Elon Musk Explains How Teslas Might Connect to SpaceX Internet Satellites

He also gave a prediction for when the constellation could be up and running.


Elon Musk said Wednesday that he hasn’t thought about connecting Tesla cars on Earth to the coming SpaceX powered internet satellite constellation, but says there’s probably a way to make such a connection work. That connection could give Tesla a serious competitive advantage, predicts one analyst.

Adam Jonas, an investment analyst for Morgan Stanley, asked Musk about potentially connecting his two companies during Tesla’s Q1 2018 earnings call.

In February of this year SpaceX sent up twin Internet satellites intended to demonstrate just how SpaceX intends to create a constellation of such sats in low-Earth orbit that could see the company eventually have some 4,425 satellites in orbit one day.

Now that sort of internet network could benefit internet-connected Teslas, giving the electric automaker an immense advantage over traditional automakers.

Here was the exchange:

Jonas: Your cars produce a large amount of data and SpaceX gets into the satellite-broadband business next year.
Musk: Well, not next year, but it’s probably three years.
Jonas: Some argue that SpaceX could offer Tesla a resilient cyber-secure pipe for this precious vehicle data and a potential competitive advantage, so Elon, isn’t bandwidth an obvious domain for collaboration between Tesla and SpaceX one day?
Musk: I mean, it might be. There’s lots of interesting things you could do. Car’s got a lot of computing power and it’s connected to cell networks and wifi and everything. It could be connected to a [low-Earth orbit] internet constellation. I haven’t thought about it, but probably there is.

Musk might be playing his cards close to the vest, but his comments on Tuesday hint at a future where cars like the Tesla Model 3 — which he expects to have the 30-40 percent of the premium mid-size sedan market by the end of the year — have super-fast reliable and secure internet connection.

Here’s the plan in short: Five years from now, those satellites in low-Earth orbit satellites could orbit the Earth and comprise the hardware for the network. Phase II of the plan calls for even more satellites: 7,518 (very-low-Earth-orbit ones) that could make internet speeds even faster, according to SpaceX’s proposal. The result? “When combined into a single, coordinated system (the “SpaceX System”) [the two satellite constellations] would provide both diverse geographic coverage and the capacity to support a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users in the United States and globally.” Wild stuff. (Wonder if SpaceX will maintain its own net neutrality policy.)

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