In August 2006, Elon Musk issued a "Top Secret Master Plan" for Tesla Motors, outlining the goals of what was then a small and largely unknown company.

He said Tesla would sell a low-volume electric car, use the proceeds to create a higher-volume model, and then use money from that car's sales to develop an electric car that was truly affordable.

A decade later, Musk has decided to update that plan with some new goals.

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Announced late last night in a blog post, Tesla's Master Plan, Part Deux, includes proposals for a wider array of electric vehicles, greater promotion of solar power and energy storage, and fully autonomous cars.

Musk recently announced that Tesla would buy SolarCity—which he also controls—for around $3 billion.

The updated plan does not include any details about how the two companies will merge, but Musk said the combination makes sense because it will allow easier pairing of SolarCity's home solar arrays with Tesla's Powerwall energy-storage battery packs.

Tesla Energy for utilities

Tesla Energy for utilities

Energy-storage systems allow users to take greater advantage of solar power by storing excess energy for later use, rather than dumping it into the grid.

Tesla and SolarCity are already working on one joint project, a solar farm for a Hawaiian electric utility.

Musk also said that Tesla will expand its lineup of vehicles to include more than just more electric cars.

Following the launch of the 215-mile, $35,000 Model 3 in the second half of next year, Musk wrote, it will introduce a compact SUV and an electric pickup truck.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

In addition, prototype versions of both a "Tesla Semi" and an autonomous bus will be unveiled next year, he said.

The semi truck could conceivably compete with the Nikola One, a product of startup Nikola Motors (also named after Nikola Tesla), that uses a natural-gas turbine as a generator to power electric motors.

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Previously described by Musk, the bus will have the ability to be summoned by riders using smartphones, or via buttons at traditional bus stops.

It will be designed in such a way as to maximize passenger capacity, helping to decrease traffic congestion by taking more cars off the road, Musk said.

2016 Tesla Model X

2016 Tesla Model X

The ability of the autonomous bus to equal the acceleration and braking of the vehicles around it would make it less of an impediment to smooth traffic flow than are current diesel buses, Musk noted.

In the nearer term, though, Tesla must ensure that it begins Model 3 production by the end of next year as planned.

MORE: Can Tesla learn from its past, and make Model 3 easy to build?

Tesla has missed every one of its initial vehicle-launch deadlines; if it misses this one, it could jeopardize Musk's goal of producing 500,000 electric cars per year by 2018.

Musk said Tesla will focus on improving its manufacturing process by "turning the factory itself into a product."

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Thinking of the entire factory as a machine, Musk considers the plant that will build the first Model 3 to be Version 0.5, with Version 1.0 set to come online by 2018.

Musk said a "5 to 10 fold improvement" is possible by Version 3.0 "on a roughly 2-year iteration cycle."

A third area of the plan focused on self-driving cars, and Musk used it defend Tesla's deployment of Autopilot. He responded to investigations and media criticism following a fatal May 7 Model S crash in which the system was operating.

Explaining why Tesla offers the system—which is more a bundle of driver aids than a true autopilot—Musk said the technology is already "significantly safer than a person driving by themselves," when used correctly.

Given those safety benefits, he wrote, it would consequently be "morally reprehensible" to withhold it.

Tesla has repeatedly said that Autopilot is in the "beta" stage, and various warning screens for drivers alert them to that fact. But beta software customarily implies that a system is incomplete and still in need of testing.

Musk defended the label, saying it was only applied because Autopilot hasn't yet met his goal of being 10 times safer than a human driver.

Tesla Model S undergoing assembly

Tesla Model S undergoing assembly

Tesla will continue to develop the technology until it arrives at fully-autonomous cars—something that will likely be achieved with heavy reliance on fleet learning.

Regulators will take time to approve the technology, Musk noted, but when they do, Tesla will establish a mixed fleet of customer and factory-owned cars that will form the basis of a ride-sharing service.

Under the scheme, owners can rent out their cars when not needed, and participants in this collective will be able to remotely summon an autonomous car at any time.

Tesla will operate its own cars in areas where not enough customer cars exist, Musk said.

Similar ideas have been proposed by analysts as a way to cut down on urban congestion and pollution by reducing private car ownership in cities.

Tesla Model S Autopilot system

Tesla Model S Autopilot system

General Motors—which recently bought Cruise Automation and has a partnership with Lyft—is believed to be experimenting with autonomous ride sharing as well.

In that sense, Tesla's updated "master plan" is more in line with current popular thinking than the original was in 2006.

But the new plan is, if anything, more ambitious, with numerous technological and regulatory obstacles to overcome.

We'll check back in 10 years to see how much progress Tesla has made.


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