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Ridehail Using Only Tesla Cars Arrives in Nashville and Looks at Options to Expand Fleet

The company, Nashville Electric Transportation (NET), began operating in March with its own app, and currently has a fleet of six Model S vehicles, which the company bought. NET is now looking to expand its fleet, possibly through leasing new Tesla vehicles, Will Hoge, the founder of NET told Mobility Finance.

The company currently operates a dual on-demand ridehail, as well as a traditional livery service, meaning that driver-operators work a designated shift like limousine drivers do, but customers can still request a vehicle via the app for an immediate ride, Hoge said.

The minimum charge is $8, and the cost rises for both distance and time, but a customer can also rent the car with a driver included, for $65 an hour.

NET also partnered up with Uber Black and Lyft Premier, where the company provides its fleet for use on those platforms, by registering its drivers and setting up accounts through Uber and Lyft; drivers are paid through NET, with a breakdown of all three platforms, Hoge said.

“We can come to them [Uber/Lyft] as a privately-owned company and say, ‘We can provide you guys with a service that very few people in your platform have,’” he said.

In the short term, NET plans to grow its fleet of Model S and Model X vehicles through purchases and possibly leasing directly from Tesla. “If and when leasing becomes the way we go, it would enable us to keep things rotating through. ‘Older’ vehicles would then become training vehicles for new drivers,” Hoge said.

In the long term, there are plans to expand to other cities, and eventually tap into the self-driving capabilities of Tesla vehicles, when that technology becomes available on the vehicles and is legal to drive on the roads.

“Our whole thought process…is to provide a world class service, but in the next three or five years — or however long it takes — as self-driving does become the norm, we want to have a fleet of cars that with a click of the mouse [can become autonomous], and we are the only one that has the entire self-driving fleet ready to go,” he said. And it’s not just the fleet: as autonomous cars make their way to public roads, ‘human’ drivers will still be present in those vehicles, at least for the starters. Since NET’s drivers exclusively use Tesla vehicles, they will be fully trained (and thus trustworthy) to operate such a vehicle.

Tesla has previously stated, however, that using self-driving capabilities for commercial purposes will only be “permissible on the Tesla Network.” Details about that will come next year. NET’s use of Tesla vehicles for ridehailing purposes is not uncommon, however, as there are other corporate customers who are using Tesla vehicles for ridesharing purposes, the company told Mobility Finance. Therefore it is uncertain whether NET will have to establish a formal partnership with the automaker to operate outside of the Tesla Network, join it, or be bought by Tesla.

“I am confident that when self-driving becomes legal, NET will be among the first fleets to be able to offer our customers that service, while also maintaining the traditional driver model we have already established,” Hoge said.

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