Tesla to Offer Robotaxi, But Elon Musk Won’t Say When


The 50-year-old billionaire, wearing a black cowboy hat and sunglasses, made the comments at the opening of Tesla’s new $1.1 billion factory in Texas

 

Electric carmaker Tesla will make a “dedicated” self-driving taxi that will “look futuristic,” chief executive Elon Musk said on Thursday, without giving a timeframe.

The 50-year-old billionaire, wearing a black cowboy hat and sunglasses, made the comments at the opening of Tesla’s $1.1 billion factory in Texas, which is home to its new headquarters.

“Massive scale. Full self-driving. There’s going to be a dedicated robotaxi,” Musk told a large crowd at the factory.

Musk has several times missed his targets of full autonomy. In 2019, he said robotaxis with no human drivers would be available in some US markets in 2020.

In January he said he would be “shocked” if Tesla did not achieve full self-driving that is safer than that of humans this year.

Tesla will expand its Full Self-Driving beta software to all North American subscribers this year, he said on Thursday.

 

Driver Assistance Systems

Tesla now sells ‘advanced driver assistance systems’ for $12,000, with a promise of more features. It says the software does not make its vehicles autonomous, and requires driver supervision.

The beta version, launched in late 2020, aims to enable cars to navigate city streets better. By January, it had been installed in nearly 60,000 vehicles in the United States.

Musk said Tesla had started deliveries of Texas-made Model Y electric sport utility vehicles, with a goal of producing half a million a year at the Texas factory, which he said would be the biggest car factory in the United States.

He gave no details of such Model Ys, but they are likely to be lower-priced versions to better take on cheaper competitors.

Tesla will start production next year of its Cybertruck as well as a humanoid robot, Optimus, Musk said.

Musk is seen with German officials at the opening of the Gigafactory in Berlin in March. DPA photo via AFP.

 

New Giga Factories

The firm’s new giga factories in Texas and Berlin, which will make vehicles and its own battery cells, face challenges of ramping up production with new processes, analysts have said.

Musk said Tesla was simplifying car making by using just three major parts.

Despite record deliveries in the first quarter, a recent Covid-19 spike in China has forced Tesla to suspend production at its Shanghai factory for several days.

Thursday’s event comes after Musk surprised the market this week by revealing he had bought a stake of 9% in Twitter and will join the board of the social media network.

 

• Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.