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Autonomous Vehicles

Tesla = Approximately A Dozen Startups

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently responded to a CleanTechnica article on Twitter by noting that Tesla is really like a dozen different startups. What would these startups be? Let’s explore some possibilities.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently responded to a CleanTechnica article on Twitter by noting that Tesla is really like a dozen different tech startups. What would these startups be? Let’s explore some possibilities. Though, to make it a little easier, I’m going to list a dozen different startup ideas more broadly, not just Tesla tech startups. If you want to try to really fill in the blanks from Elon Musk’s thoughts here, drop your list of 12 Tesla tech startups down in the comments.

Tesla Cars

Well, naturally, the car business is on the list.

Tesla Solar

Tesla’s solar energy arm is another core part of Tesla’s business, so it’s an obvious choice. You could potentially split off Tesla’s basic solar PV installation business and its Solar Roof business, but I’d prefer to keep them under one roof.

Related story: Elon Musk Explains Why Tesla Solar Power Is So Cheap — CleanTechnica Exclusive

Tesla Batteries

Essential to the cars as well as major standalone products, batteries are a clear third choice of focus when you consider that Tesla is heavily involved in their design, ongoing improvement, and production. Again, you could split off different parts of Tesla’s battery work (the cell design, the pack manufacturing, the grid storage applications, etc.), but it seems logical to me to keep them all together for this exercise.

Tesla Insurance

Tesla Insurance, the most exciting unexciting business I can imagine, definitely earns a spot as a potential startup. Just consider it “Insurancevana” or something instead of “Tesla Insurance.” Not convinced yet?

Tesla Insurance

Elon Musk has asked for revolutionary actuaries to apply to work at Tesla to help revolutionize car insurance, and perhaps to help overhaul insurance more broadly.

Tesla Autopiloteye

Okay, if we’re going to come up with fake names, this one’s a good one, right? The elderly among us may recall that a time when Tesla’s Autopilot suite was provided by Mobileye. For various reasons, they split, Tesla built its Autopilot suite completely in-house, and Mobileye got bought by Intel (which I guess is not really relevant to this discussion). With approximately 300 “Jedi engineers” (my term, not Elon’s) working on Autopilot, this is a significant startup within Tesla. Additionally, there are semi-autonomous driving teams smaller than this that have accomplished less but have been valued at billions of dollars.

Tesla Softpilot

Actually, Autopiloteye could simply be a hardware startup in the semi-autonomous driving industry and “Softpilot” could be a separate startup just working on the software side of this topic. Yes, “Softpilot” is a horrendous, concerning name.

For more on the two topics above, I do recommend: “Tesla Autopilot Innovation Comes From Team Of ~300 Jedi Engineers — Interview With Elon Musk.

Tesla Seats

When we toured Tesla Fremont factories last year, one of the factories we toured was Tesla’s seat factory. It was a surprise to us to find out that just 3 or 4 companies worldwide supply seats for automakers. That’s getting close to monopolistic control of the market. Tesla found that it couldn’t get what it needed in the seat category when finishing up design of the Model X, so that led to the Silicon Valley automaker in-housing seat production. Now it’s producing seats for approximately half a million cars a year and it’s not at the mercy of a few seat titans. For more on this topic, I again am forced to recommend some CleanTechnica exclusives:

Tesla Infotainment

I’m not sure how this should be split up, so I’m just lumping much of it in together. Why do I not care at all that I don’t have Apple CarPlay in my Tesla Model 3? Because Tesla’s infotainment system is superb. The great UI/UX and interesting integration of entertainment features and information displays creates an impressively minimalist and elegant infotainment system. Theoretically, Tesla’s infotainment team could be creating such systems for automakers around the world.

Tesla Chips

When Elon Musk responded to us with this concept in June, one of his tweets highlighted that Tesla had set up its own chip design team. It sounds like the chip design team could be its own startup.

Tesla Robots

A few years ago, Tesla bought Grohmann Engineering. That essentially made it a robot manufacturer as well as a car manufacturer. Nowadays, this engineering work even bends outside of the scope of robots and production lines for building cars and involves working on medical solutions. Could the medical stuff be split out into its own startup? Surely.

Well, I guess this startup would jus be called Tesla Grohmann Automation, right?

Tesla Mining? ⛏

The debate about whether or not Tesla would get into actual mining is a fascinating one. I think it will, but I also put the chances at around 20–30%, which means the first clause of this sentence makes no sense, so ignore me. Even if Tesla doesn’t get into mining, though, the company has a team of highly talented mineral and mining experts who are focused on getting the best battery materials at the lowest price. They could at least set up a mining research firm.

Tesla Memes


There are some alternatives possible here, such as Tesla Grid, Tesla HVAC, Tesla Charging, Tesla Air (eventually? in stealth right now?), Tesla Motors (haha), Teslaquila, and Tesla Coffee. And some of the choices above could be combined, like Tesla Autopiloteye and Tesla Softpilot or Tesla Autopiloteye and Tesla Chips or Tesla Autopiloteye and Tesla Softpilot and Tesla Chips. Until Elon shares his own list, though, here’s my placeholder.

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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