Last year during its Autonomy Investor Day, Tesla laid out the broad strokes of its plan for a fleet of autonomous Teslas to operate as a “robotaxi” service. Of course, at the time, this seemed like a flight of fancy, given the fact that no car manufacturer is even close to full, Level 5 autonomy, by the standard SAE definition.
Fast-forward to now, and it still seems like a flight of fancy. Nevertheless, problems of practicality, technology, logistics and good sense aren’t things that Elon Musk is worrying about, because he confirmed on Twitter on Sunday that the service would be functionally ready in 2020.
Tesla currently offers Autopilot, which is a very competent suite of advanced driver assistance systems when appropriately used, but it’s nowhere near capable of “full self-driving” as Tesla likes to call it. So, either the Big T has been sandbagging pretty hard, or Elon is full of what a certain former Vice President would call “malarkey.”
Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
But wait, there’s more. You may not have been aware of this, but the Tesla Model 3 has — since its inception — had a driver-facing interior-view camera embedded in its center rear-view mirror. Tesla says that this device has been inactive the entire time, but Musk revealed on Twitter (where else?) that it will serve as a means of passenger monitoring when the robotaxi fleet gets going. Think of it as a built-in dashcam, and you’re somewhere in the ballpark.
In addition to this robotaxi thing, the interior-view camera could be used as a “selfie-cam” (the camera appears to be black-and-white only, so I hope you’re ready to look like Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse), and as part of Tesla’s “Caraoke” feature that’s included in its software V10.