5 Ways Elon Musk Will Change The Way You Drive

September 20, 2017


Road Safety


Richard Greenwood

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will probably be aware of billionaire Elon Musk and his drive to innovate industries such as motoring, space and energy. Musk has achieved a cult like following and I confess to being a dedicated follower. Even if you’re not a fan boy / girl, his commitment to innovation and ability to pull off the seemingly impossible are set to change the way we all drive.

1: A Car That Gets Better With Age

Taking delivery of a new car is an exciting time. It’s the day you get to enjoy your car at it’s absolute prime. Whether you’ve owned a car from new before or not, most of us could agree on this; your car doesn’t get better over time.

New cars may look modern when you get them but then they stay stuck in time. The dials always look the same, the entertainment system has the same set of functions and the car certainly doesn’t teach itself any new tricks.

Elon Musk is changing all that and creating cars that get better over time.

Upgrade After You Buy

If you want factory fitted options, you normally have to make all the decisions before you purchase a car. With Tesla, Musk is fitting every car with certain features and then uses software to limit their access unless you pay for them. For example, you can upgrade to ‘Auto-pilot’ driver assistance package after you purchase the vehicle. You won’t have to take it into a dealer for them to fit the sensors and hardware to enable the new features, it’s already there. You simply upgrade online and the new features are ready to use.

Over The Air Updates

Tesla’s come with a built in 4G connection that allows the software to be updates over the air.

These updates don’t just change boring details such as maps data for navigation. Past OTA updates have enabled new features such as:

  • Increased top speed
  • Increased range (through improved battery management / changes to regenerative braking)
  • New ‘Auto-pilot’ features such as auto-lane changing and summon (car can park itself in your garage or a tight parking spot without you being in the car)
  • Improvements to virtual dashboard
  • Access to new music streaming services
  • New convenience features such as closing all doors at once or reducing the fan noise on the AC system on the Model X.

While other car companies are being slow to catch up, it’s likely they will forced to adapt as consumers demand it.


2: Changing The Way You Own a Car

Realistically, it’s going to be a while until governments allow self driving cars to operate without a driver. However, once they do, car ownership could rapidly change. Right now your car is probably parked at home or in a car park doing nothing. In a few years, if you own a Tesla,  it could be out making you money while you don’t need it.

Fully self-driving cars will allow those choosing to purchase a car to reduce the cost of ownership by letting their car earn an income ferrying others around while it would otherwise be parked. The biggest shift is likely to be a huge reduction in car ownership in urban areas. The cost of calling a self-driving car on-demand through apps such as Tesla Network or Uber may render car ownership as a thing of the past for many.

Elon Musk didn’t create the idea of on-demand self-driving cars, but his strategy at Tesla could position them as a powerful player. Many other car and tech firms are investing billions to chase the same market. Uber’s insane valuation is largely based around it shifting to full self-driving cars and revolutionising car ownership. Every Tesla produced from 19 October 2016 onwards has full self-driving capability, so the company is likely to have one of the largest fleets on the road when legislation is passed to make the function legal. Think about this, Tesla plans to produce 500,000 cars a year by 2018 and a million a year by 2020. If full self-driving became legal in 2022 (5 years from now), Tesla could have over three million cars able to join the Tesla Network.

With other manufacturers unlikely to have anywhere near that many self-driving cars on the road by then, rivals from the ride-share and motoring space may struggle to keep up with Tesla Network.

Even if you don’t own it, the first car that takes you for a drive will probably be a Tesla

3: Get Ready to Netflix and Drive

Over the past few years, car manufacturers and tech companies have been investing billions into self-tech to market.

While cars with no drivers at all will probably be a long way off, it may only be a few years until it’s legal to take your hands off the wheel during motorway or highway driving take your focus off the road. This means you could have a sleep or watch some Netflix while you’re on the go! This would be a game changer for those currently doing soul crushing commutes on the Pacific Motorway.

