Trucks, buses and more autonomy in Part Deux of Tesla Master Plan

Trucks, buses and more autonomy in Part Deux of Tesla Master Plan
Tesla has released the second part of its Master Plan
Tesla has released the second part of its Master Plan
View 5 Images
Tesla has released the second part of its Master Plan
Tesla has released the second part of its Master Plan
The Model 3 is Tesla's first push into the mainstream
The Model 3 is Tesla's first push into the mainstream 
The Model X is a high-end car, putting it beyond the reach of most buyers
The Model X is a high-end car, putting it beyond the reach of most buyers
All future Teslas will be fitted with self-driving hardware
All future Teslas will be fitted with self-driving hardware
The Model S was a part of the last 10-year plan
The Model S was a part of the last 10-year plan 
View gallery - 5 images

Almost 10 years ago to the day, Elon Musk released the first Tesla Motors Master Plan. It was an optimistic set of goals for a startup car company, but on the most basic level those goals have been met. Now that the groundwork has been laid, it's time for Part Deux of the plan to spring into action.

"By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse," Musk says. "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. "

That's the thinking underpinning Part Deux of the Tesla Master Plan.

Powerwall, meet SolarCity

According to Musk, one of the key steps toward sustainability involves integrating energy generation and storage systems into one cohesive product. That means merging SolarCity and Tesla Powerwall products into "a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product," served by a simple ordering, installation and service department. It also means owners will be able to track and manage their energy usage using one app, as SolarCity and Powerwall products come together under the Tesla umbrella.

Expansion on the automotive front

Currently, the Model S and Model X operate in a very small segment near the top of the market, beyond the reach of most consumers. The Model 3 should make all-electric motoring more accessible to the masses, but that's not the only lower-end car being planned. Instead, it will be joined by a shrunken SUV and a "new kind" of pickup truck, although there are no details provided about what they look like, how much they cost and when they're likely to hit the market.

The Model X is a high-end car, putting it beyond the reach of most buyers
The Model X is a high-end car, putting it beyond the reach of most buyers

Tesla might only occupy a small slice of the consumer pie, but that consumer pie is a small slice in the overall transport picture. With that in mind, Musk is planning to push into trucks and buses. Both vehicles are currently in the early stages of development, with a reveal planned for 2017.

Interestingly, we shouldn't expect the bus to look like the big boxes on our roads at the moment. Instead, expect a Tesla bus to act like a bigger autonomous taxi, swinging past the bus stop when it's summoned and taking passengers to their destination.

Autopilot development to continue

Development of Autopilot will continue at full-speed over the next ten years, even though there are safety concerns popping up after a man was killed at the wheel of an Autopilot-controlled Model S. In future, all Teslas will be fitted with hardware allowing them to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capabilities. In other words, they'll have all the right sensors and cameras to run autonomously without careening off the road if one component fails.

No matter how sophisticated the hardware, software is likely to be the factor stopping regulators from giving fully-autonomous cars the go-ahead. Tesla expects it to take around 6 billion miles (10 billion km) of testing before a system will be ready for worldwide regulatory approval. As a point of reference, the "fleet-learning" on Autopilot-equipped cars covers around 3 million mi (5 million km) every day.

Musk was also keen to clarify the use of beta when describing Tesla's self driving systems, saying every release is thoroughly tested in house, but the label has been slapped on to minimise the chance of complacency in drivers.

Once totally autonomous cars are approved by regulators, Tesla says you'll be able to summon your car remotely and, when it picks you up, use the time to catch up on some reading.

Sharing is caring

Owning a car is still a point of pride for many, but it's also an incredibly inefficient. After all, most cars sit in a garage overnight, get driven to work where they sit around all day, and then are returned to the garage at the end of the day.

Tesla says owners will be able to add their cars to a shared fleet, ferrying other people around when it would otherwise be sitting idle. As well as saving you the trouble of finding somewhere safe to park during the day, owners will be able to make money from the system.

If demand is outstripping the supply of owner-supplied cars, Tesla says it will supplement the fleet with its own cars.

All of this seems like a logical progression of the technology put in place since 2006, but that doesn't mean things will pan out to perfectly meet Musk's vision. We'll be following the development of each goal closely.

Source: Tesla

View gallery - 5 images
Mel Tisdale
It would save a whole lot of testing if 'Mr Tesla' were to identify those situations that his system will face and that are viewed by some as insuperable. To get the ball rolling, so to speak, isolated rain showers can cause local flooding that can only be negotiated at slow speed, often only at walking pace. Short of restricting all use of autonomous vehicles to such speeds how are these vehicles going to cope with isolated standing water withoug aquaplaning into oncoming traffic or into nearby trees or other such obstructions? Tesla have already caused a life to be lost. How many more must die in pursuit of this dream? I wish these vehicles were possible, but a career in motor-vehicle R&D tells me that there are too many insuperable problems for them to achieve widespread use. I hope that I am wrong.
Musk is one of the very few, if not the only billionaire using his money to advance human, economic and environmental progress instead of using it to destroy our planet and impoverish humanity. Go Elon!
White Druid
Mel... my understanding is that the cause of that loss of life was a semi crossing the median and hitting the Tesla at an angle. At most, the system failed to see the vehicle... but then again, the human co-pilot who acknowledged they were to be aware and able to take control at any time when they engaged the autopilot also failed to see the semi coming over.
As for your scenario of rain and flooding of a road way, have you ever driven in New Jersey? The idiots down there have zero clue about slowing down to avoid hydroplaning. Same for snow on the road.
I've driven about every type of weather I can think of in North America and frankly I don't always trust my own judgement. I know I push my vehicle harder and further than it should have safely been pushed and have spun out on weather several times. I suspect that an autonomous system will be much more conservative than I was as a youth.
Mel, you are wrong. Autonomous vehicles are the future. Yes, the tech is a long way from going mainstream. But it will change very quickly. What about the million people that killed per year from our current way of using automobiles? You don't care about those lives lost? Somehow I think this is a noble and worthy cause. Trying to save 1 million lives per year.
What you are saying about autonomous transportation is the same thing people said about a computer beating a human at chess. Yes, a vastly bigger challenge. But if you follow the tech you will realize how huge the gains has been in the past 11 years (since DARPAs first autonomous vehicle challenge) and how quickly the tech has improved just in the last 3 years. It's imminent (5 to 10 years).
It is pretty early tech but I'm not sure you can list one death as proof it's a bad idea. There are 1.3 million deaths per year or 3,287 deaths per day from car accidents. The significance of the death depend partly on autonomous miles traveled and I think autonomous driving (with driver at the ready) is at least beating the national average in deaths per miles traveled which does matter.
On the other hand I've seen failures in tech doing simple stuff that it has been doing for years so the idea of autonomous cars creating a perfect world where there won't be accidents and we won't need auto insurance any more sounds like a pipe dream to me though. Computers are terrible at complex decision making using multiple data points.