Elon Musk’s Master Plan to ‘transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager’

Autonomy, Energy, EV Trucks and busses.

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Back in 2 August, 2006, Tesla founder and mad scientist Elon Musk, released his master plan for the company. At the time it was a bold plan to get a company off the ground. With more than 10 years under his belt and a slew of successes, its time to provide detail on the runway to the next 10.

Master Plan, Part Deux details some pretty ambitious goals, but we’d expect nothing less would we?

End-to-end energy generation and storage

After recently announced one Musk company (Tesla) would devour another (Solar City), the combined Tesla Energy will create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works. This means we’re likely to see a Powerwall 2, but more than that, a system that integrates both solar collection from PV panels, as well as the storage and use of that electricity. While its the dream of many to be off the grid completely, in reality, few can achieve that. If Musk has his way, future products will enable homes to be their own utility, something that will surely scare energy suppliers.

The future would see one ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app. Right now energy providers are part of the process and Tesla’s Powerwall has become a commodity they can use to increase profits from solar installations, but that looks set to change dramatically over the coming years.

With solar tariffs being slashed and service charges rising, the faster this can happen, the faster we can move to an environment where we can use any device, any time without thinking of the cost ticking away in the background and certain can move past the days of turning things off at the wall. To seriously achieve this solar panels need to become more efficient, cheaper and therefore allow people to install more. Instead of 6, 8 or 10, imagine the product gets integrated into roof construction and the entire surface area of your roof becomes a giant solar collector.

Musk says this future won’t be possible if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, that they need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies. This is essentially a pitch to the shareholders of each company to approve the acquisition, at this point its hard to see the deal not being approved.

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Tesla Trucks and Buses 

While the sales (and pre-sales) of electric cars are booming, Musk is pressing even harder on the accelerator pedal,

Today, Tesla addresses two relatively small segments of premium sedans and SUVs. With the Model 3, a future compact SUV and a new kind of pickup truck, we plan to address most of the consumer market.

An all-electric Tesla pickup, or Ute would be great, but its a new goal of developing commercial vehicles that’s perhaps the most exciting. Heavy-vehicles remain the same diesel guzzling emission bandits of the past.

Musk says two other types of electric vehicle needed, heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport, read buses.

Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year.

Ok, so that’s quite a massive statement to take in. In the midst of a 1,500 word vision statement, the CEO of Tesla just announced 2 new products coming in 2017. The Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate. Fun isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when most people think of operating a truck, but maybe he’s talking about autonomy that lets you safely focus on collecting Pokemon. This is certainly one to watch closely.

When it comes to buses, they could become a key strategy in solving urban congestion and with a fully EV bus, you could transport thousands of people per day with zero emissions. The profile of buses as a vehicle are quite unique, they have a pretty static route, sit still at multiple stops for extended periods of time while they wait for passengers. This profile means it would be fairly conducive to rapid recharging while stopped. Although not confirmed by Musk, it is possible that we see the large surface areas of the roof and sides of the bus be used to collect power while driving to help longer distance trips.

If you’re a bus driver, its time to start considering your future. Musk suggests it probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and..

..transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager.

When we talk about technology disrupting industries, this is exhibit A.

Its amazing to hear suggestions of the current design of buses be explained as an inefficient way of carrying passengers and the way buses move through traffic. Musk suggests a Tesla Bus would have increased passenger density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses.

A connected bus that understood the destination of its passengers would take people all the way to their destination and could dynamically adapt routes to suit Uber-like requests from a mobile app. For those who don’t have a mobile, fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those 3 people.

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Autonomy

We’re clearly on an aggressive path to automate driving and Musk says, as the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability. This means, multiple levels of redundancy and any individual system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely.

To meet the regulatory challenges of fully autonomous driving, Tesla will deliver a mountain of evidence that proves the software is not just as good as humans, but significantly better than the average human driver. Once we reach that point, questions will be asked if someone crashes while in manual mode, something headed for a track-only experience. Tesla says the worldwide regulatory approval will require something on the order of 10 billion km, but the current fleet is already doing just over 5 million km per day.

This autonomy will enable new vehicle ownership arrangements. When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, it certainly raises the opportunity to let you car go work to pay for itself. Its like you being an Uber driver to earn extra income, while you stay at home and play Xbox.

 

In short, the 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

It’ll take some years (hopefully not 10), before we know if Elon Musk can fulfill these ambitious goals, but given he’s sending a rocket to space every other day, I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

Read the whole Master Plan at Tesla.com

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Vehicle