Tesla Robotaxis: Cathie Wood and Sam Korus show us the money

Fully self-driving vehicles which can go wherever they please and operate wherever regulators allow them to do so are a tricky thing to consider.

At the World AI Conference 2020 this week, Elon Musk said that he is super optimistic that Tesla can get to full autonomous driving with its current hardware only by continuing to make progress on the software side of things, and that he thinks this will happen early. Time is demanding. Musk said in mid-2016 that Tesla’s complete autonomy is coming “a hell of lot sooner” than people thought. Musk seems to be as bullish as ever about where Tesla is and getting to the finish line.

“I’m extremely confident that Level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think will happen very quickly,” Musk said this week. “I think at Tesla, I feel like we are very close to Level 5 autonomy. I think — I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for Level 5 autonomy complete this year.”

If you owned a Tesla Cybertruck running as a fully autonomous Robotaxi for just 1.5 hours a day at a price of $2.50 per hour, you could make $10,665 on the car in the first year essentially doing nothing. ARK Invest’s provides the calculations. Here’s the full chart of costs and revenue in this scenario from Sam Korus of ARK Invest:

That’s a lot of money for basically doing nothing.

As I’ve been thinking for a long time, it seems most sensible for Tesla to launch a Lyft / Uber-like service for human drivers (Tesla owners) first, and it seems like that might produce a lot of cash for Tesla anyway — whether or not FSD is disabled. Obviously, it comes with costs too, and software development time, which is over-cost restricted, but it feels like this feature could be introduced this year if we reach FSD capability. ARK Invest Chairman, CEO and CIO Cathie Wood thinks along similar lines and states that a Tesla buyer could potentially cover some of the car’s costs with a Tesla ride-hailing feature in the Tesla app, and then let the car loose in the robotaxi fleet until it becomes something (assuming it becomes something).

Hypotheses are a beast, and some people have had difficulties with premises used in the aforementioned example, such as the $2.50 per mile. Throughout Tesla’s initial explanation of these matters throughout her explanation on Autonomy Day, Musk revealed a slide predicting 16 hours of service a day (instead of 1.5 hours a day) and an estimated gross annual profit of ~$30,000 a vehicle.

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