Patrick Foulis joins host Simon Long to take a look at the financial gymnastics keeping Elon Musk’s business empire afloat. Also: the shadow economies that need a fuse of transparency and private equity’s socialist secretRead more "Countdown for Tesla"
The numerous automakers competing to get self-driving cars on the road want to achieve the same thing: Acquire the best possible database of autonomous behavior to ensure their cars are safer than the competition’s. That’s one reason why the industry is wary of a push by U.S. regulators to get them to share more data: The proposal essentially asks them to surrender their competitive advantage.
By encouraging drivers to give up more control to their vehicle, Tesla’s Autopilot mode may have given it an edge in data-collection over the more passive lane-assist and sensing systems employed by the likes of Volvo, BMW, GM and Toyota. But the costs of that high-stakes strategy have been outweighing the benefits: Aside from the rising toll of accidents, Mobileye blamed Musk’s over-enthusiasm about the technology for ending their relationship, and Germany last week asked Tesla to drop the term Autopilot in case it was leading drivers to reduce their attention.
Giving up on autonomous mode in new cars will reduce Tesla’s ability to overcome its numerical disadvantage in data collection against the major volume automakers. But it will ensure the entire industry is able to develop more prudently, and give regulators faith that engineers aren’t putting inter-company competition ahead of road safety. That can only be a good thing.Read more "Tesla Slams Breaks on Driverless Cars"
Just over a year ago, Tesla sent out a software update to its cars that made its “Autopilot” features available to customers, in what the company called a “public beta test.” In the intervening 12 months, at least one customer died while the Tesla was in autopilot mode. Cars have crashed, regulators have cracked down, and the headlines proclaiming that “Self-Driving Cars Are Here” were replaced with Tesla’s assurances that autopilot was nothing but a particularly advanced driver-assist system.
Given all this, one might assume that a chastened Tesla would take things more cautiously with its next iteration of autonomous technology. But in a launch event this week, Tesla introduced its Autopilot 2.0 hardware with the promise that all the cars it builds from now on will have hardware capable of “the highest levels of autonomy.”
Tesla’s proof that its new hardware is capable of driving in the “complex urban environment” was a brief, edited video of the system navigating the area around its headquarters near Stanford University in California. Though exciting for enthusiasts who can’t wait to own a self-driving car, the video is hardly proof that Tesla’s system is ready to handle all the complexities that are holding back other companies that have been working on autonomous technology for longer than Tesla. As impressive as Tesla’s system is — and make no mistake, it is deeply impressive — navigating the Stanford campus is a hurdle that even graduate school projects are able to clear.
Tesla’s new sensor suite upgrades what was a single forward-facing camera to eight cameras giving a 360-degree view around the car. It also updates the 12 ultrasonic sensors, while keeping a single forward-facing radar. Yet independent experts and representatives from competitor firms tell me this system is still insufficient for full level 5 autonomy- the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s highest rating — which requires more (and better) radar, multiple cameras with different apertures at each position and 360-degree laser-sensing capabilities.Read more "The Only Thing on Autopilot at Tesla Is the Hype Machine"
More than 2 million electric vehicles may be on the world’s roads by the end of 2016, writes the Guardian, citing data from the electric vehicle world database EV Volumes. That should be good news for electric carmaker Tesla. It is not. A closer look at the data shows that most of the growth comes from Tesla competitors, and from regions where Tesla is weak. It is a stereotype “that the U.S. market is further ahead in deploying the zero-emission technology thanks to cars such as the Tesla Model S,” writes Automotive News. As far as Tesla is concerned, electric vehicle sales are exploding in all the wrong places.
The “America First” stereotype was coined in 2014, when America was the world’s largest EV market. A year later, this changed in a big way, and it is changing in an even bigger way as we speak.Read more "For Tesla, Electric Car Sales Explode In All The Wrong Places"
Elon Musk didn’t become a billionaire without brass, and this week he floated one of his most outrageous bets: an offer by his taxpayer-subsidized Tesla Motors to buy his taxpayer-subsidized SolarCity. Tesla shareholders and Wall Street analysts are howling, but didn’t they always know they were buying a business model that depended on the kindness of politicians?
The electric-car maker offered to acquire the solar panel company at a more than 20% premium over SolarCity’s previous share price in an all-stock transaction. “Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently,” the company said in a blog post, “but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.”
The ostensible plan is to set up a one-stop shop so folks buying $85,000 Teslas don’t have to walk across the street to buy solar panels, among other “synergies.” Mr. Musk predicted, with his typically modest ambition, that the merger will lead to a Tesla valuation of $1 trillion, or about 34 times what it was Wednesday.
He may need one of his SpaceX rockets to get there. Tesla shares fell 10% Wednesday, or more than the $2.8 billion value of SolarCity, as investors asked why one money-losing company would be better off buying another money-losing company. SolarCity was once a darling of the green energy set, but its shares have fallen more than 50% in the past year as its political advantage ebbs.Read more "Elon Musk’s Subsidy Aggregation"
CNBC corrected Tesla CEO Elon Musk Monday after he falsely claimed in a tweet that the coal industry receives more government handouts than renewable energy companies.
Musk, who owns more than 20 percent of Tesla, tweeted out a response to comments made by Murray Energy CEO Robert E. Murray on “Squawk Box” suggesting that Tesla “has gotten $2 billion from the taxpayer,” and “has not made a penny yet in cash flow.”
The government could shutter every single coal plant in the country, Murray added, and not see any discernible reduction in the Earth’s temperature.
Musk apparently didn’t take kindly to the inference that one of his companies is failing despite being recipients of heavy government subsidies, so he took to Twitter, and wrote: the “real fraud going on is denial of climate science.” He attached the video of Murray to the tweet.
Tesla receives far less in subsidies than the coal industry, Musk added, “How about we both go to zero?”Read more "CNBC Tears Down Elon Musk’s Snarky Response To A Coal CEO"
Section VII: Conclusion
Current solar subsidies and net metering schemes through U.S. states continue to draw capital away from its most efficient use, often at the benefit of U.S. solar panel producers and installation companies, such as SolarCity, but at the expense of electricity consumers.
The costs associated with facilitating these distortions are numerous. Given that solar customers are often paid the retail rate for excess electricity produced, and do not share the burden of maintenance costs, electrical grids are finding they cannot keep up with the current dichotomy they are facing of rising costs and a decreasing customer base. Thus, many studies conducted by states have found evidence of cross-subsidization between non-solar customers, who are often less-affluent, and solar customers, who are often more-affluent.
Proponents of government assistance of solar energy have attempted to highlight job growth as a means to justify the immense support needed by the solar industry in order to stay afloat. These job growth estimates not only employ skewed survey data, but also fail to take into account many of the dynamic effects that result from the government’s intervention, such as the consequences of draining tax revenues and foregone investments, increased cost of energy utilizing a greater share of consumers’ budgets, jobs foregone by investing in solar energy production, and jobs created in the base case scenario if solar energy were not subsidized in its current form.
States should seek to restructure their net metering schemes and subsidies in order to promote the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars and normalize investments based on the fundamentals of different electricity generating methods. While utility-scale solar has proven more efficient than residential solar installations, both continue to lag behind traditional electricity generation methods that are able to generate greater output per dollar.
Any future technological development of solar energy alternatives relies heavily on whether the government will be able to take a step back and allow the market to distribute capital efficiently, thereby allowing the most competitive electricity options to survive and facilitate effective progress of solar power and other electricity options.Read more "The High Cost of Rooftop Solar Subsidies"