Tesla CEO Elon Musk fielded many questions during the company’s Q1 2020 Earnings Call. However, when Gene Munster of Loup Ventures asked about Tesla’s development of Robotaxis, Musk gave one of his most in-depth answers to the Q&A session.
Munster, an analyst at Loup, asked Musk to walk through Tesla’s rollout strategy of both the Neural Network and how it will affect the company’s plan to unveil Robotaxis shortly. “Are you going to gradually take over human routes with autonomous capable routes over time? Or how do you see that playing out,” Munster asked?
Musk’s approach was simple, and it outlined what Tesla has been doing all along. Robotaxis won’t be available until the company completes extensive testing on the infrastructure, but it could be as soon as 2021.
“Well, it’s pretty much going to play out as it has played out, which is, we’ll release more and more functionality,” the Tesla CEO replied. “Before we reach — release any functionality, it goes through extensive testing. First, we run it — we have a simulations team that has, I think, a very good simulation of the real world.”
While the idea of a car driving out on its own to pick someone up and generate income for owners feels more like a grandiose vision for many, Musk is optimistic about an autonomous Tesla fleet that could see early-stage operations as soon as 2021.
Munster asked if a human on-board Robotaxi could be released to the public next year. Musk replied, “I think we could see robotaxis in operation with network fleet next year. Not in all markets, but in some.”
During the Earnings Call, Musk detailed the process of unveiling a new FSD feature to the world, which is a lengthy process that aims toward ensuring the safety of users. After Tesla believes a feature is ready for rollout, it is given to a small group of employees to test. It then makes its way to beta testers, then Early Access Members, and then it rolls out for a wide release. Tesla’s Robotaxi fleet will be no different.
Musk’s plans for a ride-hailing Robotaxi fleet were presented at the company’s “Autonomy Day” in April 2019. The CEO envisioned Tesla’s network of vehicles to one day be fully-autonomous, allowing owners of the company’s cars to drive out on their own and make as much as $30,000 a year.
Tesla has stated in the past that autonomous features are undoubtedly one of the more complex pieces of software the company has to develop. After the company release Traffic Light and Stop Sign Recognition to FSD users in April, Musk stated that a wide release of the feature could come to international markets by Q3. “Very important to make sure this is done right,” Musk said.