Tesla promises self-driving robotaxis by 2020?: Here’s more

On Tuesday, April 23, Tesla announced that it will launch autonomous robotaxis by 2020. Tesla CEO and co-founder, Elon Musk, said in a presentation that he is confident the robotaxis will be self-driven and ready for launch next year.

On Tesla’s Autonomy Day, Musk discussed the latest innovations by Tesla, including self-driving technology, in a four-hour-long presentation. He also talked about the launch of an autonomous robot taxi fleet that will be operational “somewhere”  in the world in 2020.

“I feel very confident predicting that there will be autonomous robotaxis from Tesla next year—not in all jurisdictions, because we won’t have regulatory approval everywhere”, he said.

However, these robotaxis will not drive humans around upon launch. Musk also did not clarify what regulatory approval will be required and where Tesla is seeking permission to test its robotaxi fleet.

Tesla’s robotaxis

All new Tesla models are created with their own custom, self-driving technology powered by eight vision cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, radar, and a custom-designed, self-driving computer chip.

The self-driving computer chip has six billion transistors that can process up to 2,300 frames per second. This improvement is 21 times better than Tesla’s hardware from the previous generation model.

The robotaxi business plan is a combination of the Uber and Airbnb models, in that the cars can be shared. Any Tesla customer can add their car to the self-driving, robotaxi Tesla network via a mobile app.

People can then use the app to “summon” a self-driving car from the parking lot to pick them up and go for a drive, said Musk.

“It’s really simple. You just take the same Tesla app that you currently have. We’ll just update the app and add a ‘summon Tesla’ or add or subtract your car to the fleet’”, he said.

Tesla will take a 25% to 30% revenue cut from car owners, similar to Uber and Ola. Customers can share their cars with friends and colleagues, as well.

The robotaxis on the Tesla network will be placed in areas that do not have adequate ridesharing facilities, making Tesla the go-to rideshare vehicle in those regions. Musk also says that cars made in and since 2016 have the robotaxi technology.

“The whole system form a hardware standpoint has been designed to be a robotaxi since October 2016”, he said.

However, the company is not planning to upgrade cars made earlier, because it will cost more to upgrade an old car than build an entirely new one. So Tesla is only investing in cars that has the self-driving technology built into its hardware.

“From our standpoint, if you fast forward a year, maybe a year and three months, but next year for sure, we’ll have over a million robotaxis on the road”, said Musk.

Rise of ride-share apps in India

Countries all around the world are preparing themselves for the common use of electric cars and self-driving technology.

A study by KPMG found that the top five countries for autonomous vehicles are Netherlands, Singapore, US, Sweden, and UK.

Netherlands’ population has the highest usage of electric cars—6.39% in 2016. Moreover, Dutch road infrastructure is well-maintained and the government has already begun tests for self-driving cars.

Singapore also has regulation for self-driving cars after it amended the Road Traffic Act. Now, the government allows for autonomous cars to be tested on public roads.

India ranks in the top 20, as well. Although Tesla has not yet launched in India, the country is very familiar with rideshare apps like the extremely popular Uber and Ola.

Also read: Ola will let riders be their own drivers: All you need to know

In 2017, Uber India earned Rs 410 crore. The next year, the company saw a 30% jump in revenue and bagged Rs 533 crore. Even with Delhi and Karnataka banning the practice of “surge pricing”, Uber’s revenue increased by 10%.

Ola is twice as profitable as Uber. In 2017, it earned Rs 1,380 crore. India’s taxi market is an estimated $10 billion, including traditional black and yellow cabs. However, smartphones that house rideshare apps are slowly penetrating that market.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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