A Tesla Roadster car speeding along a highway.
Tesla

If you have more money to spend on cars than many people spend on houses, Tesla’s upcoming Roadster looks better and better all the time. Already a sleek and sporty car, Elon Musk wants to up the ante with a feature that makes autonomous driving look tame—rocket-powered hover mode. Yes, really.

It can be hard to tell when Elon’s joking, but on plenty of occasions, he’s made plans everyone assumed was a joke that turned out real. Whether it’s the Boring company flamethrower, naming his car models “sexy” (Tesla S, 3, X, and Y), or a hovering Tesla, Musk follows through when people think he won’t.

When Musk announced the specs for the upcoming Roadster, they were already outlandish. The car promises 0-60 MPH in 1.9 seconds, 250+ MPH top speed, a 620-mile range, and a starting price of $200,000. But what if you wanted more? Well, Musk says you’ll have an option to add on a “SpaceX package” that uses “~10 small rocket thrusters” to get even more performance out of the vehicle.

And that’s where “hover mode” comes into play. In 2019, someone tweeted to Musk asking for a hover test for a Tesla following the SpaceX Starhopper hover test. Musk responded we could see one by the end of the following year. That didn’t happen, obviously, but Musk hasn’t given up.

In an interview with Joe Rogan, Musk says Tesla is working on a hover mode for the Roadster:

We are going to throw some rocket technology in that car. I want it to hover. We got to figure out how to make it hover without killing people.

It’s good to hear “not killing people” is a crucial safety feature! When Rogan asked for more details, Musk went on to say:

I thought maybe we could make it hover but not too high. You make it hover like a meter above the ground or something like that. Something where if you plummet, you blow the suspension, but you are not going to die. Maybe six feet. You probably just put a height limit on it.

Six feet is pretty high and doesn’t sound all that safe. Sure the car could survive that drop, but not anything under it. And given that plenty of people are less than six feet tall (especially children), that’s pretty concerning. And Musk says you’ll be able to drive in hover mode:

You’d go pretty fast, but you are going to be time-limited. It’s going to use a super high-pressure air bottle. The standard version will have a back row with two small seats, like child seats in a Porsche or something, or if you get the SpaceX option package, then in that place where those two seats is a high-pressure carbon overwrapped pressure vessel, something at around 10,000 psi, and a bunch of thrusters.

Elon Musk does tend to overpromise and underdeliver (see the part about a Tesla hover test by the end of 2020), so it’s possible we never will see a hover mode. But he seems serious and considering this is a car for the wealthy, for now, we’ll leave it at “never say never.”

Source: The Joe Rogan Experience





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