Zappos CEO rethinks urban transportation in Vegas with 100 Tesla Model S cars

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars revitalizing downtown Las Vegas into a tech, startup and culture hub. And now the head of the online shoe retailer is ushering in an ambitious urban transportation project called Project 100. It could make downtown Las Vegas free of personal cars, using a combination of on-demand Tesla Model S cars (100 of them), shared bikes (100 or those), shared neighborhood electric vehicles (yes, 100 of those, too) and buses (you can guess it, 100 shuttle stops).
Sound ambitious? That’s because it is. Members of Hsieh’s Downtown Project are being asked to get rid of their personal cars and start using the Project 100 transportation mobility system app when it becomes available later this year or next. They’re starting an invite-only beta program in the coming months, and when the transportation system is fully deployed it’s supposed to hit all those 100 numbers.
Green Overdrive: We ride a Tesla Model S Beta! thumbnail
Here’s how it works. A Project 100 member opens the mobile app and is offered a number of choices based on their location and the location of the nearest transportation option. A member could see:

  • 1). An on-demand Tesla Model S that can be driven to you and pick you up. Like an Uber but with a subscription and a Model S.
  • 2). A bike parked near you that you can unlock and pedal to an appointment that’s several blocks away.
  • 3). A bus shuttle stop near you for longer trips.
  • 4). A neighborhood (slow and low range) electric vehicle that you can unlock and drive and park at your desired location.

Details are scarce about how much this would cost to build or how much the monthly subscription would cost users. The customer pricing will be based on zones in Vegas and tiered plans.
The Downtown Project calls its plan “the ultimate in collaborative consumption,” and the FAQ says that the team looked at currently available options like Uber, Zipcar, and public transportation, but wanted to build an entirely new option. That’s in keeping with the spirit of the Downtown Project, which is using the clean slate of downtown Vegas to create a new type of community and urban living system.
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Project 100 is working with a startup called Local Motion, which is out of Stanford and is building the software and hardware to share the bikes and cars and manage the reservation system. Local Motion is also working with Google for fleet sharing on its campus. Originally Local Motion was developing the electric vehicles that fleets would share (in addition to the software) but it looks like the company has moved more away from that model.
Isolated and defined communities are the optimal places to try new, outside-the-box, and just plain wacky new forms of urban transportation. San Francisco has actually been a pretty good place to launch an alternative transportation startup in recent years, due to the city’s early adopters and lack of parking and good public transportation. Scoot Networks has been building an electric scooter sharing network here, and Ridepal has been developing Google-style commuter buses for companies (both Greenstart companies).
Better Place has focused on Israel for its electric car sharing and battery swapping network, and found mixed success (to put it politely). Masdar City has built electric public transportation pods, though I’ve also heard that not many people use these. New transportation doesn’t always catch on. Downtown Vegas and Project 100 could be an interesting option, though success will be based on how attractive the service is for the customers and how much the network ultimately costs.
Check out our coverage of the tech revitalization of downtown Vegas: