One of Tesla’s main contributions to the world, besides popularizing the electric vehicle, includes its huge leaps and bounds in the artificial intelligence sector. We recently spoke on the phone with Artimatic Technologies President and University of Georgia Professor John Gibbs, who runs the YouTube channel Dr. Know-it-All Knows it All about his coverage of Tesla's growth in AI over the last few years.
Above: (Image: Casey Murphy / EVANNEX).
The conversation ranged in subjects from Tesla, and the Full Self-Driving beta, to how it’s cheaper to own a high-priced EV than a gas car. And if John’s 52,000 subscribers on YouTube weren’t enough to convince us that he’s the real deal, his cool, calm and collected explanations of high-level concepts brought us the rest of the way.
You can read our full Q&A session with John Gibbs of Dr. Know-it-All Knows it All below.
EVANNEX: How did you get your start covering Tesla, AI and SpaceX?
John: So let me go back in time, obviously, Tesla and SpaceX I was interested in since maybe the early 20-teens. I think the Roadster originally, I saw that, and I was like, ‘Oh, that's just a rich people's toy.’ And so it didn't really make much of an impact. But the Model S when that came out, I was like, ‘Wow, I really wish I could afford that,’ you know, still too expensive for a middle-class person, but it was getting down and it really looked like an awesome product.
And around that same time, of course, SpaceX was doing things where they were trying to land rockets and all sorts of really interesting stuff. So I started to pay attention to both companies, and really through that became interested in Elon Musk as a person.
But the original impetus for the YouTube channel itself was I grew up with my family calling me — actually my sister still calls me this — like, ‘pre-Google, Google.’ She was like, ‘before the internet, you were the guy who had all the answers, like a know-it-all.’ [Laughs] This was in late 2019. And so I thought, ‘Well, I'll just do this channel and see what happens.’
I already had another YouTube channel that I've had since 2012, where I do a lot of adventure videos and stuff. We had just gotten back from Mount Everest, and I thought, let's just try this thing and see what happens. And so I started off by basically [having] people ask me questions and me live answering them. You know, just off the cuff and then seeing if I was right or not.
So that was October 2019. It just so happened that in November 2019, Tesla introduced the Cybertruck; they unveiled it. And I did a video on that. It was not nearly as popular as Steven Mark Ryan's video on Cybertruck of Engineering Genius, but it made a big splash. And I thought, ‘Well, heck, this is really interesting. Why not, you know, pursue this.’
And over time, my videos became more and more focused on Tesla's stuff, and SpaceX, and then I also have a degree in artificial intelligence, so that particular part of both SpaceX and Tesla, Tesla in particular, that I've been interested in is the AI aspect, the software aspect of what they're doing, which I find super, super fascinating. So there's a very torturous answer to your question. [Laughs]
EVANNEX: No, that was perfect! Yeah, I think that's super fascinating — how much AI has started to become in this kind of mainstream narrative with Tesla popularizing this idea of like, a car as like a smart vehicle.
John: Yeah, the weird thing is, you know, I'm older and I grew up at least watching reruns of things like the Jetsons, where they had Rosie the Robot and cars that drove them and flew and things like that, too. But it was just always one of those like, ‘Oh, it's a cartoon, it's not going to happen in real life.’ I guess there was also like, Knight Rider in the 1980s. But it was, it was just something that it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, this will happen someday in the future.’
And when I started really digging into what Tesla was doing, I was like, ‘Wait, they're actually gonna do this in my lifetime, it won't be something that's a fantasy, it's gonna be something that will become a reality.’ And that was extremely exciting.
EVANNEX: Any specific highlights or favorite Tesla stories you’ve covered in the past?
John: I think that my favorite things are always related to software, personally. It's just the area that I'm the most familiar with. Now, I love looking at the robotics and I love looking at the factory stuff and the battery chemistry. That's all a learning experience to me, and I I'm very happy to learn. And I love learning about that stuff. But the software aspect of it, and just how complex what they're doing is, and how high stakes it is, is really interesting.
So probably my favorite period of time was multiple videos I did right after AI Day number two. So that was September 30 of 2022. And I was really privileged to be able to go and attend it live. I mean, it was crystallized before because I'd seen it, but to actually talk to the engineers, and all of the stuff I wasn't allowed to record — just talking to all the people was just mind-blowing what they're actually working on.
I became extremely convinced that this was going to be a solved problem in the next couple of years.
Above: Teslabot has WON The RACE Already! Humanoid Robots are Essentially a Solved Problem Now!! AI Day 2 (Video: Dr. Know-it-All Knows it All / YouTube).
