Elon Musk: Apple Is Tesla’s Competition

Tesla Model 3

Tesla (and SpaceX) CEO Elon Musk sees Apple as a potentially fierce competitor in the electric-car space.

“I think they should have embarked on this project sooner,” Musk told the audience at Vox Media’s Code Conference this week. “But I don’t know when—you know, they don’t share with me their production plans. I don’t think they’ll be in volume production until 2020.”

However, Musk doesn’t view traditional automakers as a threat to Tesla, at least from a technology standpoint. “I don’t think any of the car companies thus far have made a really great electric car,” he added. “They presumably will continue to improve on what they’ve done so far, but they haven’t done that yet.”

Whatever Musk’s opinion on the competition, the fact remains that autonomous cars could become a major tech sub-industry within the next few years, extending beyond companies such as Tesla to encompass a range of software builders. Even at this nascent stage, companies such as Google and Tesla (in addition to the traditional auto-makers) have focused on hiring software engineers, robotics experts, and others who specialize in the technology that allows cars to drive themselves.

Although Google has announced no plans to produce its own vehicles in-house, the company plans on expanding its current partnerships by opening a research and development center in Novi, Michigan. Google’s self-driving technology is due to find its way into Pacifica mini-vans manufactured by Fiat Chrysler.

If, as many tech pundits predict, Apple enters the market for self-driving cars, it could further drive the need (so to speak) for even more tech pros who specialize in four-wheeled technology. While industry maturity is still a couple of years away, those interested in building autonomous-vehicle features can start learning the skills to get started now.