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IPFS News Link • Transportation

Tesla Robotaxi: Everything We Know

•, By: Tim Levin

Lately, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has looked increasingly bored of the car business. He insists that Tesla's future hinges not on selling more Teslas, but rather on artificial intelligence and robotics. A central piece of that vision revolves around self-driving cars that can be deployed as "robotaxis" that remove humans from driving entirely. 

But Musk apparently doesn't want to lean on humdrum Model 3 sedans and Model Y SUVs for his Uber competitor. Tesla says it's working on a purpose-built, dedicated robotaxi vehicle that Musk indicated may be called the "Cybercab" on a recent earnings call. 

It's a wildly ambitious plan, one that feels like the ultimate extension of Tesla's longtime bet on its Autopilot and so-called Full Self-Driving systems. It's also extremely unproven, hinges on aggressive buildouts of brand-new technologies, depends on an uncertain level of consumer support, depends on regulations that don't even exist yet and will require Autopilot and FSD can survive a maze of legal challenges and even a federal criminal investigation

In other words, it's easily Musk's biggest and riskiest swing to date—and far from certain in any way, shape or form. Nevertheless, let's take a look at what we think we know so far, based on the company's various statements and concept artwork seen here and there.

What do we know about the Tesla Robotaxi?

For at least a decade, Musk has beaten the drum that self-driving capability was coming to Teslas any day now. Autonomous Teslas, he's said over the years, could earn their owners significant side income by ferrying passengers around when they'd otherwise be parked. None of that has happened yet.

In recent years, Tesla executives also started mentioning the idea of a purpose-built Tesla robotaxi. That is, not just a regular Tesla that can also drive autonomously sometimes but rather a vehicle designed from the ground up to do just that. 

The robotaxi plan has taken precedence over more conventional—and arguably, more prudent—projects at Tesla. In April, Reuters reported that Tesla had scrapped plans for a cheap mass-market vehicle, known colloquially as the Model 2, in favor of going all-in on the robotaxi. (Musk has indicated that this more affordable model is still in the cards, but it doesn't seem to be a priority.)