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Tesla likely working on an autonomous ride-sharing scheme but hasn’t decided on implementation

Model-X-P90DAdam Jonas, a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley covering Tesla Motors and the automotive industry, is nothing if not persistent. During Tesla’s recent conference call to discuss third quarter financial results, the analyst again asked Tesla CEO Elon Musk about the possibility for the company to join the likes of Uber and Lyft in the ride-sharing industry.

Jonas first brought up the idea at Tesla’s last quarterly conference call after comments made by Tesla board member Steve Juvertson about Uber CEO Travis Kalanick potentially wanting to buy 500,000 autonomous Teslas by the end of the decade. First time around earlier this year, Jonas got a firm “no comment” from Musk, but nonetheless the CEO called his question “insightful” at the time. The second time around during this week’s call, Jonas pushed the question again and although Musk’s first reaction was not to comment, which is rare for the CEO, he implied that an announcement could be coming. Here’s the transcript of the conversation from the conference call:

Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley Analyst
Thanks, everybody. Elon, just thinking longer term here, assuming Tesla establishes itself as a leader in autonomous transport, do you see a business case for selling autonomous cars to ride-sharing firms, or can Tesla cut out the middleman and offer on-demand electric mobility services directly from the company’s own platform?

Elon Musk – Tesla Motors CEO
I think we’d have to say, no comment.

Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley Analyst
I mean, Elon, it’s kind of unusual for you to punt on strategic questions of a long-term nature. Is this a dumb question? Or a funny question?

Elon Musk – Tesla Motors CEO
Actually, I think it’s quite a smart question, actually.

Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley Analyst
Why – all right.

Elon Musk – Tesla Motors CEO
But still no comment.

Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley Analyst
Okay, I won’t antagonize. Let’s move on. I mean, it’s just odd, because you normally are – I’ve never heard you punt like that. That’s all. But any case –

Elon Musk – Tesla Motors CEO
You know…

Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley Analyst
Is it because of a competitive sensitivity, or is it because the concept itself is just too… in flux?

Elon Musk – Tesla Motors CEO
I think there’s a right time to make announcements. And this is not that time.

Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley Analyst
Fair play. All right, can I ask one on Autopilot?

Elon Musk – Tesla Motors CEO
And nor – I mean, nor is our strategy fully baked here. So for us to state what it would be – it’s not fully baked, so there’s no – we’d prefer to announce something when we think we’ve got the full story understood.

Adam Jonas – Morgan Stanley Analyst
So to saying it’s not fully baked implies there’s something in the oven, but just…

Elon Musk – Tesla Motors CEO
Okay, we kind of need to move on.

Futurists envision a future of mobility in which ride-sharing fleets of self-driving electric vehicles dominate the transport industry. Such a model could reduce the global average cost per mile by an order of magnitude and significantly reduce the number of vehicles needed to transport cargo and people.

Jonas is asking if Tesla would be looking to partner with ride-sharing applications to achieve such a model of mobility, or if the company intent to build a platform of its own.

Musk implied that an announcement could be coming by saying that the earnings conference call wasn’t the place for it, but he also said the company was still “baking” a strategy.

Can you smell something cooking?

Noteworthy: Uber recently hired Tesla’s Head of HR Manufacturing Kevan Blanco. Prior to Tesla, Blanco was a sourcing manager at VMware and Apple.

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