#Asia It’s Elon Musk’s world and we all just live in it: Tesla CEO releases Part Deux of Master Plan


Musk’s plan is a fantastical world of sustainable energy, on-demand autonomous vehicles and world class factories — and it may just work

Tesla FINAL (1)

If Elon Musk could snap his fingers to create his ideal world, the Tesla Founder and CEO would create a transportation industry that no longer blurs the line between ride-sharing and autonomous driving, it would eliminate the line completely.

And it would do so in a way that could take a huge leap forward for environmental sustainability.

Today, Musk released ‘Part Deux‘ of his Tesla Master Plan, revealing a project that is immense in both its simplicity and ambition.

Below is the TL;DR of Musk’s roadmap as written on the Master Plan:

  • 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

The most important takeaway from this plan is its potential for making a significant wave of change in environmental protection.

SolarCity and the mass appeal of solar electricity

Solar roofs have for years tormented the greentech industry — a product that we know works, is easy enough to understand, and yet has never reached a price-point to be widely implemented in private households.

This trend might be changing. According to Bloomberg, solar power is becoming an increasingly important (and affordable) source of electricity — and Tesla wants a slice of the pie.

It wants to integrate Tesla’s Powerwall home battery with SolarCity’s solar panel technology to create, “One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.”

To achieve this goal, it is crucial for Musk that the proposed combination of Tesla and SolarCity passes its shareholders vote. Musk is the Chairman of SolarCity and called the fact that the two companies are separate an “accident of history”.

He explained that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall but it needs to integrate it with SolarCity’s technology.

Also Read: Tesla’s autonomous vehicle death brings ethical debate to real world

“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,” he wrote in the Master Plan.

Electric Logistics

The long-haul trucker is as much a part of Americana as any cowboy, jazz musician or tobacco-chewing baseball player. These gas-gussling 18-wheelers are synonymous with car culture, highway transportation and rampant consumerism.

And while personal vehicles have been the focus of the electric vehicle drive, shifting this industry away from unsustainable resources may be more important.

Musk hopes to create a Tesla Semi to lower the cost of transportation and ‘make it really fun to operate’.

The plan also includes buses and the idea is, under autonomous technology, to shift the role of the bus driver towards that of a ‘fleet manager’.

The Master Plan says both products are in the early stages of development and could be revealed next year.

What is interesting is where Musk is focussing the energy for these technologies (and that of the SUV and sedan products). Rather than dive into the advances he hopes to see from the Tesla Semi or bus system, Musk suggested the idea of turning the factory itself into the product.

He explained that Tesla has shifted its focus towards the “machines that make the machines” because while electric vehicles are fantastic, it’s not worth much if they cannot be scaled in a sustainable manner.

Autonomous ride-sharing fleet

While it tickles the fancy of sci-fi lovers to imagine on-demand driverless vehicles taking them to work, Tesla’s plan for a fleet of autonomous ridesharing cars is nothing new in the industry.

Uber is in some senses working towards the same goal but from the opposite direction; Tesla is an electric vehicle company trying to implement autonomous ridesharing and Uber is a ridesharing company in need of a fleet. (Last year, Tesla CEO Travis Kalanick said he would buy half-a-million electric autonomous vehicles from Tesla if they could be built by 2020).

The intriguing proposition is to truly ‘share’ a personal vehicle by signing it up to the Tesla fleet system and allowing other people to use the car while the owner is busy with other matters. To incentivise the car owner, they could make an income while their car drives strangers around the city during work etc.

It’s fascinating idea to consider, but one in which the technology might not necessarily be the largest hurdle, but rather human nature (the idea of people gleefully renting their cars out to unknown people seems like a major hurdle) and legal (what if the owner’s car was used in a crime, is he/she liable?).

Musk did say Tesla will have its own fleet if customer-owned supply does not meet demand.

Also Read: Tesla eyes Shanghai for US$9 billion production hub

His vision for true-sharing means walking out of essentially any building and summoning a car (either owned by the rider, another person or tesla), which can then transport the rider while they sleep, read, finish work (meaning catching Pokémon), etc.

Safety Concerns

The goal is to make autopilot 10x safer than a human driver.

This is the reason, he explained, why autopilot is still referred to as a beta service.

“This is not beta software in any normal sense of the word. Every release goes through extensive internal validation before it reaches any customers. It is called beta in order to decrease complacency and indicate that it will continue to improve (Autopilot is always off by default),” he wrote.

He cited a statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that said automotive fatalities are now at 1 death per every 89 million miles drive, and that to turn off the autopilot feature makes no more sense than doing so for airplanes.

Also Read: Infographic: The road to self-driving cars

“When used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability,” he wrote.

This seems like a shot by Musk after his company was embroiled by safety concerns after the death of Joshua Brown this summer after his car crashed while in autopilot mode.

Why it might work

So there we have it, Elon Musk’s future for us plebs. I think it is pretty interesting and he proved with his first Master Plan that these plans come with the full intention of success.

The man seems to be making a push to be THE capitalist who successfully curbed climate change. Those aren’t my words, those are his. He wrote in the plan:

“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. 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”.

Now to call the roadmap entirely altruistic is misleading; if Tesla can become the go-to company for environmental sustainability, it will have a long and prosperous future. It would go down as one of the most important companies in the world.

The reason the plan might work, as Andrew Krok of C|Net cynically points out, is because most of these technologies or ideas are already being developed by various other companies. (Krok points to Nokola Motor Company’s ‘nikola one’ semi-truck as a competitor to the potential Tesla Semi).

Tesla is not iterating at 2.0 while the industry is at 1.0, the company has serious competition on this front.

Musk’s ability to succeed may be more defined by whether or not a competitor can beat Tesla to market rather than the ‘is this technologically feasible?’ question.

Armchair prognosticators like myself might put the likelihood of full success somewhere in-between the ‘not going to happen’ and ‘highly-unlikely’ categories. But that ‘ranking’ is a compliment, because while the hurdles are numerous and immense, Musk has pulled off feats like this before.

Plus, if he fails at this, he can just take us all to Mars.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.



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