Plans for solar roofs, self-driving buses and merging with his energy firm SolarCity come amid investigation into fatal crash involving self-driving car
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who is facing intense scrutiny over a fatal crash involving one of his self-driving cars, has released an ambitious new master plan and has doubled down on his defense of the safety of the autopilot feature.
Musks master plan part deux, published on Wednesday, outlines how he intends to reinvent mass transit systems, integrate stunning solar roofs into his cars and build self-driving buses and trucks.
The release of a second part of a master plan comes amid a federal investigation into a May crash that killed a 40-year-old man. It appears that the driver, Joshua Brown, was using autopilot, a new self-driving mode that is still in a testing phase. Tesla claimed the technology could not distinguish between a white truck and a bright sky.
In his new plan, Musk said he would build a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. That means: One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app, he wrote.
He said he also plans to merge his electric car company with his energy firm SolarCity.
Musk said the Model 3 for consumers will eventually include a compact SUV option and a new kind of pickup truck.
The CEO further intends to expand the technology beyond consumer vehicles to heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport, according to the master plan. Those are both in early stages of development and should be ready for unveiling next year, Musk wrote.
We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate, he added.
His technology will also allow for buses to become smaller and for bus drivers to become fleet managers, Musk said, adding that this system would improve traffic congestion and would allow buses to take people directly to their destinations.
Eventually, all Tesla vehicles will be fully self-driving, which means that even if a system in the car breaks down, the car would still be able to drive itself, according to the plan.
He appeared to address those concerns in the master plan, saying that Tesla decided to deploy partial autonomy now, rather than waiting, because 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.
Since the crash, Musk has repeatedly pointed out that Browns death was the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles of the autopilot feature, and he has also slammed press coverage, noting that 1.3m people die in car accidents each year.
Musks defensive Twitter rants, which some have called insensitive in the wake of a tragic death, offered a case study in how not to handle crises, according to some experts.
Addressing concerns about the safety of letting consumers use a beta version of autopilot, Musk further wrote: 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.
The document also advertised expanded sharing capabilities, meaning drivers at work or on vacation could add their cars to a shared fleet for others to use, which would generate income, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost.
He wrote, When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.