At Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk presented highlights and answered questions, providing information about the company’s future. Both challenges and advantages were shared. Two components of Tesla’s future, described the two most strategically important areas, were spoken of as both challenges and advantages: battery production and autonomous driving.
With regard to battery production, Elon reminded the audience in his presentation that to build electric vehicles at the scale Tesla envisioned, they would need more battery production per year than the entire world was currently producing for all needs combined. From this challenge arose the Gigafactory. Building of the Shanghai, China Gigafactory, the second of its kind after Nevada, is well underway. Despite those efforts, Elon punctuated discussions about future vehicle offerings by saying that product roll out will be according to the available scale of battery production. This challenge will be true of not just Tesla, but any automaker now that wants to mass produce electric vehicles. A future investor event focusing on battery production highlights its importance.
The presentation included Tesla’s promising advances in autonomous driving, including touting the computing prowess of their newest version of full self driving hardware. While answering a public question about the delayed release of Tesla’s Advance Summon feature however, Elon shared a few tidbits that touched upon some of the complexities facing the development of such technology. With a slightly joking tone, he followed up complements of the feature by saying “There’s a lot of complexity in parking lots, it turns out.” He described parking lots as mazes with a lot of obstacles such as moving cars and moving people. He went on to say that if a vehicle is too “paranoid” it won’t move and trailed off when considering the implications of the alternative of being too “aggressive.”
These challenges are not unique to parking lots, but rather indicative of the tremendous complexities that will have to be programmed for a car to be able to drive independently. Speaking about autonomous driving in general during the audience question portion of the event, Elon described the possibility of “gaming the system” in order to allow a car to autonomously drive a particular route successfully. He mentioned that this would not be a general solution, since route changes or construction would make heavily programming the details of that exact route inappropriate as a general solution. He went on to discuss things like true road space, free space that can be used in case of emergency and boundaries like curbs and road edges. “These little details are very important,” he said, reminding the audience of the many challenges ahead.
Tesla shared achievements during the event as well. Customer-centric initatives include robust changes in mobile service so that things like bumper and other minor collision repairs can be done on location, without the need to visit a service center. The CEO admitted shortcomings of the current experiences of owners needing collision repair, and described Tesla’s first mobile bumper repair as taking “less than an hour” compared to the “weeks or months” typical for collision repair. One reason the company aims to enhance their in-house offerings for body work is to prevent potentially excessive costs charged by third party service as well as long wait times.
Version 3 of the Tesla Super Charger will be capable of adding as many as 75 miles of driving range to a vehicle in 5 minutes. The company has plans to continue to expand the network, including in places such as Canada and Alaska.
Speaking on future vehicle production, Elon shared that the company expects volume production of the Model Y crossover late next year, and the hope that they will unveil a pickup truck this summer. They are also hopeful the Semi will be in production toward the end of next year.
Describing the Tesla pickup truck, Elon said “I think it’s the coolest car I’ve ever seen,” but also admitted that “not everyone may share that opinion.” Perhaps because, as he said, it “will look like it came out of a sci-fi movie.” Looks aren’t the only thing Tesla shared about the truck. Towing capacity is expected to meet or exceed that of the Ford F-150, the top selling vehicle in the US. The goal is for the Tesla truck to be “more functional than the F-150” and “a better sports car than a basic [Porsche] 911.”
Following the event, share prices of Tesla ($TSLA) were up nearly 4% after hours.