Tesla – disruptive technology at its best

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By Managing Director Becher Townshend 

For those that don’t know, other than being a passionate communicator, I’m also a bit of a car nut.

Well actually, it would be fair to say that I have an unhealthy obsession with cars to the point that my first childhood memory is playing with a little yellow toy car.

Obviously this doesn’t have a lot to do with my role at Font Public Relations, but I’ve been getting a little bit excited about one particular car lately and it has me thinking about the power of disruptive technology.

Tesla_Model_SThe car in question is the Tesla Model S, which for those that don’t know, is an all-electric upmarket saloon that will travel up to 500 kilometers on one charge – which in Tasmanian terms means a round trip from Hobart to Launceston is easily achievable, or an overnight trip to the North-West Coast (provided you can find a charger).

With such a range, Tesla has managed to overcome the issue of ‘range anxiety’ and in addition have cram packed it with technology that allows the car to autonomously drive on the open road and in peak hour traffic, be summoned from your garage to your front door, and even tell you where the nearest charging point is.

For me, and I suspect many who have to drive between Hobart and Launceston regularly, the thought the car could drive itself much of the way is compelling, with the added thought it could be done via electric power, compliments of our fabulous hydro power network, being the cream on the cake.

However, it also got me thinking about the impact of electric cars and what they would mean for the future of transport, particularly for government and legislators.

Google and others have been working on autonomous cars for some time but here we have one that is already on the road, even if it is limited to the open road and peak hour traffic. No doubt Tesla and others will deliver further technology updates on this, making the fully autonomous car just about next year’s model.

So what will this mean?

Well firstly it will probably reduce the amount of cars people own, because instead of most families needing two cars, they may be able to live with one.

Imagine being able to drive to work and then sending the car home so your partner could drop the kids at school.

How about having a few too many drinks at dinner and not needing to get a taxi – all possible with an autonomous car.

Add to this the fact that electric motors only have one moving part, which means less maintenance costs and about $5 to recharge for 500 kilometers, all means the argument from a consumer point of view becomes compelling.

What about manufacturers you might ask?

Well the answer to that is simple – there are fewer parts in an electric car so once the technology is developed (including appropriate charging networks), they will be cheaper to build.

All this points to a couple of take outs about the electric car.

One, self-driving cars have already arrived. Two, when the purchase cost falls in-line with other family cars, they will become a compelling financial proposition. Three, manufacturers will want to build them because they are easier and cheaper to manufacture.

Given all this, you begin to see one almighty headache for government and legislators. How do we regulate the use of an autonomous car? How do we get the tax to pay for our roads when people stop buying petrol?

The list of disruptive impacts for electric autonomous cars is endless, but don’t fool yourself about this being a thing of the future, because the future is already here – at just $125,000 for a Tesla Model S, it is yet to come for many.

4 Comments

  • Robert says:

    According to the TransGrid Annual Planning report yesterday in Sydney, by 2030, 30% of us (probably Greater Sydney) will be driving electric cars.

  • John Toohey says:

    Interesting article – a move from hard to soft solutions and their combinations? What about the economic and logistical impact on the operations of transport companies – large and small; the parking business model – car parks, parking meters; public transport. Is this the start of the demise of other occupations – drivers, parking attendants & inspectors?

    • Team Font says:

      John, I agree – it is hard to know where this will start and where this will end. I suspect many organisations will need to rethink their business model.

  • Michael Priest says:

    I believe that there is legislation in progress or ready to go that should autonomous vehicles be allowed to be used that the driver will still not be able to be over the limit. No surprises there really, having fun should always be legislated.
    Tesla’s ability to update the vehicles via Wifi is rather cool too. Customers received the radar guided cruise control and semi autonomous driving capabilities overnight.

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