Tesla Buses? Elon Musk Says "Urban Transport" to Be Unveiled in 2017

All aboard the electric bus?

Getty Images / Scott Olson

Are you ready to ride the Tesla bus to work? Elon Musk’s electric vehicle dream may take one step closer to reality after he revealed Wednesday in phase 2 of its master plan that Tesla aims to enter the urban transport market. What’s more, it sounds like Musk wants to radically transform how we think about buses altogether.

“There are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport,” Musk writes in the post. “Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year.”

Musk went on to outline his vision of how future buses may look and operate. When self-driving vehicles reach a point of maturity — “something on the order of 6 billion miles” is when he projects government approval — it’s an ideal time to redesign the bus to remove the driver. Instead, drivers would take on a “fleet manager” role, but Musk does not detail what this fleet manager would do or whether every driver will become one.

If the bus drives itself, there’s no need for a driver’s seat, so Musk proposes removing both seat and front entrance to save space. The center aisle is also gone, replaced by more chairs, but the plan does not explicitly describe how people would enter the bus. It would, however, accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles.

Taking a page out of Uber’s book, passengers could order a bus to their location using their smartphone. Users without a phone could order a bus to a traditional stop, using a button built-into existing signposts.

The plan sounds bold and ambitious, but Tesla may already have some stiff competition: Mercedes-Benz revealed its own autonomous future bus on Monday, driving itself 12 miles from Amsterdam airport to nearby Haarlem.

Another company, 2getthtere, has introduced autonomous pods that act like horizontal elevators. It’s a stark departure from the Mercedes and Tesla ideas, but one thing’s clear: with self-driving buses a brand new form of transport, anything goes when it comes to design.