Tesla AutopilotEnlarge Photo
Tesla [NSDQ:TSLA] on Wednesday made the announcement that its cars can be ordered with the hardware necessary for full self-driving, i.e. Level 5 autonomy, the ultimate goal where no driver involvement is required whatsoever.
Tesla still hasn’t developed the software to make all the hardware work, so the announcement was a little dubious. Nevertheless, it demonstrated the automaker’s commitment to the rapid deployment of self-driving cars. In fact, CEO Elon Musk suggested that by as early as late 2017 a Tesla should be able to travel from Los Angeles to New York “without the need for a single touch” on the steering wheel.
The company has since updated its website to provide some insight on what it will be like to own a self-driving Tesla. First and foremost, Tesla plans to offer the feature as a subscription service, with a monthly fee inolved.
Initially, the technology will only be about twice as safe as the average human driver, Tesla predicts, meaning it will have to be closely monitored. But as the technology improves, Tesla says owners will simply have to get in and key in a destination and the car will take them there automatically.
2016 Tesla Model XEnlarge Photo
At this point, assuming self-driving cars are allowed to travel without a human onboard, owners will be able to generate cash from their cars via an autonomous ride-sharing service. Tesla first hinted at the service in July, stating that it will have a fleet of its own cars and customer cars running around major cities offering rides. Other automakers plus tech and ride-sharing firms are also looking into autonomous ride-sharing, including the likes of General Motors Company [NYSE:GM], Google and Uber.
But Tesla owners hoping to make cash via autonomous ride-sharing will only be able to do so via Tesla’s fleet, something the automaker has labeled the Tesla Network. Details on the Tesla Network will be released in 2017 but it’s likely Tesla will get a percentage of any cash earned by its customers who use their Teslas for autonomous ride-sharing.
“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,” Tesla said on its website.
But before you get too excited about potentially earning income from your car, note that it’s likely to be many years until self-driving cars can operate safely at Level 5 autonomy. And even then, the legal framework may still be lagging.