Tesla Plans to Introduce Its Own Robot Taxi Service
On Monday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced plans to turn the company’s vehicles into ride-sharing robot taxis. Any Tesla car with autonomous driving can become a robotaxi, and owners would have to add their car to the Tesla Network platform through the company’s app. Musk said that there would be “over 1 million robotaxis on the road” by next year.
Riders will be able to call robotaxis from the Tesla app, similar to how Uber and Lyft currently work. Musk believes that rides via Tesla’s vehicles will cost less than $0.18 per mile, in comparison to the current average ride-hailing cost of $2-$3 per mile. He also said that by adding their cars to the network, Tesla owners would be able to make $30,000 per year; Tesla itself would receive 25% to 30% of the fee charged for the ride.
Implementing a robot taxi service would expand Tesla’s business model by targeting and earning profit from ride-hailing customers, a step away from the company’s current focus on building and selling cars. Musk acknowledged that there would be regulations that would need to be followed, but was confident that the program would be launched in some parts of the US by next year. This estimate is noticeably different from what other companies with similar goals are predicting.
Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett said earlier this month that the industry overestimated the implementation of autonomous vehicles and that Ford’s first application of the technology will come in 2021. Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo has been honing its technology for around a decade and only deployed a commercial service in Phoenix last year; its robot taxi service also launched with a human safety operator in the car. An Uber self-driving test last year, which had a person behind the wheel, led to a fatal crash and criticism about whether or not the technology is ready for public use.
Musk’s confidence stands out; he is promising a self-driving car that can operate without a human or location restrictions by next year. Tesla has also already introduced Autopilot, an autonomous assistant system that provides features which keep the car in its lane and travelling at speed consistent with the surrounding traffic; however, several crashes involving Tesla vehicles with this technology have occurred, raising concerns that the system can make drivers overly complacent.