In an unusual move, it appears that Tesla is mulling its entry into the ride sharing business with a fleet of autonomous vehicles which would go head to head with established contenders such as Lyft and Uber.
This surprising insight emerged during Tesla’s Q2 earnings conference earlier this week when it was brought up by a representative from Morgan Stanley during a Q&A session. The representative mentioned recent statement s by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about the company having interest in purchasing every single example of the 500,000 autonomous cars Tesla plans to build by the year 2020. and asked whether Tesla would “cut out the middle man and sell on-demand electric mobility services directly from the company on its own platform.”
Musk’s response (after a four second long silence) was “That is an insightful question,” “I don’t think I should answer it.” While Musk’s answer did not directly reveal whether Tesla is embarking on such a venture or not. The fact that she chose to not answer it could indicate that Musk has already indirectly revealed that such a program is indeed in the works and that the company is considering the risks of entering the ride-sharing marketplace.
Tesla’s entry into the ride-sharing arena (if it is indeed confirmed) would be the first time that an auto company has formally entered this particular segment though the company would also have to factor in some of the risks that come with operating an Uber competitive service especially with regards to accidents involving drivers, the costs of maintaining the vehicle fleet, as well as the challenges of getting the service approved in states that have opposed previous Tesla initiatives in the past.
In response to increasing levels of criticism regarding range discrepancies for the recently unveiled Model S dual motor variant, Tesla revealed plans to release a future software update to address the issue, while also clarifying the listed driving distances for the whole Model S family.
In its candid remarks, Tesla revealed that both the dual-motor 85D and its high performance sibling the P85D currently drive both of the electric motors while the vehicle is cruising which decreases range. However, if one of the motors was to keep spinning in a “torque sleep” mode, the company claims that overall range would see a 10 percent improvement which would allow the car to travel farther with less charging which should please owners that may have range anxiety that prevents them from taking their cars out on extended trips. When the software update for the fore-mentioned”torque sleep” mode arrives by the end of this month, 85D owners can expect to see an EPA estimated cycle driving range of 270 miles a slight gain over the old rating prior to the update.
Meanwhile single motor versions of the Model S (P85+, P85, 85) fall slightly behind that mark nabbing a driving range of 265 miles, with the performance oriented P85D’s range dropping to a lower 253 miles. Tesla is quick to point out that the gap between these figures is narrowed by the highway cruising range with the P85D and single motor models boasting a 283 mile range when driven at 65 mph. The 85D and its dual motor configuration still pulls slightly ahead with a 295 mile highway cruising range (a gain of 10) when compared to the others. However regardless of model, if speeds increase to 75 mph expect a 43-46 drop in range depending on the model driven.
Current owners or potential buyers of the Model S can get more information from Tesla’s updated range tool to find out the expected driving range for a wide variety of vehicle configurations and driving situations. As an example of its apparent accuracy, the system appears to reveal that a P85D equipped with 21-inch wheels can lose up to 106 miles of range when driven in the city during cold conditions. This is mainly due to the cabin heater (which uses a large chunk of battery power when it is running) as well as the added weight of the big 21-inch wheels.
Amid rumors (as well as recent statements by Tesla CEO Elon Musk) of a possible venture between Tesla and BMW, a BMW spokesman has appeared to have driven the proverbial stake into the heart of this rampant speculation by flat out denying that the firm is entering into a formal partnership with the upstart EV manufacturer.
In a statement released last week, Musk appeared to reveal that the two companies were involved in detailed talks regarding upcoming battery technology as well as charging stations. In addition the Tesla CEO even dropped a compelling kernel of information regarding a possible battery production facility that would have been located in BMW’s home country of Germany with the initial investment coming from a local automaker which would have been a strong indicator of a possible partnership between the two companies.
In a separate statement however, an unidentified BMW insider revealed to the publication Wirtschafts Woche that any talks that might have taken place were purely informal and should not be interpreted as either formal intention or commitment to collaborate in projects with Tesla. In addition, the spokesman also claimed that there is currently no benefit that would be gained from such a partnership while also taking a jab at Musk and Tesla claiming “Musk is using us for PR purposes”. This particular word choice is key, and would appear to suggest that BMW is not very happy that Musk referenced the talks in such a casual manner.
The insider did reveal however that BMW is still open to sharing its carbon-fiber fabrication technology (the process used to build its i3 and i8 models) with all competing automakers (including Tesla) with none so far taking up BMW on its offer. So while the speculation regarding a formal Tesla partnership with BMW has apparently been squashed for the moment, the idea of a Tesla model using BMW’s carbon fiber frame technology does sound promising, and we look forward to hearing more on BMW’s offer as details become available.