Elon Musk just released "Part Deux" of his master plan.
The Tesla CEO posted the plan on his company's blog on Wednesday evening, and it covers solar energy, buses, autonomous vehicles, and a massive fleet of cars that pick up passengers when their owners aren't using them. The tl;dr version is 'We're not an electric car company; we're a futuristic logistics company and manufacturer.'
Musk has been teasing the new plan on Twitter for the last couple weeks:
In a post on Tesla's blog, Musk says that his "Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan," which laid out his ideas for the company's products in August 2006, "is now in the final stages of completion."
As expected, given the recent spate of news about a few Teslas crashing while the company's beta Autopilot mode was engaged, he talks about Tesla's automated driving features. But rather than pulling back, Tesla is doubling down.
As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely.
Musk writes that, though Tesla calls the current, Autopilot a 'beta' version, "this is not beta software in any normal sense of the word." He says Tesla calls it beta "to decrease complacency and indicate that it will continue to improve." When it's ten times safer than the U.S. vehicle average, Tesla will no longer call it a beta technology, writes Musk.
But, in the meantime "fleet learning," or having those cars on the road, is what's allowing Tesla to learn more about driving and being safe, which is why Tesla plans to keep them on the road, despite calls for Tesla to end the experiment.
In fact, Tesla wants to put a lot more vehicles on the road. Musk wants Tesla to move beyond cars, which have been its sole product to date, and into other areas of transportation. Specifically, he wants to get into buses and trucks:
In addition to consumer vehicles, there 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.
Tesla has competition on this front, with Mercedes having just unveiled its semi-autonomous bus and some automated semi-trucks on the road already. But this is Elon's big plan, so for now, let's move on.
Finally, and this is where it gets a lil ~freaky~, Musk wants your car to work for you when you're not using it, getting Tesla (owners) into the sharing economy. Let me quote this at length:
You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you're at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. 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.
In other words, it's going to be Tesla-meets-Uber-but-also-the-Teslas-will-drive-themselves-don't-worry. Of course, he has some competition here, since Uber has been testing and working on self-driving cars itself. Interestingly, he also says that Tesla will operate some of these roving cars themselves, though only "in cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars."
On the non-car front Musk explains why Tesla recently made an offer to buy solar-power company SolarCity, of which Musk already owns a significant portion. The goal, he writes, it to "create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works." Musk likely wants to combine the companies' engineering teams though he doesn't get that specific. "We can't do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies," he writes.
And so, he sums things up:
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
That sign-off is a reference to the format of the original master plan from ten years ago, where Musk alluded to a less expensive four-door model of car than the Tesla Roadster (which would turn out to be the Tesla Model S) and referenced non-toxic battery developments and more models farther out. He ended that plan with this (marginally more tongue-in-cheek) summary:
Build sports car
Use that money to build an affordable car
Use that money to build an even more affordable car
While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Don't tell anyone.
The comparison between the two summaries is wild. It shows that electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and solar energy have come along a great deal in ten years, but it's also a somewhat anxiety-inducing testament to the scope of Musk's dreams.
In 2006 Musk had a master plan for an electric car company. What he's outlining here is the foundation for a fundamentally different transportation and logistics infrastructure, with automation even more at the heart of public transportation, driving, and shipping than it already is. That may be, and probably is, inevitable, but it fails to take into account the impact this will have on jobs. It's a great big shiny dream, but if realized, means storms ahead for people who drive for a living. He's writing about fundamentally upending the shipping business without writing about what will happen to those who work in that industry.
Of course, this is a master plan, it says it right there in the title of his blog post. Musk is a big fan of these sort of plans, just think of the Mars-colonizing dreams he has for space travel. I just wish Musk and Tesla were as forthcoming about the minutiae as they are about the grand schemes.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org