2017 Tesla Model 3 "first production" car, in photo tweeted by Elon Musk on July 9, 2017Enlarge Photo
The Tesla Model 3 continues to generate an inordinate amount of interest from electric-car advocates and the general public, as pretty much any Tesla model has in the past.
But unlike the Model S in 2012, which broke new ground on multiple fronts, the lower-priced Model 3 appears to be less innovative based on what we've seen as the car goes into production.
That was the argument made by electric-car owner and Chargeway creator Matt Teske in a piece arguing that the Model 3 was not "Car 2.0" as some enthusiasts have suggested.
A recent article on the Tesla Motors Club forum, however, lays out an interesting case for the Model 3's future importance.
Titled "The Model 3 needed new Autopilot hardware, but not for the reason everyone thinks," it pulls together several observed facts about the Model 3.
Author "Alketi" makes the case that the car was designed from the outset to be the world's first self-driving vehicle for use in a car-sharing service.
2017 Tesla Model 3 and 2011 Nissan Leaf, Half Moon Bay, California, Aug 2017 [photo: Scott Forrest]Enlarge Photo
That would apply not only to Model 3s purchased by fleets, but even to individually owned Model 3s, which could form part of Tesla's planned Ride Sharing Network for all its future cars.
Self-driving Teslas could not only be summoned with a tap on a phone app, but owners could allow their cars to be used for ride-sharing when otherwise idle, making money that would be split with Tesla.
It's an audacious vision, but the article nicely lays out the case—and the hardware within a Tesla Model 3 that supports the theory.
The Model 3's lack of a conventional dashboard, for example, means that pretty much every function of the vehicle is controlled from the center touchscreen.
That, in turn, means that it's an easy matter of software to enable or disable different functions—locking the glovebox and trunk, for one example—to limit what ride-sharing passengers can do inside the car.
The vision of loaning one's personal car out for ride-sharing always seems to include the question, "What happens if a passenger pukes in my car?"
That's where another feature comes in: the Model 3 has a tiny camera in its rear-view mirror that faces into the cabin, which would theoretically allow passenger actions and behavior to be recorded if the owner chose.
Access to the Model 3 is not with a conventional key or the usual wireless fob, but through a NFC card the owner carries.
The author suggests that the ultimate goal is access to the car via cellphone, using Bluetooth LE for the cases where there's no cellular service.
That would allow settings for the car to be customized for each passenger—and many of the car's functions to be restricted when the passengers aren't the owners and their passengers but random ride-sharing clients.
In turn, however, radio, music, and climate presets could travel with those passengers, so they could have their customary array of entertainment while in the car, which would switch to different settings for the next occupant.
It's a fascinating vision, and we recommend reading the entire article in full. To get feedback on the article, Green Car Reports reached out to Tesla for comment.