Tesla made fans very happy on Thursday when it announced that all of its future cars will now come pre-loaded with self-driving hardware. While that does not mean that you can hop on to the passenger seat and hope for it to just whisk you away to your destination, it does mean that the capabilities will certainly be there. And given a few years, you could do just that. However, the company has also made sure to forestall smart-alecks who are thinking of running a business by buying Tesla cars and putting them to work with Uber or Lyft.
Self-driving cars are something that are holding all of our imaginations. Lounging in the passenger seat while the car smartly drops you off at your destination — what could be better? However, there are folks who are even happier. Namely, car aggregators and cab hailing services. By using these cars, the likes of Uber, Lyft and Ola could potentially keep all the money they make — a huge leap up from the fraction of earnings that are their commission, while the lion’s share is pocketed by the driver.
With Tesla announcing that self driving capabilities will now be in-built in all of its future cars, many enterprising folks must have been struck by the same idea. Why not buy a couple of cars and lease them out to Uber, Lyft or some other similar cab hailing service. Indeed, I won’t deny admiting that the same idea crossed my mind as soon as I read of Tesla’s plans. However, the company has other ideas.
The clause can be found in the online equivalent of fine print. According to it,
Please note also that using a self-driving Tesla for car sharing and ride hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year.
The Tesla Network referred to here, is part of CEO Elon Musk’s plans of creating a cab hailing service. You may wonder at the Tesla and SpaaceX founder’s wish to get into cab hailing (something usually associated with startups) but, considering the huge money in the sector along with the fact that self driving cars would likely give excellent returns on investments along with huge margins, we can understand.
The move to preemptively ban buyers from using the self driving capabilities of its vehicles for Uber or Lyft’s benefit, makes as well. Car makers, tech giants, cab aggreagtors are all desperately attempting to perfect the self-driving technology. The benefits of achieving that point would be terrific. That said though, why should Tesla allow any other company to benefit from all the resources it spent on perfecting the technology. If not for the clause mentioned above, Uber could technically purchase a fleet and set it to work — pocketing all the revenues in the process.
And lets not forget, preemptively banning folks from using its cars as cabs for anyone else, Tesla will have a large pool — indeed, a fleet! — available by the time it is ready to launch its own network.
Meanwhile, driving out in one of Tesla’s EVs to work with a cab hailing service is probably not an issue. However, making Tesla’s cherished self-driving systems slave while you sit at home brewing coffee is a strict no-no. The company is likely to keep a tab on its cars to ensure that its guidelines are not violated. That said though, the time when you can even consider safely relaxing in the backseat of one of its self-driving cars, may still be some time away.