Is Tesla’s vision the automotive future?

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Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO has a vision for the future of the automotive industry, which he unveiled recently. Not surprising, his vision goes beyond simple automonomous vehicles. Here’s a look at his “Master Plan Part Deux” which he unveiled in July, 2016 and outlined in an oline column, Teslarati.

According to a Tesla website, Musk has a lot in store for 2017, including self-driving vehicles with solar rooftops, a Tesla pickup truck, a minibus and a semi-truck for hauling.

Tesla Model 3 with solar panel roof

Tesla Model 3

Dubbed the affordable mass market mid-sized sedan, the company says first deliveries will begin at the end of 2017. According to writer Steve Hanley, at, Musk had discussed volume production of this model, noting that “even assuming production did begin next summer, it would result in relatively few cars being produced. Those would get into the hands of customers living near the factory in Fremont, California so that any post-production issues can be addressed quickly and efficiently. The lessons learned would then be used to improve the quality of the cars to come.”

Musk isn’t just thinking about how to design innovative cars for the future, he’s also looking at innovative ways to manufacture them. According to Musk, a properly designed factory could operative five to ten times the speed of today’s production facilities.

“Tesla engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the machine that makes the machine — turning the factory itself into a product. A first principles physics analysis of automotive production suggests that somewhere between a five to tenfold improvement is achievable by version 3 on a roughly 2 year iteration cycle.”, statedMusk at the Tesla Gigafactory grand opening celebration. According to Hanley, plans to nearly double the size of Tesla’s Freemont, CA, factory were recently approved by the city and Tesla plans to build as many as 500,000 cars a year, most of them Model 3s, by the end of 2018.

Tesla is considering building a self-driving minibus that could transport 10 passengers. According to Musk’s Master Plan Part Deux, the minibus would be based on the company’s Model X chassis. Passengers could summon the bus to their location and it would deliver them to their destination.

Tesla’s “Enhanced Autopilot” is expected to become fully operational in 2017, says Hanley in his posting. 

Tesla autonomous self driving vision sensors

“All cars produced after October 19 [2016] are equipped with the hardware 2 package of cameras, radar, and advanced ultrasound sensors that will allow them to operate without human input. All that remains to be done is accumulate enough human logged driving miles to flush out the confidence level for the company’s self-driving algorithms.

Tesla has already accumulated more than 1.2 billion miles of driving history and is adding 3 million more miles every day. Elon believes it will require a total of 6 billion miles of driving experience before autonomous driving is reliable enough to convince regulators to allow self-driving cars to be allowed on public roads. He is also aware that approval will vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, both within the United States and in other countries.”

Solar roof panels

With SolarCity now part of Tesla Motors, the company is expected to make the solar roof panels available to customers in 2017. Indeed, just recently, Tesla announced it had finalized an agreement with Panasonic that would allow both companies to manufacture PV cells and modules from the company’s Buffalo, NY factory.

Tesla and Panasonic will initially build PV cells and modules for use in traditional solar panels, but will eventually incorporate the cells into Tesla’s Solar Roof product when production begins in 2017. The PV cells will be integrated into the glass solar roof tiles.

In November 2016, Elon Musk announced the creation of a new Tesla Glass division and that the Model 3 would incorporate glass technology derived from the solar roof tiles. 

“…Tesla has created a glass technology group … with some really phenomenal people,” stated Musk during a conference call to discuss financial details of Tesla’s pending merger at that time, back in November 2016. The new division has been heavily involved in the engineering that goes into the solar roof tiles which borrows a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business which will be applied to the Model 3, according to Musk.

The Model 3 could have a solar roof made in much the same way as the solar roof tiles. That would allow the car to generate electricity from the sun and use the extra power to extend its range. New technology could also be incorporated into the front windshield and rear window of the Model 3.

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