The number of cabs per capita in Austin is probably quite reasonable for a city of under a million, but during SXSW, taxis can be difficult to come by, plagued by ridiculous traffic and a surge of carless visitors. So, to make our way from last night's Engadget+gdgt event to our hotel -- a roughly 15-mile drive north of the city center -- we turned to Uber's Android app. Selecting the UberX option, we were told, would net us a free ride, but we were expecting a clunky cab to pull up; instead, we got a brand new Tesla Model S, with a tie-clad chauffeur to match. The driver, we learned, was on loan from Dallas, while the gorgeous all-electric car was likely to quietly roll its way to distant roads following this week's Central Texas geek fest. But we weren't leaving Austin without our ride.
Tesla Model S with UberXSee all photos
SXSW is a largely app and social-based exhibition, but there's been quite a bit of hardware up for discussion this week -- Tesla CEO Elon Musk chatted SpaceX and Tesla for nearly an hour yesterday, after attending a showroom grand opening at The Domain, and even taking a free UberX Tesla ride of his own (in our very same car, no less). The manufacturer is clearly making a big push in Austin -- there are several charging stations located throughout the city, without which this Uber awesome experiment would not have been possible. So, to round out our experience, we dropped by one of those stations, and we even checked out Austin's first Tesla showroom, where a friendly contractor drove a Model S -- indoors -- so we could get a feel for just how quiet this machine really is.
If you're in Austin this week, you can try your luck at UberX roulette in hopes of scoring a Model S (alternatives include vehicles from Rolls-Royce and Mercedes, to name a few). Despite those prestigious options, however, our friendly driver was thrilled to be driving the Tesla -- he even hopped out so we could snap a nighttime shot of him at the vehicle's side, which we emailed off straight away. If you're not here at SXSW, you can get a feel for the experience in our attached gallery -- then, catch that silent showroom drive after the break.
Update: It turns out that the Uber team filmed Mr. Musk's Tesla experience -- you'll find that embedded just below.