JB Straubel, Tesla’s CTO, Discusses Teams, Persistence, & AI

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Originally published on EVANNEX.

Tesla co-founder and chief technical officer, JB Straubel, was a guest keynote speaker at last year’s Discovery conference put on by the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE). It was a closed door affair and only paid attendees were given an opportunity to see Straubel’s keynote. However, just recently, the OCE made some of Straubel’s appearance at the Discovery conference public.

Tesla co-founders, CEO Elon Musk and CTO JB Straubel, in the early days driving Tesla’s Roadster “P1” (Images courtesy Tesla)

Appearing in conversation with author, journalist and current RBC Sr. Vice President John Stackhouse, Straubel discussed his early love of engineering and electric cars. When asked about artificial intelligence, Straubel cites autonomous driving as a prime example of AI that will prove “transformational” in preventing auto accidents. He notes, “AI is going to have an ability to really augment the humans to make cars safer and more convenient… I think you’ll see an incredibly rapid integration of autonomous capability [built] into new vehicles being sold. Just like we saw air bags or seatbelts… [and] ABS systems.”

Straubel explains: “If you think of the amount of experience the cars are getting… [Tesla’s] fleet of cars with autonomous technologies and the sensors enabling it are driving close to a million miles a day. And that’s more than most customers would drive in a lifetime. So in that short time period [one day], they [AI] can encounter almost all the things that one human would encounter in a lifetime of driving. So imagine if you let that integrate for a few years, you know, how smart of a driver that could be — they’d be better than any human could ever be.”

At the conference, Straubel gave some advice for those in start-up mode. He explained: “The best advice is to just be persistent. You know, there’ll always be people telling you that you can’t do it or giving you reasons why it might fail, but you’ve got to be persistent. You’ve got to be true to the idea that you started off with.” But he notes that you can’t do it alone. Straubel elaborates on the importance of “building the very best team. It’s always the case that the best teams end up really having the best chances, so that’s something I think every entrepreneur or every start-up founder or manager should think a lot about. It’s how to make sure you really have the A-Team of players.”

Reprinted with permission.

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Matt Pressman

Matt is all about Tesla. He’s a TSLA investor, and he loves driving the family's Model 3, Model S, and Model X company cars. As co-founder of EVANNEX, a family business specializing in aftermarket Tesla accessories, he’s served as a contributor/editor of Electric Vehicle University (EVU) and the Owning Model S and Getting Ready for Model 3 books. He writes daily about Tesla and you can follow his work on the EVANNEX blog.

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