[April 23, 6:07 PM Eastern: This story has been updated with details from Tesla's earnings call.]

Tesla analysts, investors and fans had lots of big, thorny questions going into the company's first-quarter earnings call this evening. In particular, they wanted to know how exactly Tesla's reported pivot into the robotaxi business will actually play out. 

While the automaker didn't get into too much detail on Tuesday, we now know a bit more about Tesla's ride-hailing plans than we did before. 

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Tesla's Robotaxi Dreams

Tesla is reportedly pushing harder on a robotaxi project than before. Now we know more than ever about Tesla's plans to enter ride-hailing—even if those plans are far down the line. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk dropped new details about Tesla's plans during the company's conference call with investors, saying that Tesla plans to operate its own fleet of self-driving taxis. He added that Tesla owners would be able to "add or subtract their cars from the fleet whenever they want" and that "they can decide if they want to only let the car be used by friends and family, or only by five-star users or by anyone." 

Musk said to think of it like a "combination of Airbnb and Uber." 

Tesla also offered up some details about ride-hailing in its first-quarter earnings report, which notes that Tesla is "currently working on ride-hailing functionality that will be available in the future." 

"We have been investing in the hardware and software ecosystems necessary to achieve vehicle autonomy and a ride-hailing service," Tesla added. "We believe a scalable and profitable autonomy business can be realized through a vision-only architecture with end-to-end neural networks, trained on billions of miles of real-world data."

It also published a preview of what that ride-hailing functionality may look like once integrated into the Tesla app. 

Tesla Ride-hailing preview photos

The renderings show a "Summon" button, presumably for ordering a taxi. One screen displays a temperature of 68 degrees. Maybe that means customers will be able to adjust the climate settings in their taxi before they get in. Who knows. The details are pretty scant here.  

Ever since Reuters reported that Tesla had scrapped plans to build a cheaper consumer vehicle and was prioritizing robotaxis instead, there's been a great deal of uncertainty swirling about the automaker's future. What would a robotaxi business look like? When would the vehicle actually be ready to deploy? 

Many of these things are still up in the air. On Tuesday, Tesla said it's accelerating the launch timing of "new vehicles, including more affordable models," and indicated that a robotaxi would arrive later on. 

The mention of a ride-hailing business seems to be Tesla's way of assuaging investors that there is indeed a plan coming into view behind the robotaxi. 

Of course, this whole plan rests on Tesla's ability to actually create self-driving vehicles, something it hasn't managed to do after years of lofty promises. The automaker's expensive Full Self-Driving feature (FSD) requires total driver supervision and regularly makes mistakes. 

Musk has mentioned the notion of a Tesla-run autonomous taxi service in the past. He famously proclaimed that the company would have 1 million robotaxis on the road by 2020. So, while the idea of a Tesla taxi business may sound interesting, remember to take Musk's grand proclamations with a grain of salt.  

Contact the author: tim.levin@insideevs.com

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