Tesla chief executive Elon Musk announced the second part of his “master plan” Wednesday, laying out a vision that would expand the carmaker’s offerings to include solar roofs, trucks and cars that will make money for their owners in the ride-hailing economy.
In the plan, Musk defended his proposal to merge Tesla with SolarCity, a company co-founded by his cousins and which he chairs. He wrote on Tesla’s blog that the companies’ combined resources would help them develop stronger solar cells and batteries that would allow homeowners to become their own utility providers.
He also highlighted his goal to expand Tesla’s vehicle offerings, which would include buses and heavy-duty trucks. The company is working on buses that would help combat traffic congestion and on the Tesla Semi, which Musk said would make cargo transportation less expensive and safer. He plans to unveil the Semi next year.
And then there are the self-driving cars that could eventually become personal fleet vehicles, allowing owners to dispatch them to pick up passengers as a ride-hailing service.
Musk’s new plan comes after a string of bad news for the electric automaker. In June, federal regulators launched an investigation into the brand’s autopilot mode after the first-known fatal crash involving that feature.
In his blog post, Musk rebuffed calls to roll back the current semiautonomous autopilot feature, saying that it would be “morally reprehensible” to discontinue the technology that he says is safer than a human driver when used properly.
“As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely,” he wrote.
The company said this month it also missed its second straight quarter of delivery goals for Tesla vehicles.
Musk released the first part of his master plan in August 2006 when he said he would make cars that eventually became the Model S and Tesla 3. In that plan Musk promised cultivation of a low-volume, expensive electric car, whose proceeds would be used to develop a medium-volume car at a lower, but still costly, price.
Those proceeds would then be reinvested to create yet another, less expensive model, the Model 3, which Tesla says now has a waiting list of 400,000 people.
“If part one of Elon Musk’s master plan was like putting a man on the moon, part two is a lot more like colonizing the galaxy,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of pricing and industry analysis at auto information service Edmunds. “The plan sounds overly ambitious for now, especially considering that there are already doubts about whether Tesla can meet its goals for the next two years. That said, Tesla’s goals are far different from that of other automakers.”