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On Tesla Network, Self-Driving Cars Meet Uber Under Solar Roof

Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine/WikimediaCommons
Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine/WikimediaCommons

The electric cars are sexy but pricy (so far). The solar roof is interesting (but who needs more than one every 30 years or so). But with an idea called the Network, Tesla may finally have “announced the breakthrough needed to make electric vehicles affordable for everyone,” Greentech Media enthuses.

And there’s a bonus: “With the Tesla Network, you could sit on your couch while your car makes you money.”

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The idea, slipped into a larger statement that got more attention for its claim that Tesla had “achieved all necessary technological breakthroughs for fully automated driving,” packages the self-driving vehicle with solar charging and a ride-sharing platform similar to those offered by Uber and Lyft. Initially, Tesla Network will employ its own fleet of company-owned cars, but regular Tesla owners may also be able to opt in to the same Network and rent out their cars for ride-hailing.

“This new option would (at least in theory) allow you to hit a button on your phone to make your self-driving car available to people seeking rides,” writes Greentech’s Tam Hunt. “You could then sit on your couch watching football and drinking beer while your car makes you some money. And since the car never gets tired or needs a break, except to charge, it could conceivably make you a decent amount of money.”

How much money? Hunt, “the proud owner of a [Tesla] Model 3 reservation,” did the math. Based on current rates that Uber returns to drivers, and renting his car for 15 hours a week, less the cost of electricity, insurance, and loan payments, Hunt wouldn’t get rich, but he might get his car paid for: “My total cost of ownership would be a positive $4.”

“If this is actually feasible, as Musk himself seems to think it is, a person with decent credit could get an amazing car for free, essentially, other than the assumed $1,000 down payment,” Hunt writes. That’s a price tag that “could transform the market by making EVs more accessible and affordable.”