Tesla is shifting focus always from being primarily an auto manufacturer to a company that is all about sustainable energy (the company recently dropped the “Motors” from its name). Elon Musk detailed his vision for the company in what he dubs “Master Plan, Part Deux” in a blog posting.
Musk’s original master plan was revealed in August 2006, and the company has met all of those goals, which include 1) creating an expensive low-volume car, 2) using the funds from that vehicle to produce a medium volume car at a lower starting price, 3) create a high-volume affordable car for the masses and 4) introduce products that take advantage of sustainable energy. Tesla hit all of the points (for the most part) with the Roadster, Model S, Model 3 and its SolarCity partnership respectively.
But Musk’s new Master Plan is once again laying the groundwork for Tesla’s future, while at the same time providing some clarity for what some people see as half-baked ideas coming from the company. Musk writes:
However, the main reason was to explain how our actions fit into a larger picture, so that they would seem less random. The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That's what "sustainable" means. It's not some silly, hippy thing -- it matters for everyone.
First of all, Tesla wants to use the acquisition of SolarCity to expand the availability of solar power to the masses. This combination will allow Tesla to combine its Powerwall battery storage systems with SolarCity’s solar panels for home (or business) use with “one ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app,” Musk explains.
“Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.”
Moving on, the Model 3 is the company’s next EV challenge (and its fourth EV to date). The Model 3 starts at $35,000 and is expected to enter reproduction in late 2017. But the Model 3 is just the beginning of a new range of compact, entry-level vehicles for Tesla. While the Model 3 takes on a sedan form-factor, there will also be a compact crossover (to slot in beneath the Model X) and a “new kind of pickup truck.” Musk doesn’t really expand much on the pickup truck, but we’d imagine that this would be a light-duty vehicle more akin to the defunct Subaru Baja or Chevrolet El Camino than a hulking monster like a Dodge Ram or Ford F-150.
Interestingly enough, Tesla is also working on a long-haul EV dubbed the Tesla Semi, which will be revealed to all in 2017. It is also well into development of commuter buses that will be use in urban environments.
Musk also took time to address a feature that has shined a negative light on Tesla for over a month: Autopilot. Autopilot first caught a lot of negative backlash when a driver was killed with the feature enabled. It was later determined, however, the driver was likely watching a Harry Potter movie during the time of the accident and wasn’t paying attention at all to the road in front of him.
Musk praises Autopilot while at the same time derides customers who use the technology incorrectly:
I should add a note here to explain why Tesla is deploying partial autonomy now, rather than waiting until some point in the future. The most important reason is that, when used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.
He also explained why the “beta” disclaimer is still affixed to Autopilot:
This is not beta software in any normal sense of the word. Every release goes through extensive internal validation before it reaches any customers. It is called beta in order to decrease complacency and indicate that it will continue to improve (Autopilot is always off by default). Once we get to the point where Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, the beta label will be removed.
The final piece of the puzzle for Master Plan is to enable wide-scale vehicle sharing to allow drivers to share their Tesla vehicles in an effort to earn some cash on the side. “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,” says Musk. “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.”
Given that ten years later, Tesla pretty much held close to its original Master Plan, we’d be crazy to dismiss Musk’s “Part Deux” follow-up.