Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested Wednesday that he can create a car-sharing network that’s so good, customers will abandon Uber and other ride-sharing companies in droves to adopt it.
During an earnings call Wednesday, Musk was asked to explain whether his proposed car sharing network, dubbed the Tesla Network, would generate revenue for Tesla or help Tesla owners offset the costs of their vehicles. In response, Musk made some cryptic comments about the scope of his so-called “Tesla Network.”
Musk said people have been characterizing his car-sharing proposal as “Tesla versus Uber or Lyft or something like that. It’s not Tesla versus Uber, it’s the people versus Uber.” There was no follow-up question, so Musk’s statement was left hanging like that.
In his recently released “Master Plan Part Deux,” Musk writes, “When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere.” Also, Tesla owners will be able to add their car to a "Tesla shared fleet" — likely an on-demand ride-hailing service that will allow the vehicle to give autonomous rides to the general public while the owner is at work or on vacation. Musk's vision is that if this system is used enough, the vehicle could potentially pay for itself.
But Tesla also wants to ensure its customers are ride-sharing and car-sharing within its network, not some other company like Uber. Tesla updated its semi-autonomous Autopilot fine print to ban vehicle owners from 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. That seems to be setting the stage for an epic showdown as the technology around self-driving cars evolves.