Tesla considers its own autonomous ride-sharing business

The best music often comes from the notes left unplayed, and so it was with the Tesla Motors Q2 earnings call with financial analysts this week. While we heard upbeat news about the Model X delivery schedule – and downbeat news about the company’s vehicle output forecasts and profit margins – perhaps the most interesting hook came from a question left unanswered.

Adam Jonas from Morgan Stanley brought up a recent report about Uber CEO Travis Kalanick telling venture capitalist (and major Tesla investor) Steve Jurvetson that he would like to buy 500,000 of the automaker’s autonomous vehicles in five years time. Jonas then queried Elon Musk as to whether he saw supplying vehicles to ride-sharing companies as a good business opportunity or whether Tesla might just “cut out the middle man and sell on-demand electric mobility services directly from the company on its own platform?”

After a four-second pause, Musk responded with, “That’s an insightful question,” then went on to say, “I don’t think I should answer it.” Which, to our ears, sounds like Musk has already had this epiphany and at least one future ride-sharing provider might be vertically integrated. Still, such an eventuality is still some years out, with its exact arrival dependent upon technological and legislative breakthroughs.

For those more interested in more near-term developments at Tesla, here are the other most pertinent points from the call.

  • The Tesla Model X configurator should be live on the website before the end of August, with the first vehicle deliveries beginning near the end of September.
  • Tesla has adjusted its estimated deliveries of Model S and X, now saying between 50,000 to 55,000 instead of just 55,000.
  • Tesla’s GAAP automotive gross margin fell from 25 percent to 22.9 percent, due mainly, the company says to higher than expected costs of the smaller drive units used in the front of its dual motor vehicles. This, combined with the reduced production expectations, made the stock market very sad, and TSLA shares traded down -$24.00 (-8.88 percent) yesterday.
  • For the Tesla Model 3, the automaker will introduce a new-generation motor.
  • Autopilot will begin to be made functional for a small number of beta testers on August 15, with wide release happening in late September or early October.
  • Tesla is likely to develop its own detailed map data for autonomous driving in the future. Taken in conjunction with this earlier report, we suspect it will use its fleet to do this.
  • Biggest challenge with Model X production is the second row seat, rather than the “falcon-wing” doors. Musk referred to the seat as a “sculptural work of art” and a “very tricky thing to get right.”
  • It seems likely that Tesla will do another cash raise sometime soon. Questioned about the possibility directly, Musk said he couldn’t answer, but earlier had mentioned that such an event would probably be of value for the company, even if it wasn’t strictly necessary.

The call ended with all the questions in the queue being addressed. However, had we been allowed to slip one in, we might have asked how closely the production Model X will resemble the various prototypes that have been spied recently, among other things. Given the opportunity, we imagine you might have had an inquiry or two yourselves. If that’s the case, tell us what you’d like to know in Comments, and we’ll see if we can’t get you some answers.

source: engadget.com

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