Why Tesla will make the Taxi vs. Uber confrontation obsolete.

I recently watched “Made in Dagenham” – a feel-good film of how a small group of women fought the Ford corporation and the male-dominated unions that were supposed to represent them.  As much as the film is good and the subject (equal pay for women) is important, you couldn’t hope but noticing that the Dagenham factory that employed 57,000 workers in 1970, now employs zero workers… (at least not in the UK, and probably not anywhere).   

Last month we saw again, Parisian taxi drivers out on road-blocking go-slows to protest the non-taxi competition.   Whilst they may have a reasonable case that it is unfair competition (licence fees, regulations, tax and social charges etc), you have to love the irony that the founding story of Uber is of Travis Kalanick not being able to get a regular taxi in Paris one evening and thinking… hmm there has to be a better way of doing this.   If you’ve ever tried to get a taxi in Paris you’ll understand his frustration.

Much as the Dagenham unions won the battle but lost the war, so Taxi drivers fighting Uber may be missing the bigger picture (more on blindspots in business here).   

What the taxi drivers are missing is that Uber may be just a passing fad; one that itself will be disrupted by technology.   Taxi drivers protesting Uber drivers… sure: but who needs drivers?    

I always feel that when Elon Musk announces anything we should look a bit deeper.   And yes, I am a complete fan-boy, but bear with me on this train of thought…  Telsa just announced  Summon.

Summon is the technology that that makes your car act like a faithful dog.  You whistle and it comes running.  Or in the case of Tesla, you Summon your car on an app and it wakes, gets out of the garage and drives to you to pick you up all by itself.   Sounds cool, but a bit of a gimmick maybe?  Not that many real-world use-cases (apart from after a few drinks?), but good for publicity no doubt.

Bu what of your average car usage? – you drive to work and leave it parked all day, or in big cities, you only drive at weekends.  

A generally accepted statistic is that cars are parked for approximately 95% of the time.  Massive downtime for an expensive asset that depreciates over time.  If this was your teenage son/daughter, you’d suggest they get a part-time job.

Summon might just be that part-time job.  You don’t have to extrapolate too far to see how Summon and fully autonomous driving functions could lead to this providing a taxi service.   Uber without the drivers?

And yes, cars depreciate with usage, but EVs are massively simpler than internal combustion engined fossils – and I’d expect to see them doing significantly greater distances; even more so than much loved Volvos or Beetles.  

So maybe Summon is the first step in turning your cost-centre into a profit-centre, all whilst you work (assuming you still have a job)….