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Elon Musk Twitter Storm Offers Clues To Tesla Future

Elon Musk went on a Twitter rampage overnight, tweeting about all things great and small, from artificial intelligence to disco laser shows. Read all about it here.

Elon Musk had tired thumbs this morning after spending a busy night on Twitter. As Zachary suggested earlier, those tweets covered some big news, like the upcoming Tesla pickup truck and a boom in Tesla’s solar energy and energy storage business, but it also offered clues to a raft of other changes, improvements, and upgrades that will affect the Teslasphere soon. Musk began by thanking everyone who has supported his dream to date, and then by asking the audience for suggested product improvements.

The Tesla Pickup

Musk says he has been cogitating on the design for a Tesla Pickup for more than 5 years. He expects it to be roughly the same size as a current Ford F-150. That seems like a good target, as the Ford is the sales leader in the white hot pickup truck segment of the market — ridiculously oversized for most foreign markets but just right for America, where too much of a good thing is never enough. “Maybe slightly bigger,” Musk tweets, “to account for a really gamechanging (I think) feature I’d like to add.”

Let the speculation begin! What game-changing feature does Musk have in mind? The last two ideas he let loose on the world resulted in the hyperloop and making the earth into a version of Swiss cheese with tunnels running every which way. What would require more space than your average Super Duper Duty ground pounder? Your guess is as good as mine. Room to park a Model 3 in the load bed, perhaps? A work station with outlets for power tool?

And what will it be called? Tesla Pickup? Tesla Model P? Tesla P’up? No one knows, except Elon, of course — maybe (he may still be looking for inspiration).

Tesla pickup concept

Ross Tessien, writing for Seeking Alpha, thinks he has picked up on something others have missed. When Elon was onstage introducing the Tesla Semi last month, an image appeared behind him of a gargantuan pickup truck with another pickup truck in the load bed. Tessien thinks this was a classic misdirection play. The bigger vehicle is a decoy, he thinks. The real Tesla pickup is the one riding piggyback.

Musk and Tesla have a way of dropping subtle clues into their public presentations. Earlier this year, what may be a vision of a Tesla autonomous shuttle made it into a YouTube video about Boring Company tunnels. Or it was just an ad-hoc design someone came up with to stick into the video…

Tesla shuttle

Whatever the truth might be, Tessien points out that 2.7 million pickup trucks were sold in 2016. Assuming an average sale price of $35,000, that is a $100 billion a year market and Tesla may gobble up a big portion of that market if it is the first to offer an electric pickup that appeals to mainstream truck buyers. His numbers seem to match up pretty well with Zachary’s guesstimate that Tesla revenue in 2022 from the pickup may be approximately $3.5 billion (of a $74 billion or more total from Tesla vehicle sales). That would be approximately 3.5% of that global pickup truck market. Bullish? Bearish? You decide (for now).

New Maps, AI Coming

Speaking at a Neural Information Processing Systems conference earlier this year, Elon Musk told the audience, according to a report in The Register, “I wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips. Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world.” The UK IT outlet adds some context, noting, “‘Jim’ is Jim Keller, who led chip development at both AMD and Apple before joining Tesla in 2016.”

On Twitter yesterday, Elon was again enthused by the AI work his Tesla team has been doing. This has delayed an Autopilot 2 rollout, but Elon seems to imply it’s all worth it.

Musk also promised his customers that advanced mapping and improved computing power are coming soon. Responding to a Twitter follower who complained the browser in his Tesla is awful, Musk agreed.

“Vastly better maps/nav coming soon,” he said. As has been the case with prior upgrades, especially version 2 of Autopilot, the upgrade may be slower at first until Tesla software engineers get all the bugs out and optimizes the programming.

While he was at it, Musk also told followers that new rain-sensing software is in the works to adjust the speed of the wipers to the amount of rain falling on the windshield. He also smiled favorably on a suggestion that the cars automatically break into a disco-inspired interior light show every time all 4 doors are opened, saying it sounded like “good, cheesy fun :)”

Other little tidbits that made it into the Twitter storm? Controlling heated seats/steering wheel/windows via the Tesla app will be included in the next software update. Also, owners will be able to disable the Bluetooth autoconnect feature on demand. So there is that to look forward to. Interestingly, that one was a request from a Facebook co-founder.

Renewable Power For Everyone

Tesla vehicles garner most of the attention but the work Tesla is doing to bring solar power and battery storage to the world may be more important to the environment. The business opportunity there may actually be larger than it is in electrified transportation. Every one of the thousands of islands in the world are prime candidates for ditching old-fashioned diesel generators in favor of renewable energy with grid-scale battery storage.

Tesla has already completed several such projects and is hard at work bringing power to storm-plagued Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean ravaged by hurricanes in 2017. Its giant storage battery installation in South Australia is up and running ahead of schedule and under budget, and is working brilliantly.

The company has now shut down various other sales tactics for its rooftop solar systems and brought residential solar marketing in-house by including informational displays within its sales locations. Tesla drivers are a prime market for rooftop solar and the company’s new Solar Roof, which is being rolled out slowly but expected to become a major offering in the coming years.

Tesla stock has been punished as the end of the year approaches, threatening to drop below the symbolic but important $300 per share mark as problems getting Model 3 production ramped up have dominated company news. But so long as there is lithium left in the world and Elon doesn’t tire of his Tony Stark lifestyle, there are exciting days ahead for the company, its customers, and its investors.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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