One thing Tesla learned from Apple

"Tesla, born in Silicon Valley, never outsourced their software — they write their own code." -- Prof. Morris Cohen

From Jack Ewing's "Why Tesla Soared as Other Automakers Struggled to Make Cars" on the front page of Sunday's New York Times:

When Tesla couldn’t get the chips it had counted on, it took the ones that were available and rewrote the software that operated them to suit its needs. Larger auto companies couldn’t do that because they relied on outside suppliers for much of their software and computing expertise. In many cases, automakers also relied on these suppliers to deal with chip manufacturers. When the crisis hit, the automakers lacked bargaining clout.

Just a few years ago, analysts saw Mr. Musk’s insistence on having Tesla do more things on its own as one of the main reasons the company was struggling to increase production. Now, his strategy appears to have been vindicated...

“Tesla, born in Silicon Valley, never outsourced their software — they write their own code,” said Morris Cohen, a professor emeritus at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in manufacturing and logistics. “They rewrote the software so they could replace chips in short supply with chips not in short supply. The other carmakers were not able to do that.”

“Tesla controlled its destiny,” Professor Cohen added.

My take: Chip off the old COO.


  1. David Emery said:
    I strongly suspect there’s -lots- Tesla learned from Apple in supply chain management, particularly around getting priority and assured delivery. It’s interesting to me that Tesla seems to be suffering no end-result chip availability problems

    Personally, I would have doubted Tesla’s ability to scale the way they have. But one advantage of being a pessimist is you’re only pleasantly surprised.

    On the other hand, knowing nothing about Tesla’s software safety approach, that’s a huge concern. I think there needs to be clear federal mandates for software safety in vehicles, and oversight done like the FAA used to do over the commercial avionics industry.

    January 9, 2022
  2. Ken Cheng said:
    I wish Tesla would hire some Apple software engineers, so they’d follow the HIG, Human-Interface Guidelines! Too much text on the display is too small with very small targets. When you’re driving, you can only take quick glances at the screen, so everything needs to be easily legible in a glance.

    Of course the chip story is a bit funny if it’s the MCU, since Elon promoted their bespoke MCU chips as being the best.

    January 9, 2022
  3. Jonny T said:
    Is Tesla software written on a fork of Android, or am I imagining that?

    January 9, 2022
    • From Tesla: Is Tesla OS based on Android?
      “Tesla’s Software Platforms team provides the foundation on which the in-vehicle user experience is built. … Our software is based on Linux, GNU toolchain, buildroot, and other open source projects, delivering the security, capability, and performance demanded by our user experience.”

      ex ped: I believe there’s a vaporous Tesla phone that runs a Tesla version of Android.

      January 9, 2022
      • Jonny T said:
        Thanks Philip. Taking it a bit to extremes, the fact that a Tesla cannot use Apple CarPlay rules it out for me. As a friend says, its miserable using maps on the Tesla because it has far too much commercial data that you lose sight of what you really need or want to see on it. Meanwhile keep a watch on Lucid, 520 mile range and a smaller sedan being mooted sub $30k. Brief rumours that they have ‘talked’ with Apple…

        January 10, 2022

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