Recode Decode – Elon Musk

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Key Takeaways
  • During the Tesla Model 3 production ramp, Elon, and everyone at Tesla, was working 100 hour weeks
    • Elon says he personally might have hit 120 hours some weeks
    • On a normal week, he’ll typically work 80-90 hours
  • Elon estimates Tesla will get to full self-driving cars next year
  • SpaceX is still aiming for Mars by 2024
  • The first Boring Company test tunnel is almost done
  • Tesla might make an electric bike
Intro
Twitter
  • “I tweet interesting things as they come to me, with not much of a filter”
  • Most of Elon’s Twitter activity is done while he is at home
  • Elon has to be slightly careful about what he tweets (SEC rules etc.)
    • It can’t be something that causes a substantial movement in the stock during business hours…without someone getting mad
  • “I look at Twitter as a way to learn things and stay in touch with what’s happening. It feels like dipping into the flow of consciousness of society.”
The Press
  • “My regard for the press has dropped quite dramatically”
    • “The amount of untruthful stuff that’s written, is unbelievable”
  • The press needs to be “honest, truthful, research their articles, and correct things when they’re false…which they don’t do”
  • “These people are not journalists, they are ad salesman”
  • Elon has a strong interest in the truth
    • “Physics is very demanding. If you get it wrong, the rocket will blow up. Truth in engineering and science, is very important.”
2018 for Elon
  • Elon did a very emotional interview with the New York Times
  • “It’s been a very difficult year”
  • Elon says the Tesla Model 3 production ramp was “excruciatingly difficult”
    • “People have no idea how much pain everyone at Tesla went through, including myself; it was excruciating”
  • The history of car companies in America is terrible
    • The only ones that haven’t gone bankrupt are Tesla and Ford
    • “It is incredibly difficult to survive as a car company” – especially as a start up car company
    • “It is APSURD that Tesla is alive right now”
      • How are they alive? – “Excruciating effort. 100 hours weeks, by everyone at Tesla.”
        • Elon says he personally might have hit 120 hours some weeks
      • There was no other choice – without those 100 hours weeks, Tesla would have died
  • “This year felt like 5 years of aging. It was the worst year of my entire career – insanely painful.”
  • Elon says things are back to normalish now – he only works 80-90 hours weeks 
    • “80 is pretty sustainable”
  • He has been taking Ambien to help him sleep (this helps shut his mind off)
Tesla
  • The success of Tesla is by far the biggest forcing function for getting other car companies into electric cars
    • “It’s very important for the future of the world. It’s very important for all life on earth. If we do not save the environment, we are all damned.”
    • “It blows my mind we have all these social justice warriors driving around in diesel cars”
  • Tesla is also facilitating the use of solar energy (to generate the electricity – and batteries to store the solar energy) which is used to power their cars
    • “Without Tesla, there would still be a transition to sustainable energy, but it would take much longer.”
    • Elon estimates that Tesla has advanced the movement to sustainable energy by 5-10 years
  • Tesla has roughly 10,000 suppliers (for all their parts)
    • They have to place orders, based on how many cars they think they’ll build, roughly 6 months before final assembly
    • If you don’t actually make the car – you have all those costs, without income
    • So if anything happens to stall out the production process (if ANYTHING slows or goes wrong with the suppliers, or thousands of internal processes)…you can’t make cars
More on Tesla
  • They’re making 5,000 Model 3s per week, but hope to bump this number up to 6,000, then 7,000
  • There’s a new navigation feature called Drive on NAV
    • With this, you can enter in an address, and from highway onramp to highway offramp, the car will change lanes by itself, go from one highway to the next, and will overtake a slow car
    • It’s basically integrating auto pilot mode with navigation
  • Each Tesla has 8 cameras (3 forward, 2 on each side, and 3 in the rear)
    • One of the big challenges involves improving the neural net (so improving image recognition), to recognize all types of objects from all 8 cameras
    • “Eyes are basically just cameras. All creatures on earth navigate with cameras.”
