Tesla CEO Elon Musk: The Recode Decode Podcast Interview

NOV 2 2018 BY DOMENICK YONEY 36

Musk says the Tesla pickup truck will be some sort of Blade Runner contraption that will blow your mind.

It’s been a long year full of great missteps and, finally, great success for Elon Musk and his automaking company Tesla. As 2018 enters into its final chapters, the entrepreneur sits down with long-time tech reporter and New York Times opinionist Kara Swisher for a lengthy conversation. The resulting Recode Decode podcast (embedded below) gives us a window into Musk’s current state of mind as well as insight into what’s happening at his various efforts: Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company, including some product hints.

The conversation starts with talk of Twitter, the platform the billionaire prefers to use for many interactions. If you were thinking his statements there would now be more measured, more filtered, you may be surprised. While part of his settlement agreement with the SEC over the “Fund secured” debacle included a clause that called for a committee to “…pre-approve Mr. Musk’s Tesla-related written communications…,” in practice it seems he will just refrain from tweeting “…something that might cause a substantial movement in the stock during trading hours.”

Discussing Tesla’s self-driving effort and the complexity involved with integrating the car’s neural nets into one cohesive system, Musk predicts, “I think we’ll get to full self-driving next year,” but doesn’t say whether it will actually be rolled out to customers then.

Speaking about the Roadster, Musk says,

“We’ve got the next-generation Roadster. Which will be the fastest sports car on every dimension. Fastest acceleration, fastest top speed, best handling. The goal with the Tesla Roadster is to show that an electric car can be the best sports car on every dimension. I think that’s very important to kind of get rid of this, like, halo effect that gasoline cars, sports cars, have.”

The conversation moves on to the Tesla pickup, which Musk says, as he has before, that it’s the product he is most excited about. While he doesn’t go into detail, it seems it won’t look especially conventional. Says Musk, “I really wanted something that’s like super-futuristic cyberpunk.” While that might sound alarming to some who think they should focus on more conventional designs, he does say, “I think this is the kinda thing the consumer would want to buy, even if they don’t normally buy a pickup truck.” If it ends up being too niche, he says they will make a more conventional pickup.

Moving over to the solar and energy side of things, Musk says the Solar Roof should finish development very soon. Already installed on hundreds of roofs, he reiterates that they’ve been testing to ensure long-term durability.

Energy storage-wise, he teases that they have some exciting announcements coming and include, “… a large product on the stationary storage side that I think will be very compelling for utility customers.”

They also have a pretty interesting segment about the Boring Company that gets into the design of the tunnel digging equipment. Right now, they are electrically powered using a cable that carries 11,000 volts and requires step-down transformers on the digger. Musk wants to, instead, cut the cord and use batteries to supply the necessary energy. Interestingly, regarding moving the dirt the drill excavates, Musk says they use a modified Model 3 chassis to create a train for this. He also allows that they’ve got the digging cost, aside from equipment, down to around $10 million per mile.

All in all, it’s a great conversation and you can listen to it by clicking on the play button below. Enjoy!

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36 Comments on "Tesla CEO Elon Musk: The Recode Decode Podcast Interview"

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ffbj
Just for a good laugh, as long as we are talking about Tesla, what else is there, here is a blast from the past from a former occasional visitor to these pages who’s sole intention was to defame Tesla. How can someone be so wrong about almost everything, and continue to persist in this insanity? Well, we can talk ourselves into almost anything if it fits our point of view. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCMTxtUz-O8 So my basic refutation of this is simply that every point he makes is wrong. Competition has been slow to materialize, and is not hurting Tesla in the least. His case is full of holes big enough to drive a Tesla semi through. Simply listing a bunch of companies that are coming with the electric offerings, in low numbers, years away, with inferior technology, are going to somehow displace Tesla from it’s cat-bird seat. even Sandy Munro says Tesla has a 4 year in technology, and this guy is just an analyst, and not a very good one either. I apologize for just dropping this in, but I thought a full delineation of the thinking, if you can call it that, short-sellers have been relying on to warrant their… Read more »
Art Vandelay

Spiegel is a sad man. I believe he thinks he is special when he catches Elon saying his half-truths, which does happen. But he comes to the wrong conclusion that is he (as he calls him) is a fraud-boy, which he is not, as history showed so many times before, he’s achieved his crazy targets again and again, we all know them. Plus his thesis is so weak, I struggle to understand how investors listen to him. Go Tesla and please behave Elon, don’t taunt the shorts any more as revenge is best served cold…

Pushmi-Pullyu

“Spiegel… I struggle to understand how investors listen to him.”

It is astounding that people continue to listen to a self-appointed “analyst” whose predictions are very nearly always wrong, and who continues to spread utterly and completely false smear campaigns in an attempt to damage Tesla’s public image and manipulate its stock price.

