After reaching most of the goals detailed in the initial 10-year old Masterplan, Musk today has finally shared his long-term vision in the form of a new ‘Masterplan’. And this future plan takes the company beyond their status of an electric vehicle manufacturer and puts them as a fore-runner of a fully-integrated and sustainable transport vehicles and product manufacturer.
Musk last week had created chaos in the tech world by tweeting out that he was working on the future plans of his famed electric vehicle company — Tesla Motors Inc. He later also dropped some hints on the same on his Twitter, but one couldn’t have been too sure of the details until today.
The masterplan detailed today is a long-term investment into making an integrated solar and battery storage system available in each household, shifting from assisted to autonomous driving, building an electric-powered semi-truck and bus. The plan also says that Tesla will step foot into the ride-sharing business(woah!!).
Musk, in the blogpost titled ‘Master Plan, Part Deux‘ says that ten years ago the company had to start off with minimal funds and a sustainable model of development as he didn’t want to risk anybody’s funds in the process. He wasn’t sure that the whole idea of electric cars would blow up and the company would have scaled up to the extent it has now(but it was his goal from the start, and of course he’s the legendary Elon Musk). So, now that the company is recognized as the accelerating force behind the advent of sustainable energy, it has look beyond the present and make the future better — as it matters for everyone.
Heart of the plan – Solar Energy
The first step towards building a fulfilling and sustainable economy involves abundant access to solar energy, says Musk. And thus the company is looking forward to integrate a solar-roof and a battery product in each household which owns a Tesla vehicle. But there is one small hiccup in the execution of this plan of his, and that is where SolarCity steps in. Musk in the blogpost says that,
We can’t do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies.
Musk has expressed his interest in acquiring the solar-energy generation startup SolarCity for a reported $2.8 billion. While investors may have been wary of this acquisition talk in the recent past, but Musk believes if they really want to achieve sustainability, the Sun is necessary for the same — not Wind, not water — the Sun. So, SolarCity and Tesla need to combine their individual expertise and work on a single product — powerwall or battery — in the upcoming Gigafactory.
Cheaper Tesla Model 3’s and pick-up trucks
Now Tesla is investing heavily into building all this infrastructure and green energy alternatives for expanding its terrestrial transport fleet. The masterplan outlines the addition of two relatively new segments — a future compact SUV and a new kind of pickup truck to attract most of the consumer market. This also includes the introduction of an ever more affordable Model 3.
In addition to this, the company is also focusing on the development of industrial and civilian transport vehicles. Currently in early stages of development, Musk also envisions an era of electric heavy-duty trucks and ‘high passenger-density urban transport’ or buses. He plans to give us a peek at these vehicles the next year, but also adds another vehicle idea to the mix and writes:
We believe the Tesla Semi[-Trucks] will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.
The idea behind the introduction of an electric bus powered by Tesla proprietary software and Autopilot system is to transition the role of the bus driver to that of the fleet manager. This control and increased supervision will greatly help in improving traffic congestion in urban areas, and the integration of the same tech at bus-stops(for summoning a vehicle) would be the next step, according to Musk. Additional capacity, door-to-door service, and non-cellular methods would benefit the populous greatly.
Currently, the company is looking forward to improve vehicle production by 5 to 10 fold, which according to plan is achievable on a roughly 2 year iteration cycle i.e the first complete version should be out by 2018.
If you’re unknown to the fact, the Tesla electric cars already has something called the Autopilot, — an assistant feature that lets the car drive itself under certain conditions — but it isn’t truly autonomous per se. Musk says that they have the technology and computing hardware for building self-driving into the car, but it is important to lay focus of refinement and validation of the same. Musk believes that in order to get regulatory approval for autonomous driving, the company would have to increase the testing fleet and still then,
it[Tesla] will require something on the order of 6 billion miles (10 billion km). Current fleet learning is happening at just over 3 million miles (5 million km) per day.
And there might have certain instances and accidents that have caused Tesla to receive some flack on their Autopilot system, but they are not planning to disable it anytime soon. It maybe in testing and Beta stage but expects to double the miles driven in the near future. Musk finally adds that,
Once we get to the point where Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, the beta label will be removed.
With the boom in cab-aggregation/ride-hailing services in the recent years, Tesla is taking a page from Uber and Lyft and adding self-driving capabilities to the same.
Tesla Motors is raising its electric car fleet with Artificial Intelligence and wants to take on the role of the transportation aggregator, who instead of a human driver will deploy an autonomous Tesla on your request. While travelling in these lavish self-driving electric cars, you’ll have the facility to be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.
In addition to this, the company will allow allow Tesla owners to earn additional money and drastically reduce the cost of their ownership by adding their vehicles to the autonomous fleet when their off to work or out on a vacation. Musk adds that,
Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.(meaning adding it to the fleet would be beneficial for both)
Wrapping up — Plan Deux, in short
While Tesla is still to deliver on all its promises and aspirations of building an ‘even more affordable car’ for the larger chunk of the population, churning out a large volume of Model 3’s(costs $45,000) in the next 6-9 months will be a real challenge for the automobile manufacturer. And now that the next phase or the future plan of the company in place, it has started looking beyond just cars, and battery packs. In short, Musk’s ‘Masterplan Part 2’ is :
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.
While others may have doubted Musk’s intentions and his superficial vision(according to 2006) of setting up and expanding a sustainable and greener alternative for transportation, but he has delivered on most part of his end of the deal. Even the masses have accepted Tesla with open arms — which is clear based on over 500,000 bookings received for the $45,000 Model 3.
There might have been a few hiccups in the way, but we should trust Musk’s vision — though how much bloated — and have confidence as he is the only one who can accomplish the same in the next 5-7 years.