By Morgan M. Hurley | Contributing Editor
[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series as we follow the progress of this start-up.]
I’m a daily user of public transportation, I make great use of the Lyft app on my phone and I take Amtrak north to Los Angeles on a regular basis.
So when I recently became aware through Facebook of a new long-distance ride-sharing service made available to San Diegans called Tesloop, I was intrigued.
I read that Tesloop could take me from San Diego to LAX for less money and much more convenience than a regional plane and that it could take me to destinations north over the upcoming holidays while I slept, relaxed or continued to work.
What got me even more excited was that the Tesloop ride-share service was using Tesla vehicles, so I immediately reached out to find out more.
If you don’t know what a Tesla is, or you’ve never heard of its founder, Elon Musk, you need to start paying closer attention. Teslas are the cars of the future, but they are here right now.
Autonomous vehicles can navigate and drive themselves without human input. Tesla vehicles are semi-autonomous, meaning that while they still require a human at the wheel, they can perform certain functions on their own, like changing lanes, slowing down or accelerating in traffic and keeping cars around them a specific distance away.
It is the direction we are going, for sure, and Tesla is one of the first automotive manufacturers to go full bore in that direction.
They have three models: Model S (sedan), Model X (SUV) and the newly released Model 3 (a very small sedan). Teslas are all-wheel-drive and all-electric, and have a huge 17-inch LCD pad-style computer mounted on the dash; it literally updates just like your iPhone does. Their driving range is approximately 250 miles on one charge and they have a supercharger network that is quite impressive.
I got my first ride in a Tesla about six months ago; Bob Nelson, former San Diego port commissioner and a member of our local LGBT community, gave me a ride home in his Model S. I was immediately enamored with the technology but it is well beyond my reach.
Founded two years ago in Los Angeles by 18-year-old Haydn Sonnad — yes, 18 — Tesloop does more than just give people rides between destinations; it gives Tesla or other sustainable vehicle enthusiasts an up-close-and-personal view of these incredible cars of the future.
It is important to note that Tesloop’s only association with Tesla is that they buy and use their cars for their ride-sharing service.
They currently have an eight-vehicle fleet of Model X vehicles, with more to come. Tesla’s website calls the Model X the “safest, quickest, most capable sport utility vehicle in history.”
San Diego Tesloop currently has two Model X cars, which at the hands of their “pilots,” do four roundtrip routes to Los Angeles per day.
Each vehicle has a total of six seats built in; however, only four are sold per trip. Obviously, the driver takes up one of those seats and an additional seat in the back is left down to accommodate luggage. Speaking of luggage, you can really only take something the size of a carry-on in addition to your personal bag, so plan accordingly.
Due to the number of miles the cars rack up going back and forth between Los Angeles and San Diego, Tesloop is able to share valuable information with Tesla, like the vehicles’ interaction — with other cars and as well as their pilots — and data acquired about how the cars operate under various road conditions under such high mileage.
As far as I’m concerned, it is a great marketing arrangement because once you get into one of these cars, you’re going to want one.
Sonnad originally started Tesloop with a Los Angeles to Las Vegas route, which first began with friends and then friends of friends who wanted to travel back and forth to Vegas. That “loop” was put on hiatus in April 2017, but may eventually return.
Current “loops” are San Diego to Orange County, San Diego to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Palm Springs. Future routes identified on their website as potential expansion cities and/or loops are Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Francisco, Phoenix, Tuscon, Dallas, and San Diego to Palm Springs.
Seats cost you $29–$79, and the price is based on day of week, time of day, seats in the car, proximity to holiday, etc., but you’ll not pay over $79.
While this service isn’t yet point-to-point, the pick-up locations in San Diego are pretty convenient. I live in Point Loma and my pick up was Old Town.
A “concierge” will contact you about an hour before your trip to make sure everything is engaged. Once you arrive at your “pick up” point, you are welcomed by the friendly “pilot,” who knows your name, will take your luggage and open the wing doors for you.
Once inside the car, you slide into an extremely comfortable seat, and have access to the following: free WiFi, complimentary healthy snacks and drinks, customized streaming music, head rests/neck pillows, noise cancelling headphones, and USB charging cables.
Unlike the many hassles that we encounter these days with plane travel, Tesloop “swoops” you up, plugs you in and lets you settle in for the ride.
I took the route to Los Angeles and back in the front seat of “Ruby,” the red Model X in their San Diego fleet. My pick-up point was the Hilton Garden Inn in Old Town, then we picked up two other individual riders in La Jolla.
Michael, our driver, spared no time in explaining the vehicle and its capabilities to us. He said his two interests are sustainable technologies and finance, and those meshed together so well here, he recently walked away from his job as a bank relationship manager to be a pilot for Tesloop.
Once the other two riders were settled in, we all participated in a Skype call with the concierge, Myles, who welcomed us and gave us some safety information and guidelines. He mentioned the car’s five-star rating in every category, its eight surround cameras giving the vehicle 360-degree vision, thanked us for traveling green and let us know we were saving 150 pounds of carbon emission with our one-way trip. There is an emphasis in safety, but then these are the safest cars on the road.
My ride to LA was a non-stop social experience, as there was so much to see and get involved in from the front seat, and our driver was very engaging.
My return trip was an LAX pickup, and I had been reserved a middle seat this time, to experience that aspect of the ride.
For this route, I was on my computer and using the noise-canceling headphones the entire time, which made it a completely different experience than the one where I was engaging with the driver and the riders most of the trip. Both trips were enjoyable, however, for different reasons.
While they’ve only been in San Diego since the spring, but earlier this year, Tesloop was already given the Global Citizenship Award from the United Nations Association of San Diego, located in Balboa Park, for their work to combat climate change.
There is so much more to tell about this company and experience, that I’ve decided to make this a series.
If you are interested in taking your own Tesloop trip based on what I’ve told you so far, visit tesloop.com and get started planning your holiday travel. I can’t wait to try it again.
— Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.