Tesla and Uber – When Disruptive Technical and Social Innovations Collide

Tesla and Uber are two companies at the forefront of disruptive technical and social innovation. Their businesses may come together in disruptive synergy bigger than the sum of its parts, which will revolutionize whole industries.

Tesla Motors, headed by charismatic entrepreneur Elon Musk of SpaceX fame, produces high performance electric cars that can do hundreds of kilometers of fast road racing on a single charge. The company, which is also building a whole next-generation solar energy ecosystem to support its car business, plans to make autonomous, self-driving electric cars.

Musk sees self-driving cars as a low-hanging application of narrow Artificial Intelligence (AI). “I almost view it as a solved problem,” said Musk at the 2015 GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California. “We know exactly what to do, and we’ll be there in a few years. We’ll take autonomous cars for granted in quite a short period of time.”

Self-Driving Electric Tesla Cars for Uber in 2020

Tesla carSelf-driving electric cars on the roads in only a few years, that’s a pretty disruptive innovation with not only technical but also social aspects. The transition to electric cars powered by batteries that can be recharged with solar energy will reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, and the transition to self-driving cars will make our lives simpler and safer.

Uber is also a leader in social innovation. The company has made social car sharing a reality by enabling freelance drivers to make a much needed buck, or two, by offering their services to people in need of transportation, a win-win deal.

Uber is frequently in the headlines because it has seriously disrupted the taxi business, and angered taxi drivers who had to pay exorbitant taxi license fees often demand – sometimes with success – that the government shuts down Uber in their area. But trying to ban innovations that are wanted by the people isn’t a smart strategy, and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where Uber-like services take over the taxi business, which would be a godsend for both drivers and passengers. As the Uber website states, choice is a beautiful thing.

Now, it appears that the technical and social innovations of Tesla and Uber may come together, Forbes reports. At the 17th annual top 10 tech trends dinner in San Jose hosted by the Churchill Club, venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, a big fan of the self-driving electric cars of the future, said that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told him that if Tesla cars are autonomous by 2020, Uber wants to buy all 500,000 that are expected to be produced.

Jurvetson said that self-driving vehicles will offer a 10x improvement in driver safety and fewer deaths on roadways and also reduce the number of cars needed in cities, Computerworld reports.

People will be able to call and get an autonomous car within 30 seconds of wanting one, at a much lower cost per mile driven.

It appears that the angered taxi drivers will soon have more than freelance Uber drivers to face – they will have to deal with robot cars.

Images from Tesla Motors and Wikimedia Commons.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.