Tesla CEO Elon Musk Talks Up A Self-Driving Transportation Solution For Dense Areas, But “Not Exactly A Bus”


Telsa CEO Elon Musk

Telsa CEO Elon Musk

At a recent transportation conference in Norway (video below), Elon Musk mentioned a new concept regarding driverless ‘bus-things’ to aid in traffic congestion in heavily populated cities.

Tesla Model S in Autonomous Mode

Tesla Model S in Autonomous Mode (via DrivE)

Musk didn’t go into any detail about a plan, but said:

“We have an idea for something which is not exactly a bus but would solve the density problem for inner city situations.

Autonomous vehicles are key… I don’t want to talk too much about it. I have to be careful what I say.”

The Tesla CEO apparently has many world problems that he hopes to solve; traffic congestion is just one of them near the top of his list. The Tesla boss also has a habit of providing just enough hints on a regular basis, to keep the excitement up. He previously shared that he devised an idea for the Hyperloop, “a fifth mode of transportation”, when he was sitting in a Los Angeles traffic jam.

In January, at Texas A&M University’s SpaceX Hyperloop pod design competition, Musk told of his plans to design a jet with the ability to take off and land verically like a helicopter. This would save space needed for runways, and possibly allow a jet to take off in the middle of a high traffic situation.

At the recent event in Norway Musk stated:

“I very much agree with solving the high-density urban transport problem. There’s a new type of car or vehicle that would be great for that and that’ll actually take people to their final destination and not just the bus stop.”

Tesla’s Autopilot feature has already proven that the company is a true front runner in autonomous technology. The Model X is currently taking the roads with semi-autonomous capabilities. It is still not known what the Model 3 will offer, but sources speculate, with its 15-inch tablet style console screen, and no traditional instrument cluster, it may provide a much closer step toward fully autonomous.

Video (below): Elon Musk at the Future Transport Solutions conference in Oslo on April 21st (hat tip to Nickkkkkk!)

Sources: Autocar, The Verge

Categories: Tesla

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22 Comments on "Tesla CEO Elon Musk Talks Up A Self-Driving Transportation Solution For Dense Areas, But “Not Exactly A Bus”"

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Well the whole world is watching. Anything he presents gets tons of free publicity.

I think something like a self driving electric mini bus would be awesome.

If a self-driving bus out accelerates the others, would that then qualify it as Tesla’s “Performance” bus?

This is just taken from this event in Norway:


Not really a transport conference exactly.

He isn’t talking about a bus. He’s hinting at an Uber like service using autonomous cars. Model 3s presumably. He wasn’t even really hiding it. Doesn’t sound like it’s happenieng next year though. Sometime in the future…maybe.

Autonomous buses that hold 8 passengers would be effective, they would cost less so a city could have more of them. Less wait time for a bus would be welcome.

Could it be a Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) machine?

Busses suck! Nobody would take the bus if there’s a choice between it and other forms like taxi. I hope all busses die, and self driving cars are just the ticket to do it.

I say this from having suffered through busses for a year (pre-EV when they falsely accused me of “speeding”). Average speed is about 15 MPH with all the stops, even without traffic. I was able to bicycle faster.

Buses do suck. For many reasons. But the primary one I could see handled in the “new transportation age” would be the problem that buses run set routes.

A swarm of model 3 autonomous taxis could handle 4 passengers at a time, and with people ordering their trips with smart phones (and perhaps prioritizing their time willing to spend travelling vs cost), the swarm of automated taxis would be controlled with fancy algorithms, choosing the most efficient routes to move everyone about.

Billing would (of course) be fully automated (no slowdowns when each passenger exits). It could be on long trips that you do switch taxis at a designated spot, but the computers keeping things going should ensure that you’re only waiting for a short time (less that 5 minutes?) at your intermediate stop.

… another way to look at this would be to see it as “very smart car pooling”. So instead of all these monster traffic jams with 90% of the cars only having one passenger, you would instead have most of the cars moving around with 2 or 3 or 4 people in them at a time, with a corresponding number of reduction in total number of vehicles on the road.

One more advantage with autonomous EV’s is the autonomous EV “skateboard” layout gives much more flexibility on designing the interior space. So you can probably just step into your own little “pod compartment” in the taxi and not have to rub elbows or even interact with the other passengers.


Not sure if your comment already contains sarcasm…(my detector is broken…)

To my best knowledge interaction with real life people can be fun. Even in a crowded bus. However the fun factor depends on many factors… Funnily I prefer the busses in Mexico (no suspension, open door, loud stinky diesel, loud music, loud people, friendly people) over the busses in Germany (good suspension, climate control, “clean” diesel, no music, no talk to strangers, people who forgot how to smile… ) I never took a bus in the USA, so I can’t comment on that…

To conclude : human interaction is a key to happiness. We just have to look up from our cell phones…

A pork pie hat tip to you, sir. Point taken….seriously.

Car sharing sounds great and efficient but…I will be probably be *a lot* quicker home from work if I don’t have to wait until a few fellow travelers are dropped of at their homes…

Consider a dense urban commute that typically takes 45 minutes each way. If traffic congestion were eliminated, it would take 20 minutes each way.

If 90% of the cars averaged two people per car instead of 90% of the cars averaging 1 person per car, then you’ve eliminated nearly half of the cars and you’ve eliminated congestion.

If you stop for one other person on your car share commute, that should only add a little more than 5 minutes (each way).

Now consider that you are getting curb side service (saving another 3 to 5 minutes each way) , nearly making up for the extra person stop, and you would be saving at around 20 minutes each way, 40 minutes per day.

Now add in that on your commute you can read your emails type on your ipad etc… 40 minutes saved plus 40 minutes of production means you get 80 minutes added to your life every day!

Or, before I typed all that I guess I should have looked for this article/video:

Ford Dynamic Shuttle Service Moves from Experiment to Pilot, Providing Point-to-Point Shuttle Rides for Employees

“Smart car pooling” is a good way to look at it. Since you don’t need a driver, four passengers fit in an autonomous car. Since no one has to drive it reduces stress on the driver. Because there are fewer cars on the road the commute time can be less, even with picking up and dropping off the other passengers.

Autonomous Uber minivans make a lot more sense. Autonomous bus solves no real problem – the driver is a small portion of the overall cost. Eliminating an Uber driver, on the other hand, cuts your costs by half or more.

Oh Elon, you’re such a tease!

…but a highly successful one.

Elton Musk:”…. Fourth generation and smaller cars …..”.


Google is already heading in this direction with their self driving car designs: cars that are small enough to approach the density of a reasonably full bus. No thought leadership here; it’s all pretty obvious.

I’m calling it now… Johnny Cab!