The Self-Driving Electric Car Revolution is coming sooner than you think

As a Tesla Model 3 reservation holder in London, I’m pretty excited about Tesla’s latest announcement. In case you missed it, the big news is that…

All Tesla Cars Being Produced Now Have Full Self-Driving Hardware

This is a pretty big deal. Right now, all new Tesla Model S and Model X cars are rolling off the line with the hardware to enable fully autonomous driving. The software is not there yet, but Tesla released a video showing what it is already capable of:

And of course, this capability will be in the Model 3 when production starts.

This changes everything

Everyone knows that buying a new car is a terrible financial decision. It typically means making a big monthly payment on a depreciating asset that spends 95% of its time parked, doing nothing.

But what if that car that can drive itself in all situations? It actually turns the economics of car ownership on its head. Your car could spend its spare time driving around giving rides to other people for money. Just like driving your car for Uber today, but a self-driving car can do it while you’re at work, or even while you sleep. It sounds like science fiction, but Tesla are already planning for this and Elon Musk wrote about it in his Master Plan – Part Deux:

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. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.

Where’s my flying car?

Of course, everyone knew that self-driving cars were coming. But like the flying car, it always seemed like a futuristic promise that would always be a decade away. Based on my experience of Tesla’s current Autopilot on my recent road trip I certainly didn’t expect so much progress so soon. In fact I didn’t expect the Model 3 to be capable of full self-driving at the start of production. But now it looks like we could have fully self-driving electric cars as soon as next year – subject to regulatory approval of course. With the potential revenue from autonomous car-sharing, for me this turns the Model 3 from a “can I really afford it?” car to a no-brainer. The future is here!