Tesla has taken its first step in introducing Robotaxi-like capabilities, with the rollout of a new “Car Access” feature that allows an owner to grant people access to their vehicle. Access includes the ability to locate a vehicle, unlocking and remote starting of a vehicle, and general full access to vehicle controls via Tesla’s mobile app.
“Car Access allows you to add and remove access permission for an additional driver. You can add and remove additional drivers at any time from your Tesla Account,” describes Tesla in its updated “Account Support” page.
Individuals that have been invited through the “Car Access” feature can utilize the Tesla app to control the essential functions of the car, just like an owner can. The only features not available to the grantee are Roadside Assistance and Purchasing Upgrades.
I was able to test the “Car Access” feature on a Tesla Model Y, with a colleague in California. I am located in Pennsylvania, but I was still able to perform essential vehicle functions, like control climate and open the frunk, from the Tesla app. One could imagine the value of such a feature down the road when fully autonomous Tesla vehicles can be summoned to ride-share passengers in the RoboTaxi program.
The introduction of Car Access to drivers who do not own the vehicle is a significant development for Tesla’s Robotaxi Fleet.
The company has continued to evolve its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving suite through a series of software updates, including Automatic Stop Sign/Stoplight Recognition, Driving Visualization, and other features.
During the Tesla Q1 2020 Earnings Call, CEO Elon Musk revealed his predictions for the release of the Robotaxi, stating that the fleet could become operational in 2021. “Not in all markets, but in some,” he added.
Tesla’s ride-sharing service will eventually be comprised of previously leased Tesla vehicles along with currently-owned cars. Owners of Tesla vehicles will have the opportunity to make up to $30,000 a year by placing their vehicles into the Tesla Network, thereby giving people on-demand access to transportation.