Tesla Model 3: do design features point to self-driving car-sharing service?
Family Car Guide
firstname.lastname@example.org (John Voelcker)Aug 18, 2017
The Tesla Model 3 continues to generate an inordinate amount of interest from electric-car advocates and the general public, as pretty much any Tesla model has in the past.
But unlike the Model S in 2012, which broke new ground on multiple fronts, the lower-priced Model 3 appears to be less innovative based on what we've seen as the car goes into production.
That was the argument made by electric-car owner and Chargeway creator Matt Teske in a piece arguing that the Model 3 was not "Car 2.0" as some enthusiasts have suggested.
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A recent article on the Tesla Motors Club forum, however, lays out an interesting case for the Model 3's future importance.
Titled "The Model 3 needed new Autopilot hardware, but not for the reason everyone thinks," it pulls together several observed facts about the Model 3.
Author "Alketi" makes the case that the car was designed from the outset to be the world's first self-driving vehicle for use in a car-sharing service.
That would apply not only to Model 3s purchased by fleets, but even to individually owned Model 3s, which could from part of Tesla's planned Ride Sharing Network for all its future cars.
Self-driving Teslas could not only be summoned with a tap on a phone app, but owners could allow their cars to be used for ride-sharing when otherwise idle, making money that would be split with Tesla.
It's an audacious vision, but the article nicely lays out the case—and the hardware within a Tesla Model 3 that supports the theory.
READ THIS: Does Tesla Model 3 compete with Bolt EV and Leaf, or BMW 3-Series?
The Model 3's lack of a conventional dashboard, for example, means that pretty much every function of the vehicle is controlled from the center touchscreen.
That, in turn, means that it's an easy matter of software to enable or disable different functions—locking the glovebox and trunk, for one example—to limit what ride-sharing passengers can do inside the car.
The vision of letting one's personal out for ride-sharing always seems to include the question, "What happens if a passenger pukes in my car?"
That's where another feature comes in: the Model 3 has a tiny camera in its rear-view mirror that faces into the cabin, which would theoretically allow passenger actions and behavior to be recorded if the owner chose.
Access to the Model 3 is not with a conventional key or the usual wireless fob, but through a NFC card the owner carries.
The author suggests that the ultimate goal is access to the car via cellphone, using Bluetooth LE for the cases where there's no cellular service.
CHECK OUT: 2017 Tesla Model 3 prices, features, details, specifications from Handover Party
That would allow settings for the car to be customized for each passenger—and many of the car's functions to be restricted when the passengers aren't the owners and their passengers but random ride-sharing clients.
In turn, however, radio, music, and climate presets could travel with those passengers, so they could have their customary array of entertainment while in the car, which would switch to different settings for the next occupant.
It's a fascinating vision, and we recommend reading the entire article in full. To get feedback on the article, Green Car Reports reached out to Tesla for comment.
What the company sent back essentially reiterated previous statements.
A Tesla spokesperson responded:
The internal name HW 2.5 is an overstatement, and instead it should be called something more like HW 2.1. This hardware set has some added computing and wiring redundancy, which very slightly improves reliability, but it does not have an additional Pascal GPU.
All Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles ordered today come with HW 2.5 – not just Model 3. We do our best to upgrade the technology on all cars simultaneously.
However, we still expect to achieve full self-driving capability with safety more than twice as good as the average human driver without making any hardware changes to HW 2.0. If this does not turn out to be the case, which we think is highly unlikely, we will upgrade customers to the 2.5 computer at no cost.
Tesla also confirmed that the Model 3 is equipped with a camera inside the cabin.
The camera is not currently active or used for any purpose, the company said, but it might be utilized in potential future features, which could be added to Model 3 with software releases.
Matt Teske, meanwhile, acknowledged in a post on LinkedIn that he's willing to change his view that the Model 3 isn't "Car 2.0" if all of the above comes to pass.
The Tesla Model 3 as it sits today, he said, is a good electric car that expands the array of long-range plug-in vehicles available for consumers to buy.
But if in fact it becomes part of a self-driving car-sharing network, he admitted, then he's willing to consider that the "iPhone moment" that changes everything about owning the car.
I'm all on board with this. Imho, Elon Musk takes on huge innovation and doesn't have patience to getting to optimal working order but unleashes it onto the public and irons out the creases as it goes along but this leaves clients hanging and that gets on my nerves