Autonomously driven Teslas will only be available through the company's own Tesla Network service.
Tesla confirmed earlier this week that it is working on new vehicles with the necessary hardware to enable fully autonomous driving without anyone in the car, once software and regulatory frameworks catch up.
Interestingly, the announcement on Tesla’s website contained the following disclaimer:
“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.”
A centralized ridesharing service run by Tesla was announced in Elon Musk’s “Master Plan: Part Deux” earlier this year. Musk said:
“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.”
After this week’s announcement, we now know that the ridesharing service for autonomously driven Teslas will be called Tesla Network, but the disclaimer means they will be specifically excluded from other such services, like Uber and Lyft.
Automakers have been investing heavily in ridesharing services over the last few years. General Motors heads the field, putting $500 million into Lyft in January of this year. It even designed the upcoming Bolt EV with the demands of ridesharing in mind.
But it’s an expensive business. According to Reuters, $28 billion has been poured into the industry over the last decade, and price wars have cost the likes of Uber of Lyft further billions.
While most of the vehicles in the Tesla Network would not be owned by Tesla itself, Musk has said it would run its own fleets in areas where ownership is low. Reuters quotes Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, who told investors:
“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.”
But why would Tesla want to limit how its customers use their cars? Electrek suggests Tesla considers the Autopilot system the fleet-learning data it generates as proprietary, and can therefore dictate how its cars are used for revenue generating purposes.
“Presumably, when the driver is taken out of the equation, Tesla considers their alogrithm the driver, and wants a share of the revenue generated - hence why they are pushing ‘Tesla Network’”, Electrek notes.
No doubt the situation will cause significant runctions both in the ridesharing industry, and among Tesla owners.