• Aayushi Jain

We're All Living in Tesla Town

If you’re from the Bay Area, you’re probably accustomed to seeing Teslas roaming the streets of Silicon Valley. At nearly every intersection and in nearly every neighborhood, you can spot these clean energy electric vehicles flaunting their luxurious, sleek design. Started in 2003 by a group of engineers hoping to move towards a zero-emission future, Tesla is an American electric vehicle and clean energy company located in Palo Alto, California. Tesla’s infamous Model S, released in 2012, was the world’s first ever premium all-electric sedan, “designed for speed and endurance—with incredible aerodynamics, ludicrous performance and uncompromised aesthetics.” Today, Tesla is the world’s most valuable automaker with its company valuation of roughly $206.5 billion, around $4 billion more than Toyota.

Although the company has never had a profitable year, Tesla has continuously dominated headlines and markets. The Cybertruck, announced in late 2019 by CEO Elon Musk, gained substantial media attention when two Tesla executives failed to prove the supposed unbreakable nature of the Cybertruck’s “Armor Glass” windows. Nonetheless, as investors continue putting their faith in Tesla, the stock has more than doubled this year, surging over 180%. Due to Tesla’s remarkable value and stock run, Wall Street analysts claim “It's Tesla's world and everyone else is paying rent.” Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tesla still delivered over 90,000 vehicles in the second quarter and withstood the economic downturn better than its competitors. Beyond the car industry, the enthusiastic Elon Musk’s SpaceX initiative, which designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, is also excelling. SpaceX has launched eleven times so far this year, matching the total by Russia, Japan, and America combined.

Elon Musk is also considered a legend in a different type of space: cyberspace. His tweets poking fun at short sellers and the Securities and Exchange Commission are wildly popular but sometimes get Tesla in trouble. Pensions and Investment Research Consultants, one of the largest pension representation and lobby groups in the UK, wants Tesla to remove Musk as CEO on account of his 10-year CEO performance award and Twitter antics. Apparently, his tweets are an “unnecessary reputational risk to the company” and have already “cost Tesla millions of dollars worth of settlements.” However, it’s crystal clear that Musk has triumphantly led Tesla and SpaceX to success thus far. From a stock price of $200 in early 2019 to hitting a new closing high of $1,208.66 on Thursday, Tesla’s growth and potential are indeed extraordinary.

Yet, various problems continue to tarnish Tesla’s reputation. Perhaps most famous is the controversy over Tesla’s autopilot feature, which uses sensors, cameras, and radars to provide each vehicle with certain self-driving capabilities. Federal officials have investigated the feature amidst news of fatal car crashes involving a Tesla driving on autopilot. A more abstract issue is the question of which moral principles to abide by while building a fully autonomous/driverless vehicle. Similar to the trolley problem posed by philosophers, experts often ask how driverless cars should determine who dies under certain circumstances. If a fatal accident is bound to happen, should the car prioritize the life of the single passenger inside the car or the five pedestrians in front of the car? Does the answer change as age, race, gender, and other variables change? As Tesla moves towards developing fully autonomous vehicles, they must somehow answer these questions. More recently, Tesla has been subject to investigation by federal safety officials probing allegations of defective cooling systems installed in early-model Tesla vehicles. It’s news like this that sometimes threatens to stunt Tesla’s growth, but for now, the automaker seems unstoppable. I’m excited to see what new projects Tesla will undertake in the coming years.