Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced new plans to incorporate self-driving Teslas into the ride-sharing industry as soon as next year. This would put Tesla in competition with other ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
Musk explained that Tesla owners of self-driving cars would be able to enlist their cars in the service through an app. Similarly to Uber and Lyft, the cars would pick up and take riders to their desired destination. The only difference is the lack of a physical driver. Musk says that Tesla would get 25 to 30 percent of the profits, but Tesla owners could still earn as much as $30,000 per year by making their self-driving cars “robotaxis”.
Musk is adamant on making Tesla the car of the future. This new idea is going to be a motivator for consumers to buy Teslas. “The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today is that it is financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla,” said Musk during his announcement, “It will be like owning a horse in three years. I mean, fine if you want to own a horse. But you should go into it with that expectation.”
Although Musk’s enthusiasm is evident, his self-driving taxis are facing a lot of skepticism. Many critics believe that the announcement came at a convenient time to distract from Tesla’s disappointing first-quarter earnings. The company lost $702 million in the first quarter of 2019.
Jon McNeill, Lyft COO and previous Tesla employee, expressed his doubt on the timeline of the project last week. “I just don’t know if that’s possible to do,” said McNeill. “Even with autonomy happening over the next few years–or starting to be deployed over the next few years–we’ll need more drivers in five years than we have today.” He highlighted how quickly the ride-sharing industry is growing. McNeill doesn’t think there will be enough self-driving taxis on the road to keep up with the growing popularity of ride-sharing.
Others are unsure that self-driving taxis will realistically be available by next year like Musk expects. “We still think removing the safety driver will take many years (if not decades),” said Adam Jones from Morgan Stanley. Certain liability issues haven’t been addressed thoroughly by Musk. In the case of an accident, Tesla would assume full responsibility because they are the maker of the taxis.
Tesla has been working on robotaxis since 2016 and, despite facing skepticism, Musk seems to be entirely confident in his plans. Last week, he stated that “next year for sure, we will have over 1 million robotaxis on the road.”
“The future of robotics is paramount to manufacturing and America must take the lead for the 4th industrial revolution. Elon Musk builds cars with the help of American workers and they’re on the way to changing the world. Once you drive a Tesla, you will see why the Model 3 is gaining on Honda and Toyota as the #1 selling car in the U.S. and I love that it’s Made in the USA.” – Jason Blount, Chief Technology Officer for MadeinAmerica.com