5 Takeaways From Tesla’s Master Plan for the Future

Elon Musk, Chairman, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors, addresses a press conference to declare that the Tesla Motors releases v7.0 System in China on a limited basis for its Model S, which will enable self-driving features such as Autosteer for a select group of beta testers on October 23, 2015 in Beijing, China. The v7.0 system includes Autosteer, a new Autopilot feature. While it's not absolutely self-driving and the driver still need to hold the steering wheel and be mindful of road conditions and surrounding traffic when using Autosteer. When set to the new Autosteer mode, graphics on the driver's display will show the path the Model S is following, post the current speed limit and indicate if a car is in front of the Tesla.
Elon Musk unveiled the second part of Tesla’s master plan on July 20, 2016. | VCG via Getty Images

Back in 2006, Tesla Motors was just getting started and co-founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company’s master plan to anyone paying attention. Intended to map out a vision for sustainable transport and energy usage, it made the case for starting small and expensive with the Roadster in order to — somehow, possibly, eventually — end up producing the Model 3 for a larger market.

In 2016, that vision seems amazingly prescient, and the time has come for the next phase of Tesla’a master plan, dubbed “Part Deux” by Musk and posted on the company’s website July 20. With Model 3 in development and controversy about the company’s Autopilot swirling, it seems as good a time as any to look at the long-term plans for the innovative company, and there are several exciting prospects on the horizon.

Here are the five takeaways for all parties interested in Tesla and the future of sustainable transportation.

1. Part I is remarkably close to completion

Tesla vehicles sit parked outside of a new Tesla showroom and service center in Red Hook, Brooklyn on July 5, 2016 in New York City. The electric car company and its CEO and founder Elon Musk have come under increasing scrutiny following a crash of one of its electric cars while using the controversial autopilot service. Joshua Brown crashed and died in Florida on May 7 in a Tesla car that was operating on autopilot, which means that Brown's hands were not on the steering wheel.
Tesla Model S and Model X were two keys to Part I of Tesla’s master plan. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Musk kicked off the post about Part II with a review of his original goals. Anyone familiar with the company can see how well they’ve worked out over the past 10 years. They were:

  • Create an expensive, low-volume car to get the money for:
  • A less-expensive, higher-volume car that would fund:
  • An affordable, higher-volume car
  • Plus, get involved in solar power production

From the Roadster to Model S and X to the development of Model 3 and the effort to merge Solar City with Tesla, the company has ticked off all the boxes. Naturally, there have been hiccups, scares, malfunctions, and other bits of turmoil, but the company’s founders can take a deep breath in 2016 and say they’ve just about accomplished everything.

Getting a Tesla-branded system of solar power is one of the keys to the future for Musk, so closing that Solar City deal is crucial. As far as storing the energy, Powerwall is the answer already on the market.

2. An electric pickup truck is coming

EV Fleet Truck
The electric pickup truck could use a bit of that signature Tesla style. | Source: EV FLeet

Just glance at the list of best-selling vehicles in any given month or year and you will find three pickup trucks charting in the top five. In other words, millions of trucks are barreling down the road getting less than 15 miles per gallon all across the country on any given day. If you want to get serious about cutting carbon emissions, you have to address this part of the equation.

Musk says (in a bit of Conehead terminology) that Tesla intends to address all “major forms of terrestrial transport,” so pickups are on the menu for the company’s second act as well. No timetable is given, but we would guess it would arrive after the full roll-out of Model 3 in all its variations, which includes a crossover, the other hottest-selling segment in America.

3. Commercial trucks and buses, too

Nikola One
Heavy-duty trucks are part of Tesla’s master plan. | Source: Nikola

Speaking of making a dent in emissions, commercial hauling and urban mass transit systems are another obvious target. Musk says an electric semi is already on the drawing board at Tesla and could eventually reduce the cost of transporting goods by highway while improving safety and “making it really fun to operate.” The competition in this area is clear: Nikola’s electric semi already has a stunning amount of pre-orders.

As for mass transit, Musk envisioned a world in which Tesla buses were autonomously piloted with the “the role of bus driver [transitioned] to that of fleet manager.” These vehicles would use others on the road to limit resistance from wind when accelerating and braking plus bring customers all the way to their destinations.

4. Full mastery of autonomous driving

Electric Tesla taxis are presented during the launch of the initiative Taxis4SmartCities in Paris on April 14, 2016.
Electric taxis make sense in a fully autonomous world. | Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

There are obvious drawbacks to semi-autonomous driving, the biggest of which would be the shift drivers must make from not controlling the car to suddenly taking charge. Though pointing out Autopilot is about twice as safe as normal driving, Musk said the benchmark is about 10 times safer than operation by humans. Once there, regulators will approve the systems and drivers can literally be asleep at the wheel.

He also took a moment to address the current Autopilot controversy. Rather than considering it immoral to put Autopilot in play, Musk wrote “it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and would be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.”

5. Tesla car-sharing

Marcelo Jaramillo, assistant store manager, (R) shows a Tesla motor company car in a dealership at the Dadeland Mall on June 6, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The electric car maker is trying to make a move by selling their cars, that can cost between $62,400 and $82,400, into malls and stores.
If a Tesla could earn you money when you weren’t using it, cost of ownership would be much more reasonable. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

One Ford Smart Mobility experiment from 2015 involved Blue Oval owners renting out their vehicles when they were not using them. Musk said such a car-sharing system is part of Tesla’s future as well. He wrote, “You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation.”

If there weren’t enough cars available for the demand in a given city, Musk said Tesla would operate its own fleet. We expect the automaker will be one of many by the time it arrives, and drivers may be unnecessary by then.

Source: Tesla Motors Blog

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