Elon Musk hinted Tesla could be developing self-driving buses. While addressing a transportation conference in Norway, the man behind all-electric cars and private space exploration company SpaceX casually referred to a new direction the company is exploring, one that will ease the “high-density urban transport problem.”
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who routinely involves himself and his numerous cutting-edge technology companies into projects that appear like science fiction but are perfectly in the realm of reality, let it (deliberately?) slip the news about a project his engineers are working on.
— Elizabeth Peewit (@ElizabethPeewit) April 22, 2016
Musk clearly indicated he is working on a self-driving vehicle that would soon address traffic woes in congested cities.
Speaking at the conference, Musk said, “We have an idea for something which is not exactly a bus but would solve the density problem for inner city situations. I very much agree with solving the high-density urban transport problem. Autonomous vehicles are key.”
Despite the shroud of secrecy, Musk added that the vehicle would offer better service than the city buses because his creations wouldn’t just drop people off at designated bus stops but instead would take them all the way to their destinations,
“There’s a new type of car or vehicle that would be great for that and that’ll actually take people to their final destination and not just the bus stop I don’t want to talk too much about it. I have to be careful what I say.”
While he did not specifically mention it, he clearly hinted Tesla is working on a platform that could soon replace buses and other modes of public transportation. Given the fact that Tesla is already deeply involved with autonomous driving cars, which are increasingly getting better at intelligently navigating through urban traffic, it only makes sense the company is now planning to ferry a lot of urban commuters in a platform with a large chassis that doesn’t rely on human drivers.
— Steven Johnson (@stevenbjohnson) April 22, 2016
Perhaps Elon Musk is envisioning a hybrid autonomous bus service that also assimilates the features inherent to radio-taxi services like Uber. If Musk is referring to a fleet of buses that drop people off to their destination, the public transportation industry could be in for a major overhaul, but for Musk, it could simply be the next step of evolution for his technologies.
Musk and Tesla are already deep into personal transportation. While the earlier all-electric Tesla models were perceptually expensive, the Tesla Model 3 has proved that a clean mode of transportation could be a common feature on the road and not just meant for the rich. Musk’s Tesla Motors Inc. has disrupted the transport industry with smarter software-packed electric cars and this month received 400,000 pre-orders for its latest product, a less costly model dubbed Model 3 aimed at the mass market, reported Bloomberg.
Besides the cars, Musk also proposed cities take a good, hard look at “Hyperloop,” a series of long cylindrical tubes that can ferry humans at mind-boggling speeds, reported the Daily Mail. The technology, though very much in its infancy and conceptualization stage, could transport people at 745 mph (1,200 km/h), sending people across the length and breadth of the country in half the time a commercial jetliner takes. Astonishingly, a ticket for travelling between LA a San Francisco, which incidentally would take only 30 minutes, could be as low as $20. Passengers would sit in vacuum sealed tubes (to minimize drag) and be hurdled across vast distances using magnets.
Musk has previously talked about building car tunnels as a way to solve traffic congestion.
“I think this is really a very simple and obvious idea, and I wish more people would do it, which is build more tunnels. Tunnels are great; it’s just a hole in the ground. It’s not that hard, but if you had tunnels in cities, you’d massively alleviate congestion and you could have tunnels of all differently levels. ou could probably have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high density cities. So I strongly recommend tunnels.”
Self-driving buses aren’t a new concept, reported the Huffington Post. Several developed countries have begun experimenting with autonomous vehicles, many of which even run on electricity. In fact, the Dutch city of Wageningen recently demonstrated its first all-electric driverless shuttle bus, which confidently navigated a public road.
— Climate Watcher (@pmagn) March 6, 2016
If Elon Musk is developing all-electric self-driving buses, he has a lot of references to draw inspiration.
[Photo by Eric Piermont/Getty Images]