There’s a new car coming to town. We know that the car will be powered by an electro motor. But its producer, Faraday Future, maintains secrecy what the potential Tesla-killer will look like. Car watchers might get a first glimpse at early next year’s Consumer Electrics Show in Las Vegas. According to the company, the first cars will be delivered by 2017. Last week it was announced that Faraday Future will build a new plant near Las Vegas, Nevada, close to where Tesla builds its “Gigafactory” to produce batteries.
The company may have a lot more in common with Tesla. Its senior vice president R&D and designer Nick Sampson is a former Tesla-employee. Faraday Future currently employs 400 people, but is expanding fast and looks to employ 500 workers at the end of this year. The new factory would offer room for 4500 more workers, which shows the ambition of the company. To underline the seriousness of its founders, the new factory comes at a cost of $1 billion.
But who is investing this huge sum of money in Faraday Future? That’s another secret. Of course, there’s a lot of speculation. What is known, is that Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting is a key investor of Faraday. Mr. Jia is no. 17 on Forbes’ China Rich List with a net worth of $7.9 billion and is chairman of LeshiTv, one of China’s most popular online video sites. But some even speculate that Faraday is Apple’s secret car project. Mr. Sampson is not interested in gossip. The designer said to German newspaper Handelsblatt that “the company pursues a broad strategy in finding capital”. Mr. Sampson didn’t add much further, only that “luckily we have much more interesting topics to discuss, instead of talking about this boring issue”.
One of these highly interesting topics is the future of mobility. Faraday Future will not be just another car producer, but seeks to offer a mobility solution. The new car will feature autonomous driving. Mr. Jia says this is a major reason why he’s investing in the new Tesla-competitor. “We plan to revolutionize the automobile industry by creating an integrated, intelligent mobility system that protects the earth and improves the living environment of mankind, so that everyone can breathe clean air and enjoy a seamlessly connected lifestyle.” Founder Sampson sees autonomous driving resulting in a lot of potential for the utilization of other services. For example, when a car is driving by itself on the daily commute, its ‘driver’ can watch a movie, working on an email etc. A more revolutionary idea is that users would no longer own the car, but use the car only when they need based on a subscription or on-demand basis.
However, some may find part of Sampson’s ideas terrifying. He also added to Handelsblatt that other companies could benefit enormously from the data the car is providing. The designer is looking for ways to connect search information with the car drive and the activities of the drivers. For example, Starbucks could see when and where people are driving and adapt to this. Hotel reservations could be booked automatically. Normally one would tackle this issue by not allowing the car to share information. But to use the mobility solution, since that’s the key idea behind Faraday: you don’t own a car but use a mobility service, you have to allow the car to share your data. Otherwise the service will be quite expensive. Most car producers earn their money by selling a car at a high fixed price. When using a car on-demand or on a subscription basis, price is likely to be a key factor. Since Faraday Future, as a potential Tesla-killer, is likely to be a luxury car, competitive pricing is only possible when enabling other revenues, read: selling data of its users. This sounds a bit like Big Brother is watching you.
However, there’s still a long road to go before the first Faraday Future car will hit the street. In addition, autonomous driving is not yet fully operational. But another key question remains on the table: how is a new car solving the issue of too much traffic?