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It goes without saying that a regular Tesla event is expected to be a grand launch for one of their new products—a new model EV or their robot. If nothing else, Musk could be announcing an advancement in their self-driving software. In the past, he made a habit out of shocking investors by unveiling new cars using Steve Jobs’ famous ‘One more thing’ line.
But Tesla Investor Day 2023 was unusually quiet. There was no showmanship on display from the company leader and no new announcements were made about upcoming products. Instead, a dozen executives accompanied Musk on stage to explain why Tesla vehicles still weren’t as cheap as the public would like them to be.
No new products revealed
The company gave some updates on their existing products, like the status of the ‘Cybertruck’ and their ‘Optimus’ robot but nothing that blew away the collective minds of the public. Tesla shares fell by 5.66% following the event, during the after-hours trading.
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What Musk did announce was an upcoming manufacturing plant in Mexico which would make their still unspecified next generation vehicle. This vehicle is rumoured to be smaller and lighter than their current Model 3. Musk did not mention any details around the Gigafactory but said that the vehicle would be launched on a “later date”.
Much of the company’s focus remained around its long-term goals of a ‘sustainable energy future’ for which it was planning to spend USD 10 trillion. All of this came under Musk’s ‘Master Plan 3’. The company also announced a Tesla Electric programme in Texas for the summer as a part of this. The programme will offer a retail electricity plan to Tesla EV owners for charging their vehicles overnight for USD 30 per month.
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Most details of ‘Master Plan 3’ are still under wraps with Musk mulling over the fact that Tesla might manufacture heat pumps for residents in the future at some point. The Austin-headquartered company also announced that their long-awaited ‘Cybertruck’ will be launched this year, with no further specifics.
Far from making affordable EVs
The elephant in the room, however, was Tesla’s EV prices which the company has been struggling with for years now. Zachary Kirkhorn, the CFO of the company, said that they target to launch Tesla’s next generation vehicle at 50% of their current EV costs. Kirkhorn also stated that they were still working on the Robo Taxi variant models for their next generation platform.
Kirkhorn reiterated the company’s goal to reach production of 20 million EV units per year by 2030. But things were vastly different in reality. Last year, Tesla reported deliveries of around 1.31 million units. Kirkhorn has estimated that the company needs to invest six times more than what it does now to push production by around ten times more than the current production levels. Kirkhorn pegged the estimated amount at around USD 175 billion. By comparison, Toyota sold around 10.5 million units last year.
Minor advancements in Optimus
Tesla did release a long-awaited video of their robot Optimus, which was walking around and was able to grasp objects. But it was underwhelming. The demo was staged and could have been finished upon multiple attempts. Unlike Tesla AI Day last year, the bot didn’t appear on stage which sent signals that it wasn’t close to being nimble enough for the real world.
Simon Kalouche, founder of robotics company ‘Nimble AI’ tweeted saying, “Very impressive progress from @TeslaAIBot in just a few months! At the same time a staged demo is easy – dozens of teams have gotten this far. The hard part is getting a humanoid to be useful & efficient in a real application which no one has done”.
Musk’s worries about AI
But the presentation strangely ended on a sad note. When asked about the progress that AI was making, especially with the release of tools like the OpenAI chatbot ChatGPT, Musk said that AI was stressing him out. The Tesla CEO has often expressed concerns about the final culmination of AGI saying these tools are already scary good and “We are not far from dangerously strong AI”.
Another analyst asked him if AI could eventually make cars, to which he responded saying, “I don’t see AI helping us make cars any time soon”. He then added, “At that point. . . there’s no point in any of us working”.
Seemingly dejected about the current state of AI development, Musk further shared, “I don’t know. Tesla is doing good things in AI. . . This one stresses me out. I don’t know what to say about it.”
However, to much bewilderment, earlier this week Musk had himself confirmed that he was recruiting a team of AI technologists with DeepMind to compete with Microsoft-backed AI startup OpenAI that is seemingly ahead in the AI race.