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Jan 29, 2014 3:41pm

You have probably seen the billboards, the blogger posts, the banner ads, the news spots, and maybe even the TV commercials (apparently people still watch TV?). Even a faux demonstration of grammarians protesting the gross...

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Jan 08, 2014 2:19pm
<p>Tesla S</p>

Tesla S

Downtown Project has announced that it’s in the process of purchasing 100 Tesla Model S electric vehicles to be used as part of Project 100, a private transportation and ride-share system that aims to reduce area residents’ need for vehicle ownership within our very car-dependent city.

What they don’t say is that the range will be restricted to Fremont Street, with Las Vegas Boulevard on the west and Seventh Street on the east. Basically, picture a merry-go-round of Teslas, powered by serendipity and slowly circling Downtown HQ, stopping occasionally to let passengers off once they’ve reached their destination across the street.

I kid, I kid! That’s not really how it’s going to work. Late April Fool’s joke. Let’s start this over.

Downtown Project has announced that it’s in the process of purchasing 100 Tesla Model S electric vehicles to be used as part of Project 100, a private transportation and ride-share system that aims to reduce area residents’ need for vehicle ownership within our very car-dependent city.

Interestingly, the story was actually broken by Business Insider a couple weeks ago during South by Southwest, but the potentially thunder-stealing news was initially denied (with Tony Hseih replying that he hadn’t actually purchased 100 Teslas, as the deal had yet to be inked), allowing Downtown Project to finally push the news through their own channels this week.

This is big news. First, the purchase will be largest ever order of Teslas by a single entity, so congratulations to Zack Ware of Downtown Project and Elon Musk and crew at Tesla Motors for making the sale. Second, if you live downtown and have the estimated $400 a month to plonk down, there’s a chance you may find yourself driving (or riding in) one before the year is out.

So this is how it’ll work. Once you’re a member of the service, powered by VegasTechFund beneficiary Local Motion (the same team that runs transportation across Google’s sprawling Mountain View campus), you’ll be able to launch the app on your phone and be given multiple options, depending on your location and transportation needs. Alongside the Teslas (both with and without a provided driver), other vehicles will be offered, including shuttle buses for pick-up services and even bicycles for door-to-door travel.

The aim of Project 100 is to serve as a complete replacement for car ownership, providing (nearly) immediate access to (fancy) transportation without the planning and mixed availability often seen with typical car-sharing programs. To meet this goal, Project 100 will launch with “100-plus on-demand drivers, 100-plus shared cars, 100-plus shared bikes, and 100-plus shared shuttle bus stops,” all within the same monthly membership program. That’s a slew of 100s, and those numbers will only grow if the project is successful.

The initial plan calls for what they term a “hub and spoke” system, with most of the vehicles based around a high traffic hub (like, say, Fremont Street), aided by spoke locations throughout downtown and other areas as the service grows.

As a born and raised Las Vegan, I’ll admit, the thought of not owning a car is the sort of fear that strikes deep into one’s soul. But, hell, I’m excited, and if Project 100 can pull this off, along with perhaps introducing more reasonably priced tiers for the less demanding (and less cash flushed) residents of downtown, this could bring our big, spread-out town just a little bit closer together.

Question for the class:

1.) Where will all these vehicles live?

2.) How will the downtown parking landscape change as a result? Once Project 100 launches, will it be easier or more difficult for existing car owners to find a parking space downtown?

3.) How will the infrastructure be handled? Will all electric-car owners be able to refuel at the same stations as those used by Project 100?

4.) When can I drive a Tesla?

CHRIS AINSWORTH is a native Las Vegan and tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter(@driph) or at driph.com.

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