If there’s anybody who can steal the thunder of Uber or Lyft, it’s Elon Musk. Unfortunately for the ride-sharing plays, that’s exactly what it appears the Tesla CEO wants to do.
Tesla is expanding into the ride-sharing business with its Model 3, a high-tech vehicle with autonomous ride-sharing capabilities. The news couldn’t come at a worse time for Lyft, whose stock has been in the doldrums since the company’s March IPO. Meanwhile, Uber might want to add Tesla to its list of competitors in its S-1 filing if it hasn’t done so already.
Musk has been notably present on social media of late, especially considering the fact that U.S. regulators are currently watching his every move.
Tesla owners who go by Living Tesla poked the bear on Twitter about a secret camera that can be found on the Model 3 rearview mirror. In a video, one of the Model 3 owners placed a privacy cover over a camera. Musk took the bait and in doing so delivered a one-two knockout punch to Uber and Lyft, saying:
“It’s there for when we start competing with Uber/Lyft & people allow their car to earn money for them as part of the Tesla shared autonomy fleet. In case someone messes up your car, you can check the video.”
Musk added that the internal camera “can be used to supplement cameras on [the] outside of [the] vehicle, as it can see through 2nd side windows & rear window.” Tesla is not invading the privacy of its customers as only the external cameras are currently enabled on the Model 3, not internal cameras. And in the spirit of transparency, Musk says that when the internal cameras are enabled, they’ll add a setting to disable it.
Musk’s tweet got the attention of professional esports player Marcel Feldkamp, who expressed excitement about the prospect of a future in which his car will earn him money through autonomous driving while he’s gaming. Tesla is holding the details close to the vest for now, but the plans have been in the works since 2016. The company is further along than you may think:
“That’s exactly the idea. What’s not well understood is that Tesla cars being made *today* will be able to do that for you. Just a matter of finishing the software & going through regulatory approval. Will be explained in depth via live webcast on April 22,” tweeted Musk.
Musk adds the software for the “shared autonomy fleet is going to be a complete game-changer” and “will fundamentally change car ownership as we know it.” Tesla plans to use its upcoming investor day to discuss its progress on autonomous vehicles. The timing of the event is probably a bit more than fortuitous considering that’s about when Uber’s IPO is expected.
Musk, who has also been known to be a bit ornery at times, has been notably engaged with his Twitter followers of late. Grammy-winning pop star Sheryl Crow owns a Tesla and tweeted about an issue she was having with screen controls. Musk gave her some personal customer service by responding with a remedy to her problem. Crow told the haters she loves her Tesla and that it was cheaper than her minivan.
Musk also found this customer’s analysis “impressive.”
Uber’s advanced technology group is behind a self-driving vehicle, a program that was suspended after one of its cars was involved in a fatal accident in Tempe, Ariz. The company’s self-driving vehicles are back on the streets in Pittsburgh, Penn., however. Lyft featured its self-driving vehicles at CES 2019.