It’s Elon Musk’s world, and we all live in it. The man behind private space travel, consumer electric cars, and online payments has revealed his new “master plan” for Tesla Motors – and it could change public transport forever.
Ten years ago, Musk unveiled his first master plan for Tesla, of which he is CEO. It essentially boiled down to building three electric cars in a downward scale of cost, and upwards in volume, which the company polished off earlier this year with the announcement of the Model 3 car.
Now, Musk has unveiled his “Master Plan, Part Deux”. We’ll get into the nitty gritty in a second, but it generally talks about using Tesla’s existing partial self-driving feature – Autopilot – and making it not only fully autonomous, but expanding it to trucks and buses. Yes, Musk wants to create self-driving buses for cities.
Musk said that the point of releasing these master plans was “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.”
The first part of Musk’s plan related to the recent news that Tesla wants to acquire another of his companies, SolarCity. He wants to greatly increase the adoption of solar panels by simplifying the process of buying and installing solar roofs – “one ordering experience”. This would go hand in hand with Tesla’s home battery idea known as Powerwall.
Next up, and perhaps most interestingly, is the idea to reimagine public transport. One part of this would be making self-driving trucks for long-haul cargo trips, delivering “a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport”, although it’s unclear what role – if any – human truck drivers would play in this.
The other part of Musk’s public transport revolution, though, is more awesome. He wants to create self-driving buses (smaller than ones in operation today) that can brake and accelerate at the same speed as cars, helping traffic congestion. “It would also take people all the way to their destination,” he said. “Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don't have a phone.”
Bus drivers would see their role “transitioned” into fleet managers for these futuristic buses. Musk also said he’d increase the number of passengers that can be carried by “eliminating the centre aisle”, although it’s not entirely clear what he means by this.
Finally, he reasserted Tesla’s plan to make all of its vehicles completely autonomous. He envisages a future where your Tesla car can operate as a self-driving taxi for other people when you are not using it (such as when you’re at work), simply by hitting a button on your phone. This would earn you money as others used your car, which “dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla.” These would operate alongside Tesla-owned fleets of self-driving cars. Who needs Uber, eh?
All in all, it sounds pretty good to us, Elon. We’ll check back in 10 years to see how you’re getting on.