Elon Musk is kicking off an automated low-carbon future with the merger of Tesla and SolarCity

Elon Musk is today set to merge Tesla Motors and SolarCity, Reuters is reporting, kicking off part two of his master plan to transform our cities and suburbs into environmentally friendly automated wonderlands.

In July Musk wrote of his plan to merge the two companies in a blog post entitled Master Plan, Part Deux, saying it was essential to “create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world.

“We can’t do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies.Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.”

Tesla has already laid down roots in many countries around the world, meaning SolarCity’s offering can be expanded significantly with relative ease.

As a result, we could see a future where Tesla becomes a widespread provider, making integrated off-grid solar power commonplace around the world.

SolarCity technicians install solar panels in California. Image courtesy of Jennie Book / Shutterstock.com

SolarCity technicians install solar panels in California. Image courtesy of Jennie Book / Shutterstock.com. Featured Image courtesy of Jag_cz / Shutterstock.com

But the merger also signifies that when it comes to his master plan, Musk means business. And unlike in part one, where initial production scales kept the costs of Tesla vehicles exclusively in the realm of the very wealthy, in part two Musk is bringing his products to the masses, and tackling climate change on a massive scale in the process.

“By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse,” he said.

“Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.”

His plan for Tesla would, he said, “make that day come sooner”, with – in addition to solar roofs with integrated battery storage – the expansion of Tesla to include affordable mass-market cars, trucks and buses.

Elon Musk1

If Musk is able to achieve this, it would have a major impact on cities around the world, as Tesla is aiming to one day make all its vehicles autonomous.

“As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely,” he said, adding that it would still be some time before this happened.

“Even once the software is highly refined and far better than the average human driver, there will still be a significant time gap, varying widely by jurisdiction, before true self-driving is approved by regulators.“

When it does however, it will mean the beginning of the end for car ownership for many, with Tesla enabling owners to “share” their vehicles in a self-driving version of Uber.

“You will be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost,” said Musk, adding that this would make ownership cheap enough that “almost anyone could own a Tesla”.

Image courtesy of Maurizio Pesce

Image courtesy of Maurizio Pesce

For now, though, Tesla is deploying partial autonomy across its offering, making this new fleet of affordable Teslas a testing ground to develop and improve the vehicles’ autonomous behaviour through what Musk calls “massive fleet learning”. However, he also stressed the safety improvements of the vehicles, which have been under fire following the first fatal crash involving the technology, which is still being investigated.

“When used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability,” said Musk.

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