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