Last night, Tesla announced that all of its vehicles going forward will (eventually) have full self-driving capabilities. But buried in the fine print is a warning to customers who may be seeing dollar signs in Tesla’s new driverless upgrades (which won’t be activated for a few years).
“Please note also that using a self-driving Tesla for car sharing and ride hailing for friends and family is fine, but doing so for revenue purposes will only be permissible on the Tesla Network, details of which will be released next year,” Tesla’s website now reads.
In other words, anyone who may have been thinking about using their newly self-driving Tesla Model X to pick up a few fares for Uber or Lyft when the technology finally launches in a few years should think otherwise. Tesla says that using autonomous technology to make money is a no-no.
Of course, Uber and Lyft are both working on their own self-driving programs. And most experts predict that self-driving cars will initially be used in a ride-hailing capacity. Tesla seems to anticipate this, which is why they are trying to nip it in the bud before some enterprising Model X owner attempts to start picking up fares for the wrong company.
That’s where the “Tesla Network” comes in. The company didn’t respond to a request for more specifics, but in all likelihood it has something to do with what Elon Musk sketched out in his “Master Plan Part Deux” released back in July.
“You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app,” he wrote, “and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost.”
Uber declined comment on Tesla’s prohibition against third-party ride-hailing, and a spokesperson for Lyft did not return our email. It’s likely that issues surrounding insurance and accident liability factored into Tesla’s wording on the issue.
Asked whether Tesla would provide “indemnity” for users involved in a crash that happens while the car is driving itself, Musk responded: “No I think it would be up to the individual’s insurance. … If it’s something endemic to our design, certainly we would take responsibility for that.”