already attempted merger of Tesla and Solar City.
“That they are separate at all… is largely an accident of history,” he says. “Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.” Watch this space.