Robotaxi Is a Go, Says Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk

Car Flo
3 min readOct 24, 2020

At Tesla’s Oct 21, 2020, third-quarter earnings call, Elon Musk — quirky entrepreneur and Tesla’s CEO — gave a quick update on his autonomous car sharing concept, Robotaxi.

When the concept was introduced in April 2019, Musk had boasted that there would be one million robotaxis on the road in 2020, and that it would be the most profitable autonomous taxi on the market. (Note: It might also be the only autonomous taxi on the market.) “All Tesla cars being built today have all hardware necessary for full self-driving,” said Musk, “and over-the-air updates will enable our customers to use the Tesla ride-hailing network fleet and generate income.” Income from car sharing was projected at “somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000 a year. In some cases, perhaps more.”

While Robotaxi has yet to materialize, Musk is optimistic about a smaller 2020 launch. In response to an institutional investor question about the possibility of a “bridge to Robotaxi” proprietary car sharing app, Musk was circumspect — even pastoral. Car sharing, he explained, “is just really quite a small subset of the overall robotaxi or robocar thing, where you can have the car be autonomous for you. You can share with friends and family.” Or: “You can have it be entirely in the network. I mean if you’re an Uber or Lyft driver, you could be managing a fleet of 10 cars. This sort of seems like a shepherd tending the flock type of thing.”

Right now, he explained, rather than looking at a “bridge to ride hailing,” Tesla is focused on launching Robotaxi: “We’re going to just be focused on just having an autonomous network that has sort of elements of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.”

Ride hailing is not probably not the first thought Tesla owners have — according to KBB, the least expensive Model 3 starts at $41,000. Which may be the reason it took a high-school kid to come up with a sharing plan. In fact, the first prototype of a Tesla ride-hailing company, Tesloop, was launched in 2015 by California high-school student, Haydn Sonad. The idea caught fire wire with media and consumers, but has since experienced many bumps in the road — the pandemic being the latest.

Even so, Tesloop was not an autonomous vehicle ride hail, and autonomous vehicles have many, many regulatory hurdles to jump before they become omnipresent on city streets.

For car sharers, a more important question for the future is whether it’s time to drive an electric vehicle, or EV. Surprisingly, the answer — the Northeast market, anyway — may depend on seasonal climate change. In 2019, Consumer Reports learned that in a test driving a Tesla Model 3 and a Nissan Leaf, frigid weather significantly drained the battery power of both.

Something to think about before you start planning to shepherd a flock of Robotaxis.

Author: Kyle Freedman is COO at Digi Car focused on building a rental platform for delivery and ride share drivers in NYC.



Car Flo

Car Flo is a leading full service rental agency serving the TLC and Livery industry in the five boroughs.