It’s hard to get excited about ride-sharing in a run-of-the-mill vehicle. Ride-sharing in a Tesla, however—now that is something that revs our engines.
This is why we’ve got a lead foot for Tesloop, a start-up that shuttles up to four passengers in a Model S or a Model X SUV between 30 cities in Southern California. The Santa Monica–based company recently added Phoenix and Las Vegas to its list of destinations. Most of the trips cost less than $99 one-way; included in this price are complimentary snacks, as well as access to amenities such as noise-cancelling headphones, laptop trays, Wi-Fi, and neck pillows.
Rides can be booked online, at Tesloop.com, or by phone.
What makes the company fascinating is that its founder, Haydn Sonnad, is only 17. According to an article on Tnooz.com (written by my buddy Juliana Shallcross), Sonnad founded the company after his 16th birthday, aiming to pay for a Tesla lease and insurance coverage by driving people around.
As the Tnooz story explains, Sonnad also needed venture capital to make the plan work. The founding team, which includes Haydn’s father (he serves as the company CEO), received seed funding from Clearstone Ventures. Sonnad also lined up angel investments from Facebook, Allen & Co, and Tesla Motors.
Like all Teslas, the Model S and the Model X SUV can go some 200 miles at interstate speeds on a full charge; then they need to recharge, which takes about 30 minutes when done through a Tesla Supercharger. While this setup means long road trips take longer (L.A. to Las Vegas takes five hours with Tesloop rather than the usual four), the benefit is that the rides produce zero emissions and therefore have a minuscule carbon footprint.
Drivers—Tesla calls them pilots so Tesloop does, too—go through a formal training program before they can drive the cars, including special classes in Tesla’s autopilot function. Drivers also undergo background and screening tests.
Currently, Tesloop does not have permits to pick up passengers at major airports; instead the company has developed conveniently located pick-up and drop-off points in all of the cities it serves.
Last month, Tesloop celebrated 200,000 miles in the Model S.
Sonnad has said that in the next few years he hopes to expand to more cities where Tesla Superchargers exist—particularly other destinations in SoCal and in Arizona, Northern California, and Washington.
This author (and Vegas regular) is particularly interested in the Los Angeles to Las Vegas route; imagine how different Swingers would have been if the guys had rolled to Sin City in a Tesla.
No, these rides aren’t limos, but they certainly are traveling in style.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications includingTIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur,and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com