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Autonomous Trucks and Busses: Elon Musk reveals Tesla’s new master plan

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has revealed, via a blog post on his car company’s own website, his vision for the next decade of Tesla output, a decade after the Roaster ticked-box one of four from his original master plan. In a nutshell, while there won’t be a lower cost vehicle sitting below the Tesla Model 3, Musk does intend to offer a “a future compact SUV and a new kind of pick-up truck”, sitting either side of the Model X in utility. Also, Musk hopes Tesla can enter the HGV market. “Here are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport. Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year.” Musk says his Tesla Semi (behave) will be fun to drive, and his autonomous bus will cut congestion.

However, so far as car production goes the main priority is ramping up production to get those waiting lists down. Here, Musk slightly lapses into PhD speak: “A first principles physics analysis of automotive production suggests that somewhere between a 5 to 10 fold improvement is achievable by version 3 on a roughly 2 year iteration cycle.”

Next up, the autonomy problem. A hot topic, what with the recent news of Tesla’s Autopilot system being online during a fatal accident. Musk says future versions will have a failsafe back-up, so if anything on the car fails, your journey is still continued safely without driver input.

Apparently, three million miles-worth of system-improving data per day is being fed into Tesla’s servers, and Musk has promised that Autopilot will be considered a beta service until it’s demonstrated to be at least ten times safer than manual driving by a human (according to average crash stats in the US).

Ride-sharing next. This is how Tesla intends to get around the problem of not making a cheaper family hatch or city car. On the other hand, like the idea of your car earning you a few quid (or ahem, bucks) while you’re on holiday, or at work, or even asleep?

Musk says that once regulators approve Teslas to self-drive more than a few metres with no-one aboard at all, you’ll be able to summon a car yourself from a fleet of Teslas included on a shared fleet, and use it yourself for a limited lease time. Handy for errands, without having to park or recharge it yourself.

Finally, the fourth act of Elon’s ‘part deux’ plan is less about cars themselves and more a marriage between his status quo-busting car company and SolarCity, his solar panel interest. Musk wants to directly integrate “beautiful” solar roofs with batteries directly, easily orderable via a smartphone app and directly compatible with Tesla’s domestic Powerwall energy system.

Over to Musk once more for a bullet point summary of his vision for Tesla’s difficult second album:

“So, in short, Master Plan, Part Deux is:
• 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.”

He’s going to be a rather busy man.

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