You could even get creative. Imagine putting your seat back after work on a Friday night and setting Sydney as the destination. The car could drive you down to Sydney overnight while you sleep! You might not even have to wake during charging stops. Tesla plans to fit robotic snake chargers to Supercharger stations so you can recharge rapidly without touching a thing.

4: Say Goodbye to Petrol Stations

The goal of Tesla is to accelerate the world's transition to clean energy and transportation. The car that’s going to do more than any other to shift the world towards cars with no tailpipe pollution is the Tesla Model 3.

The car has been billed as the world’s first mass-market electric car and will sell from $35k in the US. The car was formally announced last year and attracted hundreds of thousands of pre-orders on day one. It’s been called the iPhone moment for electric cars and it’s clear to see why.


A year on the the Model 3 is now in production (we’ll have to wait until 2019 in Australia). Having driven a Model 3, Matthew DeBord, Transportation editor at Business Insider boldly declared;

“I just drove the Tesla Model 3, and it changes everything -- the entire world will want this car”.

While traditional car owners have dragged their feet, Tesla has proven that a mass-market electric car is possible. Expect to see a big shift in the coming years as battery prices fall and range goes up.

The Model 3 is helping to overturn some of the biggest complaints about electric cars to date;

  • Price - electric cars have been expensive compared to petrol cars. Now, the Model 3 aims to be the best car you can buy at that price point based on any measure (comfort, safety, performance, drivability, features and so on).
  • Range - The base Model 3 will have a range of 350km (longer range model has 500km range). With an electric car you start every day with a full charge. This means that you’ll probably only use a public charging point a few times a year during holidays or road trips. That means stopping to refuel will largely be a thing of the past.

Not that Musk has proved the impossible is in fact possible, other car companies are upping their electric game. VW for example, following it’s damaging diesel emissions test cheating scandal is shifting its research budget into electric cars.

Political pressure is also making a difference. Following the signing of the Paris accord, several countries have now announced future bans on petrol and diesel cars;

  • Norway - all new cars and vans sold from 2025 to be emission free
  • India - all new cars electric by 2030
  • France - Diesel and petrol car sales banned by 2040
  • UK - Diesel and petrol car sales banned by 2040. All cars on road will need to be zero-emission by 2050.

While Musk can’t take all the credit, it could be argued that politicians wouldn’t have set these targets if it wasn’t for someone proving the shift to electric cars was possible.
These announcements are shifting an end in internal combustion research and a greater push towards electric cars. Volvo for example has vowed to make every vehicle electric or at least a plugin-hybrid by 2019.

5: Traffic-Busting Tunnels

Hate being stuck in peak hour traffic? Me to! If you live in Brisbane then you may have the option to pay your way out of a traffic jam for certain routes by using a tolled tunnel. The problem is, there are only a few tunnels and their often not where the traffic is.

Building tunnels is time consuming (10 metres a day is good going) and outrageously expensive (normally $billions) which is why there are not many around. Elon Musk is now trying to turn tunneling on it’s head with his new and amusingly named venture, The Boring Company.

His idea is to massively cut the cost and time taken to build tunnels and then build a large 3D networks of tunnels to help you skip traffic and get you around a city faster.

A peak-hour trip such as Cannon Hill to Toowong (16km) which can take up to 45 minutes during peak hour now would take just five minutes in the tunnel.

The video below shows how the tunnels would work:

  • Drive onto street level entry point
  • Lift takes you down to tunnel level
  • Car accelerates on an electric skate up to 200kph
  • Car rises from tunnels at your chosen exit point

Time will tell if this vision turns to reality but he does seem pretty serious. The Boring Company are already building a test tunnel complete with car entry lift.

What changes are you most or least excited about?

Start or join the conversation. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Richard Greenwood

Marketing Manager at Smith's Lawyers. Advocate for road safety and fan of technology that makes the roads or workplaces safer.


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