Automotive engineer, Sandy Munro is an expert in the car and manufacturing industry. He is well-known for his analysis and reviews on deconstructing every aspect of automobiles to offer constructive critique for future improvements.
Last week, Munro got the opportunity to interview Elon Musk to discuss all things Tesla. In this article, we summarize the highlights of this rare one-on-one dialog with the Tesla boss.
Munro questioned Musk on why some cars with the same Model/Year will differ in quality.
The Tesla CEO replied with frankness that it has taken time to iron out the production process, especially during a production ramp, and when Musk gets asked when should people buy a Tesla, he said either buy it right at the beginning, or when the production reaches a steady state. During a production ramp when they’re doing a vertical climb, it becomes really difficult to make sure every detail of the vehicle is perfect.
Musk went further to say that recently they ran into issues with the car paint not drying quick enough, which caused problems and it is like production as hell. But the positive is that they learn, identify, and fix and now Tesla is the first American car manufacturer to achieve volume production in 100 years. Musk also went on to say that prototypes are easy and fun, and then reaching volume production with a reliable product at an affordable price is excruciatingly difficult.
Munro then moved on to discussing Tesla’s interior seats and explained that they recently completed over 6000 miles in a couple of days with his Tesla Model Y. He then commented that “the seats in your car are phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal”. He compared the Model Y seats to the Jeep Wrangler and said if he had sit in the Jeep’s seat for more than an hour, he would have to go to a chiropractor. So, what was Musk’s take on that super compliment?
The Tesla genius said they do put a lot of effort into minimizing any pressure peaks in order to even out the pressure and not cut off circulation. Musk admitted that the early Model S had terrible car seats and went as far as to call them stone toadstools. Franz von Holzhauzen put a lot of thought into getting the seat design right and said, “it was a long journey and a lot of effort”.
Unlike a lot of other car makers who outsource their seat production, Tesla does it all in-house and their goal was to get the perfectly designed seat into production that will feel like a hand tailored seat to the driver. Mission accomplished.
Sandy Munro had access to the beta FSD autopilot system and he felt the road markings were a problem and yet the Tesla Autopilot managed to navigate around this. With self-driving becoming a future reality, there needs to be better construction and consistency across the states to enable better use of self-driving technology.
Musk said the markings could be painted totally wrong and a UFO could land in front of the road, and the car will still not crash. It will still do the right thing. Musk explained that the prime directive for an autopilot system is not to crash and it cannot be dependent on the road markings being done properly to achieve its goal. Munro also questioned Musk about why the Tesla keeps wanting you to drive in the right hand lane because you need to follow the rules but the interview host wasn’t so keen on that feature. However, Musk put him out of his misery by mentioning there is a setting to change that.
The Tesla boss was proud to add, “We've got a very talented team that we built from scratch at Tesla for autopilot software and autopilot hardware. And yeah, it's just really a lot of talented people.”
When Munro curiously asked how if the software had a bazillion trillion lines of code, Musk said “Well, I don't think lines of code is necessarily a metric of goodness.” Rightly so.
AND MUCH MORE
The 45-minute also covered megacastings, the structural battery pack, precision assembly and material sciences, EV crossover point, electronics and wiring, and some musings over what Musk thinks about MBA qualifications.
Click here to watch the full interview.