Despite the name, ride share company Tesloop is not part of Elon Musk’s Tesla empire. Instead, the startup was the brainchild of a 16-year-old who wanted a Tesla. Fresh from his road test, Haydn Sonnad tried to convince his father Rahul Sonnad that he could offset the costs of the lease and insurance by using the vehicle as a shuttle to run a weekly service between LA and Vegas.
After his son seeded the idea, Sonnad –now Tesloop’s CEO—opened shop in 2015 with funds from Clearstone Ventures and several angel investors.
Today, Tesloop runs between Orange County, San Diego and Palm Springs, reallocating vehicles from Las Vegas to the latter two California destinations last April. The company’s expansion into new markets is limited to destinations equipped with Tesla charging stations, but that hasn’t slowed customer growth. According to Sonnad, the business has amassed 12,000 customers, 60% of who are repeat users.
“We feel there’s no limit to the demand and we drive each of our cars 17,000 monthly."
These high-mile loops run about $50 to $60 each way, which Sonnad calls roughly comparable to an Amtrak ticket, about a third the cost of Uber on these routes and significantly less than flying.
While door-to-door service isn’t available –instead, passengers are assigned pick-up and drop-off points—customers have to reserve space ahead of time. But the varied clientele opts for Tesloop for varied reasons that range from cost and TSA avoidance to a better schedule of service than Amtrak for a given day.
Aside from the prestige of traveling in a Tesla Model S or Model X, clients also receive complimentary amenities including wifi, use of device chargers and headphones and healthy snacks. The cars travel on Tesla’s self-driving autopilot feature, but Tesloop also assigns a “pilot” or driver to each vehicle for added safety.
Currently, Tesloop owns or leases its fleet, but Sonnad plans to grow that too and in turn, expand the overall business. His strategy is to supplement his current fleet with a “sharing-economy” model by which Tesla owners can rent their cars to Tesloop when they’re not using the vehicle and Tesloop can either incorporate it into the shuttle program for an allotted duration of time or rent it to another driver.
“If I can unlock it, track it and charge it, I can put it into a shared fleet and super efficiently allocate it to other people based on supply and demand. I think the model should be that all cars, all drivers and all passengers can dynamically configure.”
Sonnad believes that a single shared fleet that everyone puts their vehicles into and in which everyone pools their vehichles so they can be seamlessly swapped in a single system, controlled by a single app, will come to fruition in this decade.
“The whole approach to cars will be radically transformed during the next two years because the capabilities of a Tesla car are unprecedented as far as the cars being remotely managed."
The model is based on the fact that Tesla vehicles can be controlled and tracked via the internet. So with a programmed feed, command and credentials, it’s possible to view their owners’ driving habits, the vehicles’ current location and battery life as well as to set maximum speeds. Moreover, there’s less wear-and-tear on these cars.
“There are no fluids or gaskets so we can drive high miles and they’re increasingly autonomous and that will only getter better and better. The miles are really low-cost because the car is electric.”
Tesla owners can still sign-up with Tesloop, which Sonnad says is still undergoing security audits that will allow the company to incorporate the new business model.
In the meantime, Haydn –who’s spent his post-high-school-graduation year working with Tesloop’s marketing, business development and customer service teams—is now 18 and awaiting his college acceptance letters in the hopes of starting a university program next autumn.