Mark B. Spiegel used to occasionally post in comments here. Jay Cole once took him down a few pegs, pointing out that he is very bad at his job, at least regarding his predictions and faux “analyses” about Tesla.

I dunno; maybe Spiegel’s other stock picks and predictions are much, much better? If they are not, then why the heck would anyone who isn’t literally insane continue to listen to that mendacious, pompous jerk?

Chris O

What are you talking about, New York Times based an article on Spiegel quotes, or are you saying that paper is just another lying rag like the rest of them?

Well, you would be right I guess…

Art Vandelay

Talking about half-truths, almost $200 mil of last Q’s profit was regulatory credits, why didn’t they just say it 2 weeks ago. Why now? But stock is not going down today, so perhaps this isn’t really news to the big funds…

chano1

Oh no. Say it isn’t so!

John Doe
Tesla should make a high end electric kick bike, a high end scooter (equivalent of a moped, a 125cc and a 250cc that should de identical, just software that change the power.. so a young person can buy their first Tesla at 14-16 years old, change software when they are older and are allowed to ride a “larger” scooter). There is also a market for high end e-bikes. As long as they build proper quality, they have a brand that will ensure sales, and they know batteries, motors and power electronics better then most companies. They should use maintenance free, hydraulic gears from Kinderney (http://www.kindernay.com/) where it is set up once, and then just works. They should fit state of the art LED light system on it, and a superior breaking system with regen. I would consider an e-bike from Tesla if I knew the quality was really good (at least equal to what I have now) and a long range, solid performance and so on. Add a smart function of some kind that I had not even thought about.. and I would hand over my hard earned money for sure. I don’t think that excist on e-bikes now. That… Read more »
chano1

Low-cost countries can produce superior products … iPhone, for example. If T does as you suggest, they will be million mile bikes that are beautiful, fast and soooperrr too.

skierpage

It’s called focus. Although Tesla’s mission statement is extremely broad, it should not get sidetracked into every electric transportation opportunity when it has yet to deliver the Y, the semi, the pickup truck, and Model S/X refresh.

The e-bike market is well served by Chinese hub motor models for $1000 and quality German bottom bracket motor models for $3000 (my family just bought a second Kalkhoff). Battery cost for a 400 Wh pack is not significant, there’s no autopilot opportunity, there’s no need for Tesla’s sophisticated cell & thermal management, etc. thus Tesla has *ZERO* competitive advantage. The only thing you mention that current e -bikes lack is regenerative braking. Would be nice, but hard to combine with torque-sensitive pedal assist.

I imagine the same holds true for electric scooters, outboard motor, and most other bright idea from Tesla fans.

We need to electrify everything immediately, but relying on Tesla as the deus ex machina for every industry is unrealistic. Demand electric solutions and put your money where your mouth is so incumbents switch over and new companies flourish.

mmlimb

Why the hell is he still talking with NYT people? He should sanctionize them.

DrDauger

At least NYT didn’t offer him a blunt. You never know what new way they’ll paint him in a bad way.

chano1

Frankly any news outlet that majors on publishing untruths should be shut down for being demonstrably unfit for purpose. Fox is at the head of that queue.

Carcus

On the pickup,…

When you consider that 95% of the time, pickups (I.e. aerodynamic disasters) are just hauling air on a paved road….

Outside the box ….. There’s lots of potential for a completely different (transformer?) design.

Would the pickup buying crowd accept it?… that’s another matter.

/didn’t watch the interview,.. did he smoke weed on this one?

M Hovis

It is a good thing that you didn’t watch it because it was a podcast. It is unfortunate that you didn’t listen to it for it was one of the best due to Kara Swisher.
To your question of whether people would accept it, he stated that he did not care, to which anyone who will not listen to the total response would miss the genius. He admitted that he thought it was so great that he could be blinded. He insists that they would still build it and default to a more traditional design if it fails. I think this is pure Tesla. It is the way that disruption occurs. I bet that it will not take over the entire truck enthusiast following, at least at first, but will create a new following as did the Model S. It will have an impact on trucks overall, hopefully at least in electrification which in the end is the goal.

Carcus

So podcasts never contain video? That’s news to me.

TJKR

Just listened to the Podcast… great to hear from Elon at length again but the interviewer is terrible! How the world did this person land an interview with Elon and how does she even have a Podcast?

Pushmi-Pullyu

Anybody can “have” a bare-bones podcast with surprisingly little investment, assuming you already have a good laptop or desktop computer. Professional grade sound recording equipment of course will cost more, but a few thousand dollars will go a long way there, even if you buy everything new. Furthermore, since that equipment is built to last, you can get it used if you’re patient and willing to hunt around.

It’s not like there are any gate-keepers preventing John or Jane Doe from uploading a podcast to the internet.

