Tesla boss Elon Musk has unveiled his so-called ‘Master Plan, Part Deux’, which includes product plans for the firm’s car model line-up, further autonomous technology and intentions to enter the public transport sector.
Musk announced his first master plan a decade ago; since then, all of those proposals have come to fruition, including the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3, as well as becoming a provider of solar power.
Announcing the second part of his master plan on Tesla’s website last night, Musk confirmed there will be a compact SUV and pick-up truck in its vehicle line-up, while ruling out a cheaper vehicle than the Model 3.
He also identified two other electric vehicles he thinks are necessary - “heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport” - both of which he confirmed are in the early stages of development at Tesla and will be unveiled next year. Referring to the heavy-duty truck as “Tesla Semi”, Musk said: “We believe [it] will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”
Musk said that as technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will be fully self-driving, but with “fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and the car will still drive itself safely”.
However, he added that even when the software is highly refined and far better than the average human driver, there will be a significant time gap before fully autonomous driving is approved by regulators.
Musk also alluded to the recent death of a driver while using Tesla’s Autopilot, explaining that if used correctly, partial autonomy is “already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves”. He continued that it would therefore be “morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability”.
Autopilot is still in a beta phase, Musk said, and will continue to improve. Once Autopilot is roughly 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, the beta label will be removed, he added.
Last month Tesla announced its intention to buy solar energy company Solarcity in order to integrate its technology into Musk's vision for the future of energy consumption, whereby households generate and store their own renewable energy - stored in Tesla's Powerwall batteries and used in Tesla's range of vehicles.
Musk has now confirmed that he wants to create a “smoothly integrated and beautiful” solar roof and battery product for homes, which can be scaled worldwide, describing the buying process as “one ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app”.
Musk also plans to introduce a car sharing platform, allowing a fully autonomous Tesla car to “generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation”, explaining that once self-driving is approved by regulators, a Tesla vehicle will be able to be summoned from anywhere. He commented: “Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.”
Tesla will also run its own fleet in cities where demand exceeds supply of customer-owned cars.
Musk also talked about Tesla’s production facility, describing how the brand’s engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the “machine that makes the machine”, meaning that the factory itself becomes a product. He added that the first Model 3 production line should be thought of as "version 0.5, with version 1.0 probably [due] in 2018”. This philosophy will help the brand to scale up production volume as quickly as possible, according to Musk.