  • “The key thing for convincing regulators that self-driving cars are okay, is to show billions of miles, with a much better statistical significance in safety than human drivers”
  • “I don’t really think much about competitors. I just try to make sure our cars are as good as possible, with the best engineering and manufacturing talent in the world”
  • “I would be very surprised if any of the other car companies beat us in getting to full self-driving”
    • Elon estimates Tesla will get to full self-driving next year
  • Tesla does’t do any advertising – all they rely on is the quality of the product
Tesla Finances
  • Elon thinks Tesla will be cash flow positive for all quarters going forward
    • For that reason, he doesn’t think they need any more investments
    • He also doesn’t think Tesla needs to go private
An Electric Jet?
  • “A supersonic vertical take off and landing electric jet would be interesting to do at some point, but my head would definitely explode if I tried to do that right now”
  • Elon says he’s been thinking about the design for this, for 9 years
The Future for Tesla
  • “I think Tesla has the most exciting upcoming product line up of any company in the world”
  • What’s planned for the future?
    • Model Y – a mid size SUV
      • This will be the fastest sports car on every dimension (fastest acceleration, fastest top speed, best handling etc.)
      • Elon is personally most excited about this
      • “It’s going to be a futuristic, cyber punk, Blade Runner pick up truck. It’s going to be awesome.”
      • “I don’t know if a lot of people will buy this pick up truck or not, but I don’t care”
    • They are almost done with the development of the solar tile roof
    • “We have a large product on the stationary storage side, that will be very compelling for utility customers”
      • Unfortunately, Elon couldn’t talk much more about it
  • There are no plans to make an electric plane
  • The probability of death, while riding a motorcycle compared to driving a car, is 25x
    • For this reason, Elon doesn’t plan on making any sort of Tesla motorcycle
SpaceX
  • “This year has been great for SpaceX”
  • SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy Rocket – the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of 2
  • They launched the Version 5 (Elon says after this “technically version 7) of Falcon 9
  • They were able to refly a rocket 3 times
  • Next year, they plan to launch astronauts to the space station
    • This will be the first time a vehicle from the U.S. launches astronauts into orbit, since 2010
  • They are aiming for Mars, by 2024
    • Elon isn’t sure if it will be a manned mission
    • You can only do a launch to Mars every 2 years
The Space Force
  • Elon likes the idea
  • People thought the Air Force was a dumb idea before it was created
    • “I think it will become obvious we should have a space force too”
How does Elon look at Blue Origin?
  • “I think it’s great Jeff is spending a lot of money on space exploration”
  • “I think they’ll encounter some challenges getting to orbit. It’s remarkably difficult getting to orbit, but he has the resources to overcome them.”
The Boring Company
  • “No matter how rich you are, everyone can get caught in traffic” – Kara
  • An excerpt from these Podcast Notes 
    • Elon has a “hobby company” called The Boring Company
    • It started as a joke, and then they decided to make it real, and dig a tunnel under LA as a traffic fix
      • Elon has lived in LA for 16 years and the traffic has always been horrible
      • So maybe the tunnel will help – “Maybe it will be successful, maybe it won’t”
      • This tunnel will actually be very safe during an earthquake
        • Earthquakes are essentially a surface thing – like waves on an ocean
        • The tunnel is constructed with “interlocking segments with double seals – like a snake exoskeleton”
          • Even when the ground moves, the tunnel will shift with the ground, like an underground snake.
      • Elon plans to build multiple tunnel levels – “You can have 100 levels of tunnel, no problem”
        • “You can go further down with tunnels, than you can go up with buildings. You can go 10,000 feet down if you want.”
  • The first tunnel is in Hawthorne, CA
  • Over time, Elon expects to create a network of tunnels under greater LA, with many levels
    • “You could go down 100 levels if you wanted to”
    • The deepest mines are deeper than the tallest buildings are tall
  • Elon tells some puns
    • “Tunnels are really so underappreciated”
    • “They have no place to go but down”
  • The Hawthorne test tunnel is almost finished 
    • Elon estimates it cost $10 million to build (it’s about a mile long)
    • There is an opening party on December 10th
  • Side note – for subways in the US, the per mile cost has been about $1 billion/mile
Wrapping Up
  • “For some reason I feel optimistic about the future”
    • “My current gut feeling is weirdly optimistic”
  • “I wish people wouldn’t yell at each other quite so much. I wish there was less hate.”
  • If Elon could redo anything this year, what would he redo?
    • “I probably would not have tweeted some of the things I tweeted, or got into some of the online fights I got into.”
  • Elon says electric scooters “lacks dignity”
    • But Tesla might make an electric bike
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