Full autonomy will arrive sooner than expected, says Tesla CEO

Tesla Autopilot in 'Shadow Mode' will pit human vs computer

During the Tesla Motors earnings call on Wednesday, Elon Musk told analysts and investors, “Full autonomy is going to come a hell of a lot faster than anyone thinks it will. And I think what we’ve got under development is going to blow people’s minds. Blows my mind.”

Full autonomy will reduce fatalities

He bemoaned the amount of attention being paid to the first fatality while using Autopilot. Even though there are more than 32,000 highway deaths a year in America — a number that has gone up recently as cheap gasoline has led to an increase in the number of miles driven — the media, regulators, and even Congress have been talking non-stop about the death of Joshua Brown on May 7.

“Tesla can’t sneeze without there being a national headline,” Musk said. He promised that work on full autonomous driving would continue with the intention of making it available as soon as possible. It will make the Tesla Minibus possible, an idea that was contained in Musk’s Master Plan Part Deux when it was revealed last month.

Tesla to make own inverter

Even though the Tesla/SolarCity merger is not yet a done deal, Musk is behaving as if it is inevitable. A critical piece of any solar power system is the inverter. It converts the direct current supplied by solar panels into the alternating current used by homes and businesses. It is essential to the Tesla Powerwall residential storage battery system.

“There’s no question Tesla’s going to do an integrated inverter. It’s the logical thing to do,” said Musk during the conference call. “Most people don’t even know what an inverter is.”

Until this point, Tesla has been using inverters supplied by third parties, but Musk has a preference for bringing as many components of his products in-house, where design and supplies can be tightly controlled.

Climbing out of “factory hell”

Musk told analysts on Wednesday that Tesla “just managed to climb out of hell” in June but now the “production line is humming.”  The company reported weekly production stood at 2,000 cars by the end of the quarter. Musk expects that number to increase to 2,200 cars a week in Q3 and rise higher still to 2,400 cars a week by the end of the year.

Burned by persistent delays from suppliers for the Model X, he sent a warning to suppliers involved with the production of the Model 3, saying “suppliers who fall short will be cut out of the picture.”

EPS disappoint

Tesla reported a lost of $1.06 per share for Q2, which was considerably more than most analysts expected. The stock was down immediately after the earnings call but quickly rebounded in after hours trading. The stock reaction is “another lesson that Tesla’s stock doesn’t trade over earnings per share,” said analyst Ben Kallo of Robert W. Baird & Co. “Automotive gross margin improved, and the commentary about demand helps with the stock as well.”

As much as Elon dislikes the attention being paid to Tesla because of the death of Joshua Brown, his company gets more press attention than all other car makers combined — a critical part of Tesla’s plan to market its cars without the benefit of traditional advertising.

That flood of news about Tesla, which focuses mostly on the consistently buoyant projections from Musk himself, is what keeps the company’s stock price high. People aren’t buying today’s performance. They are buying the future. If you believe everything Elon Musk is saying, that future looks very bright indeed.

Source: Bloomberg, Photo credit: Electric Jen

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