Elon Musk suggested Thursday during Twitter shares with Ford CEO Jim Farley that Tesla may open source some of its automotive operating system code to other automakers.
“In the same way that Android can be useful for the phone industry as a common standard, we can potentially open source more code,” Musk said. If Tesla makes that leap, it will compete with Google, which has developed an Android-based automotive operating system, as well as Apple.
Musk responded to Farley’s post that making a “full software upgradeable car” is “extremely difficult.” The billionaire CEO said Tesla would be happy to “help with the software.”
Musk made the comment during the Twitter Spaces used to announce the landmark agreement between Tesla and Ford. Under the deal announced Thursday, Ford’s EV customers will gain access to the Tesla Supercharging network USA and Canada. More importantly, Ford has agreed to include Tesla’s charging port in its second-generation EV lineup, which includes a truck and a three-row SUV, starting in 2025.
Musk often pitches Tesla ideas at live events, some of which come to fruition and some of which don’t. If Tesla tried to commercialize its over-the-air update software for other cars, it would put the automaker in direct competition with Google and Apple.
Google offers car manufacturers Android Automotive OS:, which is modeled after its open source mobile operating system running Linux and modified for use in machines. Apple also jumped into the OS game last June when it announced that it next generation CarPlay is intended to power the entire instrumentation of the vehicle. The two tech companies also offer middleware products called Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that connect a user’s phone to a car’s infotainment system.
Supply chain partnerships
Musk and Farley also hinted Thursday at other possible future partnerships, including in the supply chain.
Ford’s CEO questioned Musk about Tesla’s innovation Corpus Christi Lithium Refinery. Ford recently made a number of dealsincluding with Albemarle and SQM to secure the automaker’s access to lithium.
Musk reiterated previous woes that there aren’t enough entrepreneurs in the U.S. mining and refining raw materials, and that he wishes Tesla didn’t have to pick up the slack. He said the company has a nickel-based cathode recycling plant in Austin, and may also have to get involved in anode production, but “hopefully not.”
Musk noted that there would be a huge market for synthetic graphite (graphite is the main material for most lithium-ion anodes).
The two CEOs have remained friendly at times, though competing against each other. Musk has praised the automaker in the past, citing several times only Tesla and Ford avoid bankruptcy.
Ford, like other legacy automakers, is still trying to unseat Tesla as the #1 seller of electric vehicles in the US. Ford has a ways to go.
In 2022, Ford sold 61,575 electric vehicles in the US, Tesla sold 1.3 million EVs worldwide. The company does not break down sales by country. For the past two years, Ford has said this lost about 3 billion dollars on its EV and digital services business, a unit now known as the Model e. The company doesn’t expect the Model e to be profitable until the end of 2026 with an 8% operating profit margin. Ford’s traditional gas-powered powertrains were profitable enough to offset those losses.
In terms of production, Ford aims to reach 600,000 EVs by the end of 2023 and 2 million by the end of 2026.
Tesla has said it wants to achieve 50% compound annual growth by 2023, which should see the automaker produce 1.8 million vehicles.