Elon Musk says Tesla is open to licensing Autopilot, supplying powertrains and batteries to other automakers
Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted on Twitter on Tuesday night that the automaker would be “open to licensing software and supplying powertrains & batteries” to other automakers. Musk added that that would even include Autopilot, the advanced driver assistance software that Tesla offers to provide intelligent cruise control in a number of different driving scenarios.
Musk was addressing a Teslerati article about how German automakers are looking to close the technology gap between themselves and Tesla when it comes to producing EVs. Volkswagen Chairman Herbert Diess has in past comments expressed admiration for Musk and Tesla’s accomplishments on multiple occasions.
VW has created its own EV platform, which it intends to use as the base for a number of different electric cars, ranging from sport sedans to SUVs. The company is also openly pursuing licensing its MEB platform to other automakers, and struck such a deal with Ford last July for the American automaker’s European business.
Musk says that Tesla’s interest in licensing stems from its underlying goal, which is “to accelerate sustainable energy, not crush competitors” according to his tweet. This isn’t the first time the automaker has indicated a willingness to be more open in pursuit of that goal, either: In 2014, Musk penned a blog postannouncing that Tesla would be making its intellectual property freely available to “anyone who, in good faith, wants to use [its] technology.”
Of course, that hasn’t stopped Tesla from taking aim at potential competitors via legal action on occasion – it filed suit against electric automaker Rivian and four of its former employees last week, alleging theft of trade secrets and poaching key talent.
A platform licensing or supplier relationship would be an entirely different arrangement, of course, and one with plenty of precedent in the automaker industry. Nor would it necessarily negatively impact Tesla’s own auto sales, since the company offers a number of other selling points above and beyond its underlying powertrain and battery tech.
At the time of Volkswagen’s announcement, the German automaker said it expects it could make up to $20 billion in revenue through the MEB deal with Ford, with a significant chunk of that coming from MEB parts and components supply. Tesla could realize similar gains but perhaps amplified globally, especially if it can ramp powertrain and battery production beyond the capacity needs of its own vehicle demand capacity.