Elon Musk wants to take over the automotive world

Elon Musk recently announced the second installment of his “master plan” and it talks about increasing the safety and usability of autonomy in Tesla vehicles, expanding production to include most of the consumer market (including heavy-duty trucks and public transportation), and to integrate solar energy and better energy storage capabilities into Tesla vehicles. There’s another part of the plan, however, that could mean you can drive or ride in a Tesla without actually owning one.

To put it simply, Musk wants to integrate ride sharing across Tesla’s entire range of vehicles. This is a long-term goal, so don’t expect it anytime soon. In fact, it probably won’t be implemented in a wide-scale form until some time after fully-autonomous capabilities are safe, legal, and well established. However, once that happens, there are two major things that we could see happen.

First, if you own a Tesla vehicle, you’ll be able to opt into a ride-sharing program that will allow someone else to request your vehicle from a smartphone app. The vehicle will then deliver itself to whoever requested it and take them wherever they wish to go. Your vehicle will return to you at a predetermined time for your ride home from work, to the store, or anywhere else you might want to go. By opting into the program, you’ll be able to make some extra scratch too, as those requesting to use the car will pay a certain fee for their ride. This will generate extra income for you, and as Musk points out, it will “dramatically lower the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla.”

That’s only one part of Musk’s future philosophy. In areas where there are very few Tesla owners, Tesla will operate its own fleet of self-driving, ride-sharing vehicles. The process will work the same way – you can summon a vehicle from your home or work for a quick ride – and any fees paid will go directly to Tesla instead of an individual owner. This will allow for widespread growth of the ride-sharing program and should come at a fairly reasonable price once the system is established.

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Why it Matters

First off, I think it’s great that Musk wants to jump on the ride-sharing bandwagon and allow Tesla owners to make some extra money when they aren’t using their car. However, I do have some concerns regarding this. First off, if I pay $60,000-plus for a vehicle, I’m not sure I want every Tom, Dick, and Sally riding around in my whip. Secondly, there will have to be some sort of way for the owner to be protected should damage to the vehicle occur. Think about that for a minute. We all know at least one person with a car is absolutely filthy and disgusting, or completely destroyed. People don’t take care of their own property, so I’m hesitant to believe that someone would take care of mine.

To hold people accountable, there would have to be a way to be guaranteed reimbursement or repair and a way to prove which person actually caused the damage. Furthermore, people also need to be held accountable for cleaning up after themselves too. I see privacy concerns coming out of this as it will most likely result in the use of cameras inside ride-sharing vehicles. Furthermore, Tesla will have to personally guarantee the cost of repair or cleaning – or act as the liaison between owner and customer – to make sure those offering up their cars in the program don’t get stuck with not getting paid for damages or cleaning.

Surely, all of this will be addressed down the road when the technology is advanced enough that we can rely on full autonomy, but it’s certainly something to think about. I also think it is a great move by Tesla, as it will be beneficial to just about everybody as long as people follow the rules and clean up after themselves.

What do you think?
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