In his recent guest appearance at ARK Invest’s weekly For Your Innovation podcast, Elon Musk stated that Tesla is open to the idea of sharing its Autopilot software with other automakers. While conversing with ARK CIO Cathie Wood and analyst Tasha Keeney, Musk described Tesla’s terms for other carmakers who wish to use Autopilot software, as well as the company’s experiences with other automakers that have looked into adopting the driver-assist system in the past.
Musk maintained that while Tesla is willing to share its software with other companies, other automakers have not been easy to work with. For one, Musk noted that carmakers that showed interest in Autopilot have requested Tesla to change aspects of the software before it can be shared. Such requests, according to Musk, bring an unnecessary addition to Tesla engineering’s overhead.
“Generally, we’ve found that it’s like, it’s not easy to work with traditional automakers. It’s not like; they’re not exactly banging on our doors to work with us. On the patents, they have, that’s very different from say, creating an integrated system. So if there’s an automaker out there that wants to implement this same hardware system as Tesla and use our software, we would be very open to it. But we’re not gonna change it.
“What has happened is that they’d want to work with us, but they’ll say, ‘Oh, but we want you to change the following, like, six things.’ Like, no, because it’s gonna slow us down massively. If you want to use exactly our thing, that’s fine, but they don’t want to use exactly our thing. We’re open to other automakers using our Supercharger Network; we’re open to them using our Autopilot system — they just need to make it work without a ton of overhead to Tesla engineering.”
It is difficult to disagree with Tesla and Elon Musk’s stance with regards to sharing Autopilot with other automakers. Despite not being a full self-driving suite, Autopilot is arguably one of the most advanced driver-assist systems available in the market today, rivaled only by Cadillac’s Super Cruise, which is only operational in far more limited areas. As such, Elon Musk’s hesitation with requests for Autopilot changes is understandable, considering that such endeavors would end up wasting resources that could otherwise be allocated for the driver-assist suite’s actual improvement.
Tesla’s edge in software among automakers is pretty evident at this point, as exhibited by the shortcomings of some premium electric vehicles that have been unveiled by experienced carmakers. The Jaguar I-PACE, for one, is an otherwise excellent EV, but the vehicle is bogged down by its software, as seen in its relatively slow infotainment system and its average battery management. Last year, reports also emerged that the Audi e-tron’s homologation in Europe got delayed due to issues with its software.
It is easy to state that Tesla, as a relative newcomer to the auto industry, is yet to master the traditional aspects of car-making. But when it comes to systems such as Autopilot, it is difficult to argue against the Silicon Valley-bred company, whose vehicles invoke a sense of luxury through a deep integration of software and hardware. With this in mind, experienced automakers and startup electric car companies would best be advised to take Tesla up on its offer, particularly as the electric car maker is seemingly making steady progress towards its goal of attaining full self-driving in the near future.
Listen to Elon Musk’s recent segment in ARK Invest’s FYI podcast in full here.