Robert Scoble Talks Tesla, Self-Driving Tech, Robotaxis, & More On Mind Meld Podcast

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“How many companies are moving that fast?”
  — Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble, a tech blogger who grew up in Cupertino, CA — who has known Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak for more than 3 decades, was the first person to get a ride in the first Tesla with Elon Musk, was the first person to buy an iPhone at an Apple Store, was right there with the founders of Uber when they came up with the idea, and has various other stories along those lines — recently joined Josh Gonsalves from his Tesla over Zoom to talk about Tesla, autonomous vehicles, computer vision, and augmented and virtual reality. Below are some takeaways from the hour and a half long podcast.

Elon Musk is like the Steve Jobs or Walt Disney of our age

At the beginning, Scoble shared his thoughts about Elon Musk being the Steve Jobs or Walt Disney of our age. “If Elon died right now, Tesla would go down 50% or more in one day, right? Because a lot of what I expect to happen will be accelerated with a dictator in charge. Hahaha. Elon is the Steve Jobs or Walt Disney of our age and he can make decisions much faster.”

Tesla’s neural network will be one of the most important things in the coming years

Elon Musk, Scoble pointed out, is the only automaker to have a neural network–based system on the road. “I’m sitting in one and there are seven cameras on the outside of this car; one actually facing inward, into here. And there’s an AI chip basically in the glove compartment with 18 billion transistors.”

Scoble points out that this is going to matter a lot in the next few years. He noted that Intel bought a company in Israel called Mobileye that has three cameras on many cars, but that “Intel’s iteration speed is way slower than Tesla’s.” He gives an example as to how fast Tesla is moving in this field. “Tesla had two updates between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and they were not little tiny bug fixes — you know, fix something wrong. They were: new game on the entertainment system, new feature on the Autopilot, on the autonomous car — they were checking in a lot of code. And that’s what they were doing on the week off! Hahahaha.”

“How many companies are moving that fast?” he asked rhetorically. He noted that every week for the last three weeks he’d gotten updates, and the ongoing updates make Tesla’s Autopilot noticeably better than it was before.

He also pointed out that Elon is planning a major update after a full rewrite of the whole firmware stack. People who have tested it have described it as a quantum leap in terms of Autopilot, he said in the podcast. This update is actually supposed to roll out to the first drivers today, as Elon noted in response to a recent CleanTechnica article.

Tesla is going to disrupt Apple Maps & Google Maps in the next 24 months

Scoble pointed out that there is no one on the market like Tesla, and that Elon Musk will disrupt Apple and Google Maps within the next 2 years. He noted that the last time an Apple mapping car was down his street was 22 months ago. “If we go outside and right down the street, you’ll see a Tesla go by every 10 minutes or less. If it’s busy, it’ll be every minute.”

He pointed out some of the ways so many Teslas in an area — like in Silicon Valley right now — could change things. “If something is going on on that street, like a house is burning down or something, or a car wreck or whatever, my car can see about a hundred meters in front and a hundred meters behind. Today, my car only sees, like, traffic cones, stop signs, stop lights, traffic signs, posts — it just started seeing posts. The AI can see those kinds of things as well. I can see that from 100 meters away. Soon we will see a house burning down and go ‘oh there’s a house burning down;’ or ‘hey, there’s a car wreck,’ or ‘there’s a police officer standing in the road.’ You can see bicyclists and pedestrians already and sort of tell what they’re doing. We just take this a few iterations forward and it’s gonna see a lot — well, it’s gonna put that on a map.”

He speaks of the bleeding edge of autonomous cars and what Elon and ~150 Jedi software engineers and hundreds of labelers are working on. He talks about what Elon means when he talks about 4D Autopilot software.

“Google and Apple maps are dead in 24 months because they don’t have anybody on the road with seven cameras constantly updating with an AI chip in the glove compartment. His car is always updating and downloading date — and there are millions of them on the road right now in Silicon Valley. Scoble addresses the argument that this only applies to where there are a lot of Teslas — such as Silicon Valley.” (There aren’t actually millions there yet. Tesla produced its millionth car in March 2020. But hyperbole slips out sometimes in a fun conversation.)

“It will take 10 more years for Google and Apple to really die worldwide,” he said, “but the head of the chicken is going to get cut off in 24 months.” He points out that as sales grow, Tesla’s self-driving progress grows. “The autonomous car network that Elon’s building needs that kind of data to really start getting to where it can actually drive. Are we talking five more years after that before the network turns on?” Scoble then led the conversation into the idea that Tesla could be an Uber killer. “Once we get off Google and Apple Maps, we can turn on an Uber killer.” He also notes that a Tesla Network experience will be much more consistent, a key differentiator.

He compares it to Starbucks. There are Starbucks stores everywhere. They may not have the best coffee (that would be here in Louisiana), but they are consistent. “And if it’s consistent and its ubiquitous, it’s available worldwide, and if you order a latte at Starbucks, it is the same latte in London as in San Francisco as in Seattle as in Miami.” Gonsalves noted that when he went to Tokyo, this is what blew his mind. I’ve lived in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and in several cities in Louisiana — and in every place I’ve had a Starbucks, it’s tasted exactly the same. To be quite honest, I’d never really thought about how consistent Starbucks was — down to the taste of their lattes — across cities until watching the podcast, but that is one reason they are popular everywhere — you know what you’re going to get.

The idea is that a Tesla robotaxi will be consistent everywhere. You’ll know what you’re getting. Also, it will be much cheaper. The retail price will be around $10/hour, he notes. Uber and Lyft are ~$60/hour. “Even if they really raise their rates, it’s still going to be $25 or $40 versus $60. It’s still going to be cheaper, and it’s going to be more consistent. And you’re not going to have to deal with a driver in the car. It’s just going to arrive and you’re going to get in it and you’re going to decide if you want to drive or the car drives.”

The podcast delves deep into other topics besides Tesla, such as virtual reality, Neuralink, the dangers of AI, UBI, and more. It’s a fascinating discussion. Watch it via the embedded player above, or right here.

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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

Johnna Crider has 1996 posts and counting. See all posts by Johnna Crider