Elon Musk and Urban Innovation

The *Capital *team thinks a lot about the future of cities.

According to the United Nations, in 2016, more than half the world lives in urban environments. This number will increase to sixty percent by 2030.

Global urbanization puts enormous strain on infrastructure — both in developed and developing countries. Some of the most important urban challenges are personal and commercial transportation.

Elon Musk has a plan to address this global challenge:

In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport. Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.

With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager. Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses. It would also take people all the way to their destination. Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don’t have a phone. Design accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and bikes.

He goes on:

You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.

As the world rapidly urbanizes, and the associated challenges compound, our team will continue to support amazing entrepreneurs working on these hard, must-solve problems.

Originally published on July 21, 2016.