Tesla Preparing to Launch ‘Uber-Style’ Mobility Services

Smart car manufacturer and one of the most prominent car innovators, Tesla motors are gearing up for their premium launch of their “Uber-Style” mobility services in the forthcoming year. The news comes fresh off Tesla’s website on self-driving capabilities of the new Models S vehicle that will roll out with fully autonomous features.

Although this service currently remains unnamed Tesla Network, the electric automaker is preparing to enter the field and ride-hailing services that were first introduced CEO Elon Musk in his master plan in July.

“Please note that using a self-driving Tesla for car-sharing and ride-hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year,” read the website’s disclaimer. The market potential for Tesla Network had interested Barclays analyst Brian Johnson enough to write about it in a note to investors quite interestingly. Although a Tesla Network could “excite the market” over its potential earnings stream, it was a costly proposition, he wrote.

“While we think ride-sharing/hailing is the future of mass-market mobility, we have some financial concerns with the idea of an OEM-owned fleet,” Johnson wrote.

Details of these have remained sparse and Tesla says that it will roll out the details on the “Tesla Network” that are to start off next year. Some of the details of these were first released in Elon Musk’s “This past July. Master Plan quote from Musk below:

 

“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.”

 

The Tesla Network apparently goes hand-in-hand with full self-driving at some point too. Musk envisions your car being put to use while your at work, or sleeping or doing something else that doesn’t require use of your own vehicle. Like plenty other automakers, Tesla has been planning on adding mobility services for some time. In Elon’s “Master Plan”, Part Deux” in July, Musk included a system in which a Tesla owner could add a car to a shared Tesla fleer using a simple mobile app.

For the owner of Tesla, it would offer and opportunity to generate income and lower the cost of ownership. In cities where car ownership is lower, Tesla would operate its own fleet, Musk wrote elaborately in his master plan.

Global growth in Uber’s ridership, along with its Pittsburgh self-driving car test project has brought a great deal of attention to the ride-hailing company. Alliances with Toyota and Volvo were formed this year, while potential partnerships with Google and Tesla appear to be fading away.

It’s an interesting fact that Google had invested $ 258 million in Uber as the technology giant explored mobility services that could fir with its self-driving car project. But in May, Google had begun testing a carpooling service that could take business away from ride-hailing leaders Uber and Lyft.

David Drummond, Google parent company Alphabet’s executive said in August that he resigned from Uber’s board because of the increasing competition between the companies, according to the Wall Street Journal. Uber had been using Google’s mapping software for its drivers, but recently began developing its own maps. Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick said that when Tesla’s vehicles become fully autonomous, he would be interested in buying every one of them. The comments had been relayed by a venture capitalist during a Silicon Valley awards dinner, and so far appear to have been more of a conversational topic than a business alliance.

 Bottom Line:

With the start of a new era, General Motors has been leading the way this year is mobility services through its investment in Uber’s competitor Lyft and through starting up its Maven car sharing division. Ford had also taken the opportunity to introduce Smart Mobility and announced acquisition of Chariot that happens to be an app-based, crowd-sourced shuttle company and collaboration with Motivate to launch Ford GoBike in San Francisco. An interesting fact is that mobility solutions have gone way beyond automakers could ever imagine. Around $ 27 billion dollars into the ride services sector have been invested in the past decade. Let’s wait for more mobility solutions worldwide.

 

Self driven Truck: Uber+Otto=happiness :)

It was the 20th of October 2016, when an 18-wheeler tractor trailer pulled into Colorado Springs, and in it was Sparkly liquid gold (Beer!!) and a Sh#t load of it bearing 50 freakin thousand frost cans of Budweisers. What’s abnormal about that you think? Normally, this wouldn’t matter but what would your reaction be when you came to know that the truck was driving itself?

Nope, I’m not drunk and I certainly am in my right senses (at least I think I am). This is the first time ever that commercial cargo was shipped with no one taking charge of the wheel. It all started 120 miles away at an Anheuser-Busch facility in Loveland, Colorado where a Volvo big rig that was equipped with cameras and sensors was one of the 5 owned by Otto. Otto is a San Francisco based self-driving truck company that was acquired by Uber in August. The truck was piloted to a weigh station in Fort Collins and from there on the vehicle drove itself for 100 miles without any human intervention to Colorado Springs and the driver monitoring the 2-hour trip from the sleeper berth.

The truck was outfitted with $ 30,000 worth of hardware and software from San Francisco. You’d think so momentous an occasion would have involved something more glamorous than 50,000 cans of Budweiser, but there it is. The drive was as mundane as the beer in the trailer. At 12:30 am, after leaving the brewery in Fort Collins and merging onto Interstate 25, an Otto driver punched a switch labeled “engage,” and, once sure autonomous mode had, in fact, engaged, climbed out of his seat. He buckled the safety belt behind him; to keep the warning chime from driving him crazy as the truck trundled 120 miles south to Colorado Springs. Uber bought Otto for roughly $680 million and this deal is totally worth it.

 

The tricky part though is that the technology works only on the highway where it doesn’t have to tackle the tricky variables like jaywalking pedestrians, four-way stops, or kids on bicycles. It maintains a safe following distance, and changes lanes only when absolutely necessary.

“The technology is ready to start doing these commercial pilots,” says Otto co-founder Lior Ron. “Over the next couple of years, we’ll continue to develop the tech, so it’s actually ready to encounter every condition on the road.”

If he can nail that, Ron says he can make trucking a local profession. “You can imagine a future where those trucks are essentially a virtual train on a software rail, on the highway,” he says.

 

Hardware:

Otto’s hardware works on any truck with an automatic transmission, and the retrofit doesn’t look like much. Three LIDAR laser detection units dot the cab and trailer, radar bolts to the bumper and a high-precision camera sits above the windshield. Inside this are a few hints of a human-free future that include 2 red, dollar-sized buttons that shut off the autonomous system with one near the steering wheel, the other in the sleeper cab behind the seats and the on/off switch, labeled “Engage.” A bank of computers turns all that data into driving directions, and an Uber engineer keeps tabs on it all. Although autonomous cars are pretty awesome, trucks are more practical and sensible.

Facts:

The trucking industry hauls 70 percent of United State’s freight of about 11 billion tons annually. But the drivers aren’t enough and the American Trucking Association pegs the shortfall at 48,000 drivers, and says it could hit 175,000 by 2024.

That said, there are roughly around 400,0000 truck crashes every year according to federal statistics and this kills around 4000 people. Who is to be blamed? Humans of course. “We think that self-driving technologies can improve safety, reduce emissions, and improve operational efficiencies of our shipments,” says James Sembrot, who handles logistics for Anheuser-Busch and worked with Otto on the October test run.

Bottom Line:

Otto is moving on a rapid phase. The company launched in January and quickly brought out its first truck. By May, it had a working prototype with a fleet of 6 trucks roaming interstates in the San Francisco bay Area with engineers pushing software tweaks weekly and major updates every month or so. Currently, the company is working on smoothing out the acceleration and braking as well as improving the lane control systems. Longer-term goals include predicting how other drivers are likely to behave, navigating construction zones, and dealing with hazards like sudden bad weather.

We are in the future and it’s time to innovate, create and make the world a better and more efficient place to live.