Published on November 2nd, 2017 | by Kyle Field0
Tesla Continues To Push Autopilot, Service, & Supercharging In Support Of Model 3
November 2nd, 2017 by Kyle Field
Tesla just officially announced earnings for Q3 2017, and in the update unpacked the backstory behind the early delays in Model 3 production alongside updates on its efforts to improve and expand its Autopilot, Service, and Supercharging offerings.
Put It On Autopilot
All signs point to Tesla making large improvements in Autopilot in the last quarter, with a specific focus from the Tesla AI team on the Autosteer function. In support of the effort and to port the solution to Model 3, Tesla fortified its AI team in Q3, adding a number of top AI engineers and researchers to the Tesla ranks.
The update included a not-so-subtle message that, in typical Elon Musk fashion, it is looking to establish Tesla AI as one of the best AI teams in the world … and not just in automotive … but across all industries. Chalk that up as yet another business to be spun up out of Tesla’s core competencies and desire to drive all aspects of its business to world-class levels.
Upping the ante further, Tesla revealed that it’s not just sticking to the software side of things but that it is pushing into AI on the hardware side as well. That is simply mind boggling but should not come as a surprise given Elon’s passion for AI and desire to play a critical role in shaping its future — to ensure that it continues to be a beneficial technology for humanity.
The update reveals that Tesla developed its AI solution on a foundation of a new Tesla vision neural net that was very difficult to build. Specifically, scaling the solution down from supercomputer-level computing hardware to something that is affordable and functional inside a vehicle was a massive challenge. It will be interesting to see what that in-vehicle hardware ends up looking like given the requirement for redundancy while still retaining enough functionality to perform effectively.
Having established the Tesla vision neural net, Tesla expects a rapid rollout of additional Autopilot functionality over the next several months — though, no specifics are given as to which vehicle, hardware versions, or features will be released. Tesla clearly has its sights set on knocking one out of the park with its “no touch,” coast to coast autonomous trip, which it committed to performing by the end of the year.
At Your Service
Looking forward 12 and 24 months reveals a landscape of Tesla vehicles out on roads around the world that is very different from what we see today. In the Q3 2017 earnings call today, Tesla shared that it now has 250,000 vehicles out on roads around the world, which is 100 times as many as 5 years ago. Looking forward 12 months, Tesla is expected to deliver at least another 100,000 Model S and X vehicles combined and rolling out even a very conservative 150,000 Model 3s sees the deployed Tesla fleet doubling in the next year.
Similarly, scrolling forward 24 months will see at least another 250,000 vehicles on the roads and another 500,000 if Tesla is able to dial in Model 3 production and get back on track with its original estimate of delivering 500,000 vehicles in 2018. Suffice it to say, Tesla’s existing infrastructure in both Service and Supercharging needs to continue scaling up to meet near-term demand. That’s not something Tesla can spin up overnight and Tesla’s actions show that it sees the future demand and is already ramping up in these critical areas.
In the last 3 months, Tesla has opened 18 new store and service locations, representing a 6% increase vs the 300 it had at the start of the quarter. Stacking on that, Tesla increased its technician capacity by 10% per service center. That presumably correlates to headcount increases, but with Tesla’s unique approach to literally everything, it’s plausible that it could be something else. Either way, it should correlate to an ability to process more vehicles.
The real excitement with Tesla in relation to service is the mobile fleet. Tesla has previously shared that 80% of all service requests do not need the vehicle to be put on a lift and that the service tasks could be performed in the field. Mobile service represents a drastic improvement in ease of service for the customer, as vehicles are able to be repaired at a customer’s workplace or home. I know that was the case for me when Tesla repaired the door handle on my Tesla Model S in my garage.
Tesla has expanded its mobile service fleet in Q3 from only a handful of units up to 160 and has plans to double that by the end of the year. At the same time, Tesla notes that my experience with mobile service is not unique, with customer satisfaction for mobile service at “nearly 100%” during Q3.
Supercharged Charging Network
Finally, Tesla continued to add Supercharging stations in Q3, with 126 new Supercharger stations added. To be clear, that is 126 new Supercharging sites … each with multiple connectors. This addition represents a more than 14% increase in Supercharging locations in just 3 months and brings the total number of Supercharging connectors (the individual plugs that can be used to charge a Tesla) up to over 7,000 worldwide.
Tesla is also aggressively pushing destination chargers, which have increased to more than 7,200 locations around the world hosting Tesla wall connectors for customers and patrons to use. That’s an 18% increase in locations compared to the end of last quarter and shows both just how aggressive Tesla is in expanding its charging network but also how relatively easy it is for a large company to expand rapidly. One wonders just how fast a Nissan, GM, or BMW could roll out a charging network if they actually made an effort to do so.
The new mini Tesla Supercharger was rolled out in Q3. It was designed for deployment in high-density urban centers like parking structures and the like. Compared to traditional US public chargers operating at 6.6 kW and many European public chargers operating at 22 kW, the new 72 kW Tesla chargers are impressive but still pale in comparison to the 125–140 kW power pushed by a fully grown Supercharger.
It’s clear that Tesla continues to push aggressively into the future it has dreamed up for us and that it continues to be plagued by its dream being larger than its ability to deliver. Having said that, looking back at how far Tesla has come in such a short time, I can only be thankful for the entire Tesla team’s aspirations and thankful that they are indeed “accelerating the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” For the full details on the update, head over to Tesla’s Investor Relations website to listen to the webcast and to view the earnings update letter.
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