Elon Musk is putting Tesla all-in on Robotaxi


Riding the AI wave, Elon Musk is betting Tesla’s business on its self-driving effort, including Robotaxi, at the cost of other programs critical to its core business.

At the same time, the CEO is threatening not to build AI products at Tesla.

Tesla has been investing in autonomous driving for years, but you can argue that it has had little positive impact on its business to date. For the most part, Tesla’s business, financially speaking, is selling electric vehicles, specifically Model Y.

The automaker has been very good at that, with Model Y becoming the best-selling vehicle in the world.

You would think that Tesla would continue that way and build a broader lineup of electric vehicles to continue to grow, but it didn’t play out that way.

As we previously reported, Cybertruck was a mistake for Tesla. The program could still prove successful, but Tesla’s focus on the vehicle, which is somewhat limited in terms of volume, with 250,000 units per year planned, has resulted in Tesla’s current “gap in growth waves.”

Instead of focusing on Tesla’s next-generation vehicles, which are expected to bring the company back to growth, the automaker brought the Cybertruck to market, which is cool, but it won’t meaningfully contribute to the company’s growth.

Tesla going all-in on Robotaxi

Tesla has been hedging its bets with its next-generation vehicles, which are built with a new manufacturing method the automaker calls “unboxed.” The company planned to build two vehicles on the new platform:

  • a model cheaper and smaller than Model 3, sometimes being referred as the “$25,000 Tesla” or “Model 2”
  • Tesla Robotaxi: a new vehicle designed from the ground-up for self-driving.

However, we reported yesterday that we were able to confirm that CEO Elon Musk postponed Tesla’s cheaper model in favor of Robotaxi.

That is a huge bet as Tesla now absolutely needs to solve self-driving in order to keep growing at any significant pace, as it would not have a car program geared toward growth for years otherwise.

Musk said that Tesla would be spending “several billions of dollars” on NVIDIA compute power this year to train its self-driving system.

We reported yesterday that Tesla is aiming to complete a massive data center to train Full Self-Driving at Gigafactory Texas by the end of August. That’s just a few weeks after Tesla plans to unveil its ‘Robotaxi’.

Electrek’s Take

With the postponed cheaper model, Tesla will be looking at a minimum of three years without significant growth if it doesn’t achieve self-driving.

That’s why I am saying that Elon Musk is putting Tesla all-in on self-driving and Robotaxi.

I get it, to a degree. AI is moving at incredible speeds right now, and there’s this feeling that technologies will move a lot faster because of it. Many tech leaders are rushing to link their companies to it.

I’ve had FSD Beta in my car for 2 years now, and it didn’t feel to me like FSD was improving at AI speeds, if at all, but I’ve had v12 for a week now, and I have to admit that this is a meaningful improvement.

It is giving me some hope that Tesla could start improving the system at AI speeds. Potentially.

But with all that said, I think Tesla could have still hedged its bets and developed the cheaper vehicle side-by-side — even if it meant Robotaxi would be a bit behind this new accelerated schedule.

It is still risky.

For Tesla shareholders, it’s also confusing. Elon is taking all this risk, betting everything on AI helping Tesla solve self-driving, saying that “Tesla is now an AI company”, and at the same time, he threatened Tesla shareholders that he would not build AI products at Tesla if he doesn’t 25% control over the company’s shares, which he would have he didn’t sell billions of dollars worth of Tesla shares to buy Twitter.

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