We’ve known for a while that Tesla is aiming for fully autonomous vehicles down the road – they are already on the verge of rolling out some self-driving features such as highway autosteer – and some have even theorized that Tesla might be working on a kind of Uber-like service with self-driving electric cars driving around to pick people up and drop them where they need to go.
What if Elon Musk pulled a fast one on us and announced some of the building blocks of that ‘invisible chauffeur’ service, but didn’t tell anyone what those features were truly meant for. A little misdirection, like any good magician, if you will…
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This is Gavin Sheridan’s theory. Looking at the Model X announcement, he couldn’t help but notice how many of the standout features worked together to make the vehicle ideal for a very specific thing:
All of these feature were built for one reason — a self driving future combined with an entire self-driving mobility platform. The Model X was built to be either the ultimate self-driving taxi, or the ultimate human/self-driving rental car — or both. Or as Musk almost laughingly hinted during the presentation — an invisible chauffeur will be doing all the work.
1. A front door that opens when you approach it and closes itself when you get in — because it’s fun? No. A self-driving car that arrives to collect you and opens its doors when it detects your proximity based on your watch/mobile device nearby (plus the sensors).
2. Electronic seats that move forward to make the lives of parents easier at the touch of a button? No. A software update will allow the seats to configure themselves for passengers arriving to get into a car where the doors open themselves (Uber – but you tell it how many people and the car gets ready for the group).
3. Ease of ingress and egress for humans in the Model X because of Falcon Doors? No. The doors don’t exist for frustrated parents — they’re doors designed for a self-driving taxi/rental mobility platform.
4. More storage under the rear seats because you need more of it, and because you can (down to the space that electric cars give you)? Yes. But when Musk uses the word “stow” I think airline. And when I think airline I think passengers. And when I think Model X I think taxi — with lots of room for your bags — with no driver in the front seat.
5. A snake that extends to charge your car because it saves your lazy ass from having to get out and plug it in yourself? Yes, but if the car is driving itself it’s going to have to be able to reverse into a station and commence charging — without the presence of a human.
When taken all together, these features would make the Model X by far the best driverless vehicle out there. The foundation is already the excellent Model S, but these innovations would make the X so much more effective as the backbone of a kind of distributed transportation platform.
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