On a recent visit to Norway, chief executive officer of Tesla, Elon Musk, seems to have let the cat out of the bag with reference to Tesla’s future solution to solving public transport issues. While he was a little reluctant to give too much away, it seems as though Tesla may be planning an Uber type service involving autonomous electric buses.
Would this work?
There is no doubt that despite massive investment in public transport around the world there is a growing reluctance amongst the general public to use these services. A mixture of expensive ticket prices, together with reliability issues, have hovered over the industry like a black cloud for many years now. Unfortunately, with the exception of a handful of countries around the world, the image of public transport services is probably getting worse rather than better.
The idea of reliable, clean, and affordable public transport services in the future would obviously appeal to the general public and politicians. However, would you trust an autonomous vehicle to get you from A to B?
Autonomous vehicles are already here
While not often discussed, there are various metro systems around the world which are in already autonomous; with some having no drivers, while others have drivers with minimal input. These systems have been in place for some time now and on the whole they have been very well received by the general public with very little in the way of major problems. As with electric vehicles on the whole, one of the major problems that Elon Musk and Tesla will face is educating the general public and injecting trust in these new automated systems.
We only need to look at the likes of Tesla, Google, Apple and other groundbreaking technology companies to see that autonomous vehicles are the future. Those systems which we often see in sci-fi movies will eventually come to fruition and the pace of change at the moment indicates this will happen sooner rather than later. Indeed, the UK government has already given permission for autonomous vehicles to hit the roads of the UK which will pose an interesting challenge.
Will autonomous electric buses pay for themselves?
When you bear in mind the massive investment in public transport systems across the world it would not take an awful lot of change in passenger attitudes for these autonomous electric buses to pay for themselves. How many of us would rather use public transport when visiting or working in town centres? If there were reliable public transport services then it is likely that passenger numbers would increase significantly which would also allow ticket pricing to remain competitive.
If we then move onto the issue of CO2 emissions from traditional vehicle transport there are not only an array of potential cost savings but also environmental issues to consider.
While Elon Musk knows how to play the game, he was reluctant to give too much away about what could be a surprise development from Tesla in the short-to-medium term. The introduction of autonomous electric buses could be a novel way to solve worldwide public sector transport issues. Will Tesla be able to deliver?