Tesla Robotaxis set for August launch, as Musk denies the project has killed off affordable Model 2

 Tesla Grille.
Tesla Grille.
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Recent reports from global media agency Reuters suggest that Tesla has scrapped work on the platform that was due to underpin the much-hyped "affordable" Tesla Model 2 in favour of pursuing a Robotaxi project.

The news agency says that internal company messages and interviews with sources familiar to the matter state that "Elon's directive is to go all in on Robotaxi”, hinting that the platform and innovative 'Unboxed' production methods previously touted for a smaller, more affordable and German-built model were being redirected towards autonomous ride-hailing vehicles.

Integral to the affordability of Tesla’s Chinese EV-rivalling model was this new manufacturing process, which Tesla unveiled last year and said would see fewer individual jobs carried out on the production line.

By producing large sub-assemblies of the same car and then bringing them all together at the same time, Tesla said it could slash the production costs of EVs by as much as 50%.

However, Musk was relatively quick to shutdown Reuters reports surrounding Model 2 by taking to his favoured platform X, formerly Twitter, and stating "Reuters is lying (again)" in response to a post that claimed Tesla was scrapping its low-cost car plans.

But on the same day, Musk then posted "Tesla Robotaxi unveil on 8/8", hinting that we will see the long-teased autonomous ride-hailing vehicle in August of this year.

This fits with Musk's long-standing narrative that Tesla owners will, one day, be able to generate income from their vehicles, even going so far as to tease the silhouette of his Robotaxi in the company’s third Master Plan event last year.

Musk wrote in a post on the Tesla website back in 2016 : "You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app, 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."

All in on autonomous

Tesla Model X
Tesla Model X

Musk’s vision of privately-owned Teslas one day generating income for their respective owners rests solely on the promise of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technology reaching a point where humans are no longer required as part of the process.

But the systems have come under fire in recent years, with numerous court cases underway in the US involving claims that Autopilot had led to wrongful deaths, while Consumer Reports suggested earlier versions of the system were easily abused and distracting.

Tesla then recalled two-million vehicles via an OTA-update to prevent drivers from misusing the Autopilot function. This was in response to a fairly damning report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that claimed "certain driving maneuvers could potentially infringe upon local traffic laws or customs".

I have personally witnessed some of the biggest automakers in the world attempt to solve the fully-autonomous driving riddle with various breakthroughs over the years, including those made by Nissan’s Maarten Sierhuis, an ex-NASA alumni employed to push the tech forward.

But even Nissan’s response back in 2017 was to resort to a human-operated call centre, which it dubbed Seamless Autonomous Mobility (or SAM for short)  that could remotely take over driving duties every time a fully-autonomous vehicle got stuck.

Fast-forward to 2024 and it feels like we haven’t pushed the fully-autonomous driving story on much further, despite Musk's insistence.

Musk’s Robotaxi will inevitably prove to a technological stroke of genius, but it’s also likely going to be many, many years away from reality.

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