Tesla robotaxi will offer services similar to Uber and Airbnb, Elon Musk says

Billionaire says owners will be able to rent out their vehicles

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has outlined plans for the robotaxi. Reuters
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Tesla's robotaxi will be used as a service similar to Uber and Airbnb, according to the electric car company's chief executive Elon Musk.

The robotaxi, which hasn't been seen as Tesla has yet to release any images, is expected to begin volume production in 2024.

Mr Musk has described it as an self-driving vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals.

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.

Having a self-driving vehicle will enable owners to also leverage its usage when they don't require it, Mr Musk 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.

Tesla's full self-driving programme is currently at the beta stage. More than 100,000 drivers in North America have access to the system, which requires the driver to remain vigilant and ready to take control.

The system has drawn scrutiny from regulators after a numbers of crashes were alleged to have occurred under autopilot.

Since 2016, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has sent teams to 39 crashes in which self-driving systems were suspected of being in use, according to agency documents.

Of those, 30 involved Teslas, including crashes that caused 19 deaths.

Mr Musk said the proposed robotaxi service would not be linked to a specific city or location.

“Some states and cities will provide regulatory approvals quicker than others. We are aiming for a general solution,” he said.

“If you created a randomly generated alternate Earth, our system would still work.”

Mr Musk has said in the past that he saw the robotaxi as a potentially massive driver of growth for Tesla, and that the aim is for it to achieve the lowest fully considered cost per kilometre.

The Tesla Cybertruck is also set to go into production next year, but will be more costly than originally planned amid inflationary pressures.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 6:35 AM
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