Tesla robotaxi: what we know about Elon Musk's latest creation

The billionaire has numerous new products in the pipeline, including a vehicle with no steering wheel

Who is billionaire Elon Musk?

Who is billionaire Elon Musk?
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Elon Musk's voyage into the future has already created the most valuable motor company in the world in Tesla.

And his creative streak is far from finished as shown with a new form of transport that features no pedals or steering wheel – the Tesla robotaxi.

Mr Musk revealed some more details about the robotaxi as Tesla reported its first quarter financial results, which took it past the $3 billion mark in quarterly net profit for the first time.

What is the robotaxi?

Well, it has not been seen yet, because Tesla has not released any images – those interested will have to wait until next year to get a glimpse.

But Mr Musk did confirm the lack of pedals and steering wheel, which makes it sound more like a train than a car.

This is what he said on Tesla's financial results conference call: “We are also working on a new vehicle that I alluded to at the Giga Texas opening, which is a dedicated robotaxi.

"It is going to be highly optimised for autonomy – meaning it will not have steering wheel or pedals. There are a number of other innovations around it that I think are quite exciting, but it is fundamentally optimised to achieve the lowest fully considered cost per mile or kilometre when counting everything.”

“I think [the robotaxi] really will be a massive driver of Tesla’s growth,” he said.

Tesla has long talked about having the ability to turn its customers’ cars into driverless vehicles that could be used as robotaxis. Mr Musk vowed to unveil the car in the next two years and begin volume production in 2024.

“With the robotaxis and autonomy, I think we will end up providing consumers with by far the lowest cost per mile that they’ve ever experienced,” he said.

Has Mr Musk mooted the robotaxi before?

Indeed, he said back in 2019 that there would be a million potential Tesla robotaxis on the road some time in 2020. The closest to robo-driving that Tesla has is the full self-driving software system that costs owners $12,000. It is not capable of allowing the car to drive on its own and requires a human driver to pay attention.

Tesla also says it expects “full self-driving” beta test software to be released to all US customers who purchased the feature by the end of the year. Mr Musk said about 100,000 owners are testing the system now, on public roads.

"Of any technology development I've ever been involved in, I've never really seen more false dawns, where it seems that we're gonna break through, but we don't, as I've seen in full self-driving," he said. "To solve full self-driving you actually have to solve real world artificial intelligence, which nobody has solved.

"I think we will achieve that this year."

Mr Musk says it will offer services similar to Uber and Airbnb...

Yes, speaking at Tesla's annual stockholder meeting, he said the new model would offer its owners an opportunity to rent out their vehicles based on how often they needed to use it.

“There are parking lots full of cars everywhere because cars need a driver and so, most of the time they are doing nothing,” he said.

“Typically, a passenger car is going to have 12 hours a week of usage. If it is autonomous, maybe it could get to 50 or 60 hours of usage.

“The interesting thing is the car still costs the same. So, in that scenario, at least for some period of time, the gross margin for an autonomous car boggles the mind,” he said.

“In terms of how the car would be operated, you would have the option of owning a car and just using it occasionally when you need it — Auto-Uber or something like that, and then the owner of the car might decide they want to use the car or add or subtract it from the fleet. It would end up being a combination of Airbnb and Uber, or something like that,” he said.

What else does Tesla have in the pipeline?

The Cybertruck is arguably Tesla's most exciting product in development.

The futuristic, angular, armoured-looking vehicle is scheduled to enter production next year, bringing an end to a nearly three-year wait for early pre-production order holders.

Back at its launch in 2019, Mr Musk said it would sell for $39,900, although that was with a view to production beginning in late 2021.

Tesla raised its prices in China, the US and other countries, after Mr Musk said in March the US electric car maker was facing significant inflationary pressure in raw materials and logistics during the crisis in Ukraine.

Mr Musk tweeted in 2019 that the design was partly influenced by James Bond's Lotus Esprit sports car that converted into a submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me.

“We’ll be in production with Cybertruck next year, we’ll be in production with the Roadster, and with Semi,” the billionaire said at the company’s Cyber Rodeo this month in Austin, Texas. “This year is all about scaling up, and then next year, there’s gonna be a massive wave of new products.”

Tesla is also working on a humanoid robot called Optimus.

Updated: August 08, 2022, 12:06 PM