EVANNEX: Yeah, it seems like a cool experience to be able to be at an AI Day.
John: Right, or anything Tesla-related. It's pretty cool. [Laughs] To see Elon Musk, but also all the other engineers and everybody. He's not doing all this stuff himself by any means. There is an incredibly large, talented team of people working on these things.
EVANNEX: What are some things you think potential Tesla buyers should know that often get overlooked?
John: I think the biggest thing that people need to look past is the sticker price, and that has become less and less of an issue, especially now with the $7,500 US tax credit, at least for buyers in the United States. We bought our Tesla Model Y in December of 2020. And it was expensive, you know, you're looking at that going like, ‘Whoa, the sticker price of this thing is really high.’
But I did my due diligence beforehand. And we have a Mazda CX-5. And that's about a $30,000 car, so you know, at the time, it was approximately half the cost of the Model Y sticker price. And I ran the numbers for owning each of the cars for five years, and taking account of resale and fuel costs and all of that kind of stuff. And even back in 2020, before the fuel costs went up a lot, after five years, the Model Y was actually a cheaper car to own than a car that cost half as much.
So that's a pretty mind-opening thing. And when I say half as much that was including the Full Self-Driving software. So I think the car was right around $50,000. And the FSD software was another $10,000, so it was just about $60,000. With tax and stuff, it was more than that, but anyway.
So it's very, very close to double the sticker price, but when you did a five-year look at the two of them, the total cost of ownership of an EV is even less than something that the sticker price is half the price. So I think a lot of people miss that. They don't understand how much cheaper it is to own an EV.
EVANNEX: Totally. Yeah, just like you said, on fuel and maintenance costs, we often don't realize driving gas cars how much those things add up.
John: Right, right. And there's a weird little extra thing too, and this may be more saying something about me than anything else, but I absolutely hate gas stations. And the fact that unless I'm on a road trip, I just plug the car in every night and it's just charged up in the morning. You know, it's just, it's something where I never have to think about it. That's really nice. And I never have to go to gas stations.
And even on road trips, it's actually pretty nice, too. People worry about range anxiety. The fact that the computer is so good, we've never had any instances where the car has put us in a bad situation. If I wanted to go visit you guys in southern Florida, I just put in the directions and it says ‘Stop here for 20 minutes, stop here for 15 minutes, stop here for 25 minutes,’ whatever, and then we're there, you know? So you don't think about it, it just drives you. And that's really, really cool.
EVANNEX: Can you tell me about your experience with Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta?
John: Yeah. I got a hold of it in October of 2021. So it had been out for, I think, close to a year, maybe nine or 10 months prior to when I got it. And so I got it with like a very early version 10. And it was good. [Laughs] It was fine. I think my FSD [beta] experience has been that the highway stack — the version that I have, which is not 11 yet, and is still a very old stack — is it works so well.
So my experience is for road trips, that FSD is something that I can't live without, practically anymore, because I go to see my parents and it's about a 10-hour drive. Or anywhere else, that's a long drive, and to actually have to drive the car for that long sucks. [Laughs] But in terms of the city driving, the quality of city driving — like you know, having to deal with lights and left-hand turns and city traffic and all of that kind of stuff, it's much more complicated than highways — that has improved so drastically in the past year and a half or so since I got the original version. It has been completely remarkable how much better it is.
And I'm super, super excited to get version 11. Elon Musk said that that's rolling out this weekend to a wider audience, and I’m usually in the second round, so I should get it this weekend. So I'm really excited to try it out.
EVANNEX: What makes the Tesla community different from other automotive communities?
So I have to admit to never having been really a big car guy. [Laughs] And maybe that's just frankly, a difference, is that the Tesla enthusiasts, they're more tech enthusiasts than car enthusiasts. Growing up, there was always people who were into like, Corvettes, or if you had more money, something like a Lamborghini or something. And there's a certain kind of community in that, the big powertrains and everything.
But the people who enjoy Teslas are, I think, more sort of geeky. [Laughs] They're more tech-centric people than big motorheads. And so that's one difference.
I've also found the Tesla community, in general, is an incredibly friendly, supportive community. If people have problems everyone's willing to help. When you go to Superchargers, obviously, there's a lot of Teslas there, and people are really friendly and love to talk about things. Doesn't have to be Tesla stuff. But, you know, people love to just kind of chat while they're standing around having their cars charged.
So it's a very friendly community. And I don't really kind of conceive of it as a like a car community. It really is more like kind of a Tesla technology community. And most people interested in Tesla are also interested in a lot of other things like SpaceX and other technological advances going on right now.
You can follow John’s YouTube channel here.