If you’re like most people, your first reaction when you saw the Tesla Cybertruck was something like:
“What on Earth is that? Is that supposed to be a truck, or a joke? Who would order something like that?”
By the time you’re done reading this you’ll understand why ordering a Cybertruck right now is a low risk / high reward bet on an autonomous future. As long as you have $100, it’s almost stupid not to order one.
Cybertruck Ships with Full Autonomy
According to the order page, Cybertruck is scheduled to begin deliveries in Late 2021 and Late 2022. By this time, it seems highly likely that Autopilot will be feature complete, mature, and highly advanced. Furthermore, it’s highly likely that Autopilot will be approved for completely driverless operation, at least in some places and conditions.
Let me say that again:
The first Cybertruck will come with support for full autonomy.
The first Robotaxi ride “somewhere” will happen before the first Cybertruck delivery.
Many people will laugh, and say this is ridiculous because autonomy is 20 years or more away. To those people I would suggest renting a Tesla on Turo with Full Self Driving in the United States (preferably California) and checking out what the latest software can do today. Extrapolate that out two to three years and what you’re left with is bound to be extremely impressive, whether it is Level 5 Autonomous or not. Personally I think the growth rate of Autopilot is still vastly under under-appreciated by almost everyone.
Designed for Autonomy
Tesla designed Cybertruck as an autonomous truck. Even if you don’t want to make it your daily driver, it’s a useful autonomous utility tool with a lot of flexibility. For those who don’t believe driverless cars are coming anytime soon, suspend your disbelief for a moment and imagine if the autonomous software in 2021 and 2022 really is as advanced as the cars designers expect it to be. Let’s take another look at the strangest aspects of the Cybertrucks design from this perspective.
The Weird Lack of Side Mirrors
Suddenly, the lack of rear view mirrors doesn’t seem so strange –– it seems forward thinking. If you don’t need to drive the car, what’s the point of having big side mirrors that create drag and reduce range? Every Tesla already has four side cameras that can provide live side views or execute lane changes automatically.
Every Tesla car today also comes with Lane Departure Avoidance and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance. Even when driving manually, the computer can keep you from drifting out of your lane or changing lanes into a car hidden in your blindspot on it’s own. If you start to make a bad lane change, the car can warn you with a chime and optionally even gently steer you back into your lane to avoid a collision.
Even with the featureset available in cars today, it’s clear the side mirrors’ days are numbered. Eliminating them will improve range without increasing battery costs. That’s good for your wallet, and good for the environment. Slowly, side mirrors will go from looking “normal” to being a dead giveaway that a car is old, outdated, inefficient, and bad for the environment. Fashion is funny like that.
The Audi étron already ships with a virutal mirror system in Europe. Proposals to allow this kind of system in the US are already working their way through reagulatory agencies.
Cybertruck’s cameras are very stealthily integrated into the body of the car:
That Weird Bed Cover
Other than the lack of side mirrors the other “weirdest looking” thing about Tesla’s truck seems to be what Tesla calls the “Vault”. The Vault is basically a cover over the truck bed that can automatically be opened and closed. You can see it in this video:
The main reason for this design is that “The bed of a pickup truck is the most important part for aerodynamic performance“. Closing off the bed dramatically improves range and efficiency.
But the other aspect of this design is that in an autonomous future you kind of have to lock up the bed.
The name “Vault” is telling. The bed will be able to secure any belongings that it needs to autonomously transport –– both for you and for hire on the Tesla Network. Note that closing the Vault door also blocks the rear view windows in the cabin. This means that you can transport up to 6 passengers who need a ride while also securely transporting cargo in the bed or frunk of your Cyberturck out of sight.
The bed cover will also prevent homeless people and hitchhikers from jumping into the bed of your autonomous truck to catch a ride. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s a problem that’s inevitable when cars first start moving around without drivers.
While that covered truck bed may look ridiculous now, in an autonomous future a covered truck bed will quickly become essential. Before long, any truck that doesn’t have it will be seen as old, outdated, and insecure. It’s important to realize that for most purposes, the bed of the Cybertruck functions just like it would on any other truck:
Whatever you want to Plug In
The Cybertruck features both 110V and 220V power outlets that you can use to draw power from the vehicle’s battery. This opens the door for all kind of crazy extensions, modifications and autonomous accessories.
Imagine an autonomous vehicle driving around with a robotic pizza oven plugged into the back seat. You could run a business delivering fresh, hot, just out of the oven pizzas anywhere Autopilot can drive. Or maybe you’ll decide to install a printer, and run your own mobile printing service that can deliver a fresh prints in 20 minutes or less. You could run a sevice to bail out stranded EVs, charging up your Cybertruck’s batteries and letting someone else plug in to draw enough charge to make it to the nearest supercharger. Imagine having a car that goes out and makes money for you –– a car that can pay for itself. That’s Cybertruck.
Tough Enough for Peace of Mind
Even after Tesla Autopilot gains the ability to make a trip without a driver, would you be comfortable sending your nice shiny new Model 3 or expensive Model S or Model X out to pickup passengers or deliver Postmates? Many people will be worried about damage to their cars and take significant steps to protect their cars before allowing driverless trips of any kind.
That’s less of a worry with Cybertruck. This thing is tough enough that you can send it out autonomously without fretting as much about whether your car will make it back in one piece, or get hit by a rock.
The Perfect Way to Bet on an Autonomous Future
Given the design of the vehicle, the price, the durability, and the range Cybertruck looks like the best Tesla workhorse autonomy vehicle. If you want a Tesla primarily to go do work as an autonomous car, this may very well be the best choice.
There’s very little downside to pre-ordering one for $100. At worst, you’re out 100 bucks. But as Tesla’s autonomy software advances, the price will go up from $7,000 today to around at least $20,000. Given the value, the price of unlimited usage will have to go up to match the value of what is being provided. Most customers will chose to purchase an affordable monthly subscription rather than pay for their self driving package in full. However, anyone can lock in today’s $7,000 price for the future by placing an order for just $100.
You can order a Model 3, Model S, or Model X for $100, but you’ll have to take delivery in a few weeks or cancel your order. If you want to order a Model Y (which will start deliveries in mid 2020), you have to shell out $2,500 today. A Roadster deposit requires you to put up at least $50,000.
What this all means is that not only is Tesla Cybertruck the best autonomous workhorse vehicle from Tesla, it’s also the most affordable way to lock-in today’s unlimited full self driving packages for only $100. Even if you think it’s ugly, why not put in an order just in case they really do ship an autonomous truck that can do work for yourself and others? If you do the math, it should be able to pay for itself completely in a year or two.
So what are you waiting for? Go order a Tesla Cybertruck with Full Self Driving. If you don’t want to go through with it, you can always cancel. And if it really can drive itself when it launches…
Well, you’ll get a great deal on a truck thats just as far out of the future as it looks. What would you do with an electric autonomous truck? Let us know in the comments.