- Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during the company's first quarter earnings call that it is looking to launch its own autonomous ride-sharing network soon but did not go into specifics on when it will start.
- Musk said the underlying software technology will be ready by the end of next year, but still has a way to go, according to a transcript of the call.
- Musk said people would have full ownership of their cars and loan them out when not using them, similar to Airbnb, or share them like Uber and Lyft drivers do.
Some on Wall Street were puzzled by what they called Musk’s “unusual” performance on his latest earnings call, but he did share a few details about Tesla’s planned autonomous vehicle network. Musk said having a software platform to manage the network is the priority, which would enable “millions of shared, autonomous electric vehicles.”
“You need to have full autonomy, level 4 or 5, whatever you want to call it and, obviously, a lot of cars on the road, and then build the software infrastructure behind that to enable shared autonomy,” Musk said.
Musk was also bullish on the future of autonomous vehicles (AVs), a technology that has come under fresh scrutiny after a woman was killed in Tempe, AZ by an Uber-owned AV while crossing the street. In March, a Tesla driver died after crashing into a highway barrier in California while the car was on autopilot.
Musk blamed the media for the way in which they have covered crashes that use Tesla’s Autopilot feature, and said they are misleading the public on AV safety. "It's really incredibly irresponsible of any journalists with integrity to write an article that would lead people to believe that autonomy is less safe," he said, according to a transcript of the call. "Because people might actually turn it off, and then die."
Despite any concerns, Musk said autonomous technology is far safer than human control, echoing the opinion of some federal lawmakers who advocate for greater AV use. Previous crashes have brought a pause in AV testing in Boston and by Toyota. “[If] autonomous cars were 10 times safer, so if instead of 1 million deaths you had 100,000 deaths,” Musk said. “There is still going to be people who will still sue and say, ‘Hey, you're responsible for the death here.’ And it's like, well, the 90% of people who didn't die are not suing.”
Tesla would join a crowded marketplace of companies testing AV ride-sharing. Earlier this year, Waymo received a permit to operate an autonomous taxi or ride-sharing service in Arizona, while Uber is piloting self-driving cargo trucks in the state as well as trialing AV technology, and Lyft is testing AVs of its own in California. But Musk said his company will be just fine. “I think Tesla is safe from a technical standpoint,” he said. “I think we'll probably be ready by the end of next year.”