Elon Musk has often talked about how Tesla vehicles could earn significant amounts of money as autonomous taxi cabs (YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiWbdZ8ItRs). While that could happen in the future, what other opportunities may appear for "Smart Cars" to earn money?
The following concepts can't be a pipe-dream. People from auto-manufactures to local government and law-enforcement have to be considering ways they could make use of fleets of vehicles that will help them do new tasks or become more effective.
Already today, Tesla vehicles are solving crimes. Mostly crimes agains the Tesla cars themselves, but also crimes that have been recorded on the vehicle camera systems (Sentry Mode: https://www.tesla.com/support/car-security-features).
Here are just a few recent incidents where a Tesla recorded malicious activity:
Recently, here in my own backyard of Colorado, a Tesla recorded a truck damaging another vehicle and that footage has been used to prove the source of damage, both to local Police, as well as the Insurance company.
What could happen when there really are fleets of these vehicles on the road, complete with sensors for detecting relative speed to other objects (cars), along with video?
We all have countless stories of drivers doing stupid things where we have asked ourselves: "How do they get away with this? Why isn't there ever a Police Officer around when they do these things? How many times will they do this before they finally cause an accident?"
Here are a few ideas of how Smart Cars may be able to help, while earning money at the same time.
We all see one every day: the person that is driving 20-50% over the speed limit (I use percentages because that really makes the most sense when trying to determine if a person is negligent or grossly-negligent in their behavior). A Tesla records the driver approaching from the rear, side and front, knows the relational speed and could accurately report that a car was going 60mph in a 40mph zone.
50% over the posted limit. $100 ticket. $10 to the Tesla owner!
Rolling Stop Signs
Say your Tesla is parked in a lot and has visibility to the nearest stop sign. While recording Sentry Mode video, it could also identify vehicles that fail to come to a complete stop. Maybe your car location doesn't capture the license plate, but another Tesla in the same area does. Combine the two datasets with video and you have a clear open and shut case.
This could be amazing for areas that have little police presence, but have lots of speeding cars and children playing, such as local neighborhoods that are off the main streets.
$50 ticket. $2.50 to each Tesla that reported it.
Distracted / Swerving Drivers
While a Tesla is driving down the road keeping track of all vehicles around it, it is not over-the-top to think that it could identify vehicles that are consistently navigating out of their lane or slowing down randomly without braking (drivers commonly take their foot off the gas as they are distracted looking at a phone or other device). A network could track vehicles by plates and after so many reports of this type of driving from a vehicle, a ticket is automatically generated.
The benefit (potential) here is that rather than letting drivers get away with distracted driving consistently over time, they would be notified of their behavior. Hopefully before they eventually do cause an accident.
Tailgaters / Aggressive Drivers
I notice an aggressive or tailgating driver about 25% of the time I drive (I typically have very short drives from home, usually less than 10 miles). Once I saw two cars coming through an active school zone where the car behind was inches from the bumper of the car in front. I noticed because it looked odd, like the car was being towed. As they passed I saw the tailgating driver was giving a double-bird to the driver in front.
Clearly the tailgater didn't even notice it was an active school zone at that time of day and was upset the driver in front was going too slow for them.
These types of incidents could be tracked by multiple cars over time and tickets automatically generated by law enforcement after reviewing the video evidence.
A whole new category of Police Officer could be created that reviews footage from the Tesla fleet and helps verify and issue tickets.
As far as I know, Tesla does not have a pollution sensor on the vehicles today, but if they did, the vehicles could server as roaming pollution detectors for mis-behaving ICE vehicles.
In the U.S., our enforcement of vehicle pollution that exceeds normal levels is probably poor, at best. We do not have the same levels of auto inspection that some other countries have.
Emissions sensors on a Tesla that record the emission levels and record the license plate information would be a straightforward way of identifying vehicles on the road that may be causing excessive environmental harm.
Auto Accidents / Insurance Claims
Why not earn some money from the insurance companies too? Their job of determining fault could be greatly simplified when multiple Tesla report on the accident that was witnessed by their onboard cameras. The he-said, she-said stories could be a thing of the past as video evidence shows the true scenario as it was played out in real-time.
Tesla already has the feature "Honk to record" that will automatically record camera footage if you honk the horn. This is designed to capture surprise incidents on the road, such as when this hammer flew into the windshield of a Tesla:
In the new Gig Economy, why shouldn't our vehicles work for us and help earn money or at least decrease associated costs of ownership? The way we think about cars and trucks is changing, we have to be ready to adapt with them.
Just for fun, here is a compilation of the 10 craziest Tesla Sentry Mode videos of 2019 from Electrek. Enjoy!