As far as the host being a terrible interviewer… well, from a comment above, it seems that not everyone agrees with you.

Adam

I think she did a great job. She kept things rolling, tried to get some inside info and ribbed Elon on being dumb on twitter.

Harman

She’s totally uninformed on a lot of Musk-related current events. And she needs to listen to him more and talk less.

TJKR

She spend most of the time cutting him off and was pompous and arrogant. She also has zero sense of humor and I felt like she had Aspergers. If you want to listen to a GREAT podcast interview and a GREAT Podcaster, listen to the Joe Rogan interview… that was great and Elon went deep and Joe Rogan is hilarious.

Nobody Special

My impression of the Rogan interview (in hindsight) is that Rogan can be funny but otherwise the quality of the discussion renders it close to worthless. My thinking is certainly less kind because offering Elon a joint was utterly calculated and self serving.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Right. She definitely needed to interrupt him less. A lot less. A good interviewer is someone who can draw out a guest and get them to say interesting things. She seems more interested in listening to herself talk than in listening to what her guest has to say. That style might be appropriate for a 5-minute interview, but for an interview that lasts more than an hour, it is — as TJKR said above — terrible.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Listening to the podcast now. Yeah, I know, a bit belatedly… I usually don’t make time for this kind of thing.

Up to about 13 minutes now… I think I’m starting to understand why TJKR called the interviewer “terrible”. She seems to want to bounce around from subject to subject in a fast, bubbly way and only touch on the surface of issues; Elon wants to take his time and dive deeply into issues.

I must say, I expected a lot more gravitas and much more professional demeanor from someone described as a “long-time tech reporter” for the NYT.

Glad I listened to at least part of this. I think I understand Elon’s motives better now. He says Tesla absolutely has to succeed — he repeated that quite emphatically — and he’s dedicated to make sure that happens, no matter the personal cost to him.

Pushmi-Pullyu

“Musk says the Tesla pickup truck will be some sort of Blade Runner contraption…”

Hmm, I’ve often said that I’d love to see designers of BEVs think outside the box of gasmobile design. I’ve pointed to the “Spinners” from “Blade Runner” as an example of that.

However, as innovative as Tesla’s pickup will be, I rather doubt that Tesla is going to be equipped with the Spinner’s antigravity lifters! 😉 Nor do I think that the spinner would be a good design for a vehicle that’s supposed to have a large open cargo box at the back.

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Chris O

Musk might be on the right track with his pickup concept. Pickups are basically useless vehicles for almost everybody except farmers and some other professions, yet people pick them up in droves turning them into awkward looking sedans and wagons in a desperate effort to turn a fundamentally impractical concept them into something that can haul some luggage without it being exposed to the elements. So clearly there is a market for something that has little use for the owner yet taps into some primal craving (whatever that is, tapping into the glamorous lifestyle of farmers and construction workers?).

So yes, the sillier the concept the more success it might have!

TJKR

Completely agree. I’ve been all over the world and US seems like the only developed country where we have mostly paved roads and people drive vehicles for off roading. Most people I’ve seen that have pick-up trucks use it to commute to their work… completely pointless.

Harman

The interviewer should have let Musk speak more. He kept trying to provide truly interesting insights which kept being cut short by interviewer interruptions.

Clive

That is very common with type-a personalities.

If we listen more, and talk less, more will be revealed.

Brian

Tesla Pickup Truck concept was one of the ugliest vehicles I’ve seen. Tesla should buy Bollinger.

chano1

2019 is almost over, its final chapters unfolding now?
Who knew?

Bernard Bromell

I am really, really confused.
Elon expresses the raison d’être of Tesla as being to advance sustainable transport and energy.
Elon accepts the dire need for rapid and massive action to reduce our GHG emissions to fight Climate Change.
Elon has a desire for truth and facts and therefore rationality.
But at the same time Tesla deliberately obstructs, to the point of preventing, the most productive method (by far) of reducing transport emissions, which is electric passenger services aka taxis.
This makes no sense at all. Absolutely none.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Wut?

What would reduce GHG emissions related to transportation, more than anything else, is:

1. Promoting more high-capacity mass transit service, such as subways and light rail

2. Upgrading the railroads to be much more competitive, to shift as much freight as possible away from long-haul trucks onto the railroads

Tesla certainly isn’t doing anything to fight against using Tesla cars as taxis… unless you’re talking about trying to stop people from using Tesla Superchargers to support commercial services such as taxis, which was never the intended purpose of Superchargers.

Tesla has been talking a lot about a ride-sharing service as a big part of its future plans, so claiming that Tesla opposes “electric passenger services” is simply not true.

Joe Martin

I was happy to hear Elon refer to the Model Y as a mid-size SUV. I’d already have a Model 3 except for the fact that we have three kids. I’d actually prefer something the size of the Model X, but that’s more than I’m willing to spend.