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Elon Musk’s mysterious response to Uber and Tesla tie-up: “Hmmm”

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According to Forbes, Uber board member Steve Jurvetson suggested that if Tesla manufactured 500,000 autonomous cars by 2020, CEO Travis Kalanick would buy them all.

This proclamation was recently brought into question by Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas during an earnings call. A significant portion of the call was centred around Tesla’s ability to deliver autonomous vehicles.

Jonas asked Musk whether Tesla would be working with Uber in the future or if the company was considering operating its own ride-share business.

As is evident by the audio captured by TechCrunch on its site, there is a lot of humming and awkward silences on Musk’s part.

Here’s the exchange:

Jonas: “Jurvetson was recently quoted saying that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told him that if by 2020, Tesla’s cars are autonomous, then he’d want to buy all of them. Is supplying cars to ride-sharing firms a real business opportunity for Tesla? Or would Tesla prefer to cut out the middleman and sell on-demand electric-mobility services directly from the company on its own platform?”

Musk: “Hmmm, [insert pause], that’s an insightful question.

Jonas: “You don’t have to answer it.”

Musk: “[Another long pause] I think – I don’t think I should answer it.”

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Said response has resulted in plenty of speculation. It could be possible that Tesla and Uber are indeed planning on collaborating. Uber hasn’t been quiet about wanting to enter the autonomous car space – not to mention that it acquired mapping technology and 100 employees from Microsoft’s Bing

Uber may also want to partner with a company that has manufacturing experience given that it hasn’t built a car from the ground up before.

Musk’s obvious reluctance to talk about the subject could, on the flip side, mean that Uber is about to get itself a new rival. 

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, suggested that companies like Uber represent potential disruption for every current automaker, including Tesla. However, Musk’s history of innovation suggests he’s going to take an active role in the transition to car-sharing. 

Indeed, Musk would likely want to own whatever space he enters, as was evidenced when he leapfrogged NASA while building SpaceX to become a serious space company.

In fact, he’s already discussed the prospects of driverless systems with Google, so we know he’s definitely interested in the prospect. 

What we do know, whatever the answer may be, any ride-sharing program from Tesla would likely be a ways off in the future. 

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