Tesla robotaxi set for August unveiling

CEO Elon Musk makes surprise announcement on the day that the Model 2 is reportedly cancelled

Tesla robotaxi set for August unveiling
Tesla will unveil a robotaxi in August, Musk says

BEV market leader Tesla will unveil a robotaxi model in August this year, CEO Elon Musk said on Friday. Musk's announcement came on the same day that news agency Reuters reported that the EV pure play was cancelling its next-generation low-cost EV, which Musk denies.

Tesla's planned robotaxi vehicle is long rumoured to share a platform with the low-cost EV, dubbed the Model 2, the status of which is now unclear. The robotaxi, however, is reported to be designed without a steering wheel.

Writing on social media site X, Musk wrote, "Tesla robotaxi unveil on 8 August."

Reuters reported on Friday that Tesla would continue to develop the autonomous vehicle on the shared platform, but no longer attempt to develop the low-cost drivable car that has been at the heart of Musk's ambitions to bring BEV to the mass market for years. Tesla has, however, already begun expensive retooling of its Texas gigafactory for the Model 2 production line, and has also secured government funding to build a Mexico gigafactory.

One industry consultant suggests that, rather than a cancellation of Model 2, there might be a reordering of priorities. This might square the circle of how Reuters has sources on which it is sufficiently confident to rely to publish that the Model 2 project is on ice, but Musk — bound by securities law that should prevent him from peddling market-sensitive untruths — is able to say reports of a project shutdown are lies.

"My read on this is that, in order to prevent everybody from cancelling their Model 3 and Model Y orders in anticipation of a futuristic $25,000 car, which there is not even a factory for yet, Musk and Tesla will start by building and advertising the robotaxi," says Xander Johnson, EV consultant and former Tesla sales and operations advisor.


Tesla has been planning a driverless robotaxi business for several years, and Musk has repeatedly said that high level autonomy in Tesla EVs could increase the vehicles' value by up to to ten times.

Tesla's Full Self Driving (FSD) software, however, has not yet convinced many autonomy experts that it will be capable of level four or above autonomy, the levels needed for Musk's robotaxi vision.

While companies like Google subsidiary Waymo and GM subsidiary Cruise — currently subject to an operating pause — have run limited commercial robotaxi services, they have used Lidar technology, a system which uses sensors to guide the driverless vehicle. Tesla's FSD, however, is the only system in the market that relies on cameras instead of Lidar.

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“Our view, and this is kind of an industry consensus view as well, is that anything at the level three and above, including level three, requires Lidar,” says Andres Sheppard, lead automotive analyst at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

"I personally believe that only a software-aided aggregation of multiple sensor systems (that includes lidar) will make truly automated driving successful.  Cameras alone give me too many fail points,” says Lukas Neckermann, managing director of e-mobility consultancy Neckermann Strategic Advisors.

But Johnson believes that Tesla is utilising the shared platform of the robotaxi and Model 2 to hedge its bets in case it continues to find high level autonomy a difficult nut to crack.

"If autonomy is not solved by the time the factory is built and production lines are up and running (2026-2027), Tesla will simply add on steering wheels, mirrors, etc and start taking orders for the $25,000 consumer car while they continue to work on the autonomy problem," Johnson speculates.

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