Why Tesla needs a specialized robotaxe

On the Tesla Cyber ​​Rodeo, Elon Musk said, “There will be a custom robotics that will look completely futuristic.” Then, on his last earnings call, he briefly discussed the “future” robot taxi. He declined to give details, but did tell us that they plan to do a robotic event of some sort next year. “We are targeting production volume in 2024,” he added.

That’s all we really know for sure now, unfortunately, but there’s been speculation that it could look like the “People Mover” graphic associated with boring tunnels.

Concept drawing with permission from Tesla

I’ve seen a lot of Tesla owners, investors, and fans question the necessity of a specialized robotaxi model. After all, several-year-old Teslas are supposed to have the hardware needed to function as autonomous vehicles. With all of these vehicles, especially Model 3 rental vehicles that don’t have a purchase option at the end of the lease (and the same with all other Tesla Models from now on), Tesla can easily come with a range of taxis without having to build vehicles just for that purpose. , as they say.

But, from my experience doing co-driving in 2018-2019, I can tell readers a few things that make a special model of taxi bots a must.

It’s hard to get strangers into the car

Having had about a year working full-time for ride-sharing, my Nissan LEAF has seen better days. During that time it has driven almost 40,000 miles and the car has not been left in as good condition as other 2018 LEAFs that have not been used for this purpose.

Car wear and tear is a big deal. Sure, an electric car needs less maintenance, but that doesn’t mean it will never wear out. I put the battery pack through more than 300 DC fast charging sessions, and because Nissan didn’t put a cooling system on the LEAF, and because this year included a summer in Phoenix, Arizona, the battery lost more than 10% of its original range. Tesla cars won’t see this kind of degradation so quickly, but we also have to keep in mind that autobots don’t have to stop eating, sleeping or living a family life.

It is reasonable to assume that a robotic taxi is likely to travel 80,000 miles or more in a year, perhaps more than 100,000.

There is more mechanical wear outside the batteries and drive units. CV hubs, suspension systems, tires and wheels, bearings, and many other things that every car (electric or gas) has gone through will go through accelerated wear as an auto cab. The service that a typical car needs may happen every few years every few months.

Then there are the passenger-facing systems. My LEAF has a worn-out electric door lock in the door that occupants enter the most. the seats? It doesn’t look very nice, and even if it’s leather, it’s probably more wear than average. I have a USB charging port that keeps trying to get people to plug and unplug. I have two door handles trying to unscrew them. I had to replace the 12v battery after only 2 years. shipping area? It has a lot of dents from people loading and unloading bags at Sky Harbor.

So, in fact, the car is still fairly new, but unusually rough. And I took breaks because I’m human and need to sleep. And I was there to drive people out who didn’t act (one violent passenger only stayed because he was afraid of being shot), hand-drunk a bucket to vomit, and do other things to keep an eye on the car.

Let’s talk vomiting for a minute. Even in a car with leather seats (I’ve shared a Chevy Volt with leather seats), cleaning and getting rid of the smell is a huge pain. Carpets, seat belts, seat belt clickers, pillow spaces, door handles, and sometimes even the ceiling needs a thorough cleaning.

Build a car that can handle all of this

Taking Model 3s and putting them through all of this abuse could end up being expensive. There will be an extraordinary amount of repair work just to keep the car on the road and passenger-friendly for 2-3 years. But, Tesla can take care of all of this either with a specialized model or by outfitting/retrofitting a used Teslas that pays off.

The battery systems will likely need some minor improvements to tweak the cabs, perhaps by updating the cooling system a bit. For Specialized models, it would be a good idea to use a battery chemistry like LiFePO4 or LFP (Stans often call these batteries “iron”, but you wouldn’t go anywhere without lithium and phosphate), because they will degrade much less under this kind of abuse. They couldn’t go as fast or in the cost of shipping, but they would work fine for a taxi and last longer. They may only switch packages to LiFePo if they want to upgrade an existing Model 3 off-lease.

Upgrading other things, like suspension, would be a great idea. For example, upgrading the shocks to something that will last longer might be a good idea. I’ll leave that up to the professional engineers, but it would be nice to work on upgrading everything to last longer and stand up to more abuse.

The interior could also be simplified and built more for “hoses”, like a police car. This will probably sound less luxurious, but it can be done tastefully and aesthetically with some effort. When vomiting, urine, and other inevitable bodily fluid accidents occur, whoever cleans these things up would have a lot of trouble if they could spray everything and then dry it. And improved door handles and sockets, and whatever else occupants use will go a long way.

The other thing? It is better to have some kind of monitoring inside the car. People will not be happy at all if they call an automated taxi and there is a mess or something recently broken inside. I don’t know if this could be automated, but it might be a good idea to park the cars a few times a day to check and clean.


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