Elon Musk's Crash Course in Self-Driving Technology | FX and Hulu
Hi, my name is Emma Schwartz, and I'm the producer and director for Elon Musk's Crash Course. Elon Musk wanted to revolutionize the auto industry. He created Tesla's brand around Autopilot. People are gonna assume the car does more than it can. There were crashes taking place while Autopilot was in use.
Is Tesla an example of scientific integrity and public responsibility? It is not. How much do you push the edge of the envelope? This is Factual America. We're brought to you by Alamo Pictures, an Austin and London based production company making documentaries about America for international audiences. I'm your host, Matthew Sherwood. Each week, I watch a hit documentary and then talk with the filmmakers and
their subjects. This week, it is my pleasure to welcome Emmy winning journalist and filmmaker Emma Schwartz. Emma is the director and producer of Elon Musk's Crash Course, the latest in a series of films from The New York Times Presents. Based on reporting by New York Times journalists, Cade
Metz and Neil Boudette, the film zeroes in on Elon Musk, the world's richest person and CEO of Tesla, and his claims about self-driving cars. A New York Times investigation reveals the quixotic nature of Musk's pursuit of self-driving technology and the tragic results. Elon Musk made his name, and fortune, taking bold risks and betting on the impossible. But Musk's pursuit of self-driving cars has put him on a crash course with business realities and the limits of technology. Stay tuned as we find out more about what many former Tesla employees have to say about Musk's claims. And the culture he has created at the self-described tech company. Is Silicon Valley's era of 'move fast
and break things' really over? Emma, welcome to Factual America. How are things with you? ... and how are you? Thanks for having me. Yeah, it's our pleasure. No, things are great. And congratulations. Let's, well, our listeners should have already heard it in the intro, but we're talking about the film is Elon Musk's Crash Course. The latest from The New York Times Presents series premiered on FX and Hulu on May 20. And in terms of our international audience, I think just google it, I'm sure it will be coming to you sometime in the near future. But congratulations. I imagine you, The New York Times journalists, and others, you've had a busy couple of weeks, haven't you? Yeah, you know, it was a good experience. Very much. And, you know, good to see it out.
Yeah, and how's the reaction been? Well, it seems like it's gotten a lot of attention, which is always good and interesting. And, you know, for the most part, I think, fairly positive. Well, I've seen - I mean, even before we knew we were going to get you on, I certainly was coming across it on my perusal of social media and elsewhere. So, thanks again for coming on to the podcast. I mean, why don't you tell - for those who haven't seen it
yet - what is Elon Musk's Crash Course all about; maybe give us a synopsis. Alright, so the film is about, obviously Elon Musk, but it's about Elon Musk and Tesla's attempt to create a self-driving car, right. This has been a dream in the sort of technology world for a long time. And, you know, this effort comes up against - literally crashes with the, you know, assisted driver system. And so, we peel back what we can learn from the first fatal Autopilot crash in the United States that killed a man named Josh Brown. And what does that
tell us about the promises that Silicon Valley and Elon Musk have sold us. And, you know, ultimately, how safe are these systems that are starting to come onto the road? Yeah, I think, I mean, and we'll be talking more about this over the next few minutes, but like you said, I'm not a big car enthusiast or not even a big Musk follower, but it seems to me I've been hearing for ages now that we're just a year or two away from all being in self-driving cars, somehow. So, it's - no, I think it's very interesting. And this is building on New York Times investigations that have been done over the last few years. Is that right? Well, you know, there's been reporters of The Times, obviously, who followed Elon Musk and followed Tesla over the years and, you know, when I started with the group, we were talking about, you know, what should we look into, and there's a lot of interest in, you know, Elon Musk, right. He's in the headlines every day. Some people think he's, you know, sort of going to save humanity and other people think he's, you know, a con man and trying to figure out, okay, what can we add to this conversation? What can we help people understand about one of the richest and ultimately, in many ways, most influential people on the planet today, right. And I think we didn't really want to look at just a straight biography. And we started
looking at, you know, all of the different endeavors that he's taken on. And really, the self-driving effort is one of the ones that's gotten so much attention, and had so many questions that seem to both, you know, affect the public good, but also look at how does this man operate, right. And as I started to hone in on that, one of the reporters at the time, Cade Metz, he'd started writing about, you know, this full self-driving, and we started to collaborate on developing sources and pushing that story forward. And really, you know, taking a long view at, you know, what we had seen as sort of dribs and drabs over the years, to understand, well, what's happened to those promises we were all hearing, you know, 5-10 years ago, that self-driving cars were going to be on the road, and that Elon Musk is, you know, even to this day, still saying are happening, you know, in the next year. Yeah. And so, that says a lot - something maybe I'll raise later - about the sort of collaborative
approach between what you do, and then the actual New York Times journalists, which I find very interesting, even personally, but what were you - what have - I mean, I don't want to give away, you know, do spoiler alerts, people should watch the film, but what are the main findings of, you know, in terms of the investigations you've done looking at this? So, you know, I think there's findings, and then there's still questions, right. And I think, you know, one of the things that we learn is, you know, clearly Elon Musk and Tesla have been over-promising the capabilities of the system. And that, you know, even as Elon is saying, you know, we're just gonna have, you know, self-driving cars around the corner, there are people inside the Autopilot unit who had a lot of questions, both about what was being sold, but even about the basic technology that was being put into these systems, right. And that has been a pattern over many, many years. We also, you know, showed the ways in
which government investigators have highlighted some pretty key deficiencies in the way that this system has been put together. It allows cars to be used on roads that the technology isn't designed for, without restrictions, or at least, with very few restrictions at first, and even the restrictions that have been put in since haven't met the, you know, the recommendations of the government investigators. And there's a very weak system of keeping a driver engaged, right. We get into technology, right; when we start using automated systems, we kind of zone out, right, we forget they're there, we almost think they're better than they can be. And this, you know, when you combine that with a big vehicle, driving on a road at a very fast pace can be a really dangerous thing. And, you know, there's decades of research that says, you got to keep the people involved, you can't lull them into thinking it's better than it is. And the system, you know, didn't keep drivers very active, and even to this day, hasn't met the recommendations of the government, right. And it also tells you well, the government hasn't even
wanted to force them to do anything, either. But that certainly raises a lot of questions about what are the values and the principles of a company that doesn't even respond to government investigators, when they're saying, Hey, guys, like, we've got literally dead bodies here. Yeah. I mean, I think, maybe the first - well, there's a lot to unpack there. But I guess, maybe one of the first things is that the driver's assistance system is called Autopilot, isn't that right? Right.
So, we... So, what is it? What is that, you know; I mean, we have this concept of autopilot that - I guess, literally, planes aren't literally flying themselves, there's obviously two pilots in the cockpit. But that in of itself tells you, at least gives the impression that it's more than just, you know, that you don't need to have your hands on the wheel and this sort of thing. Yes, so the name is sort of almost, like, the first question, right. And, you know, some people will say, look, the reason why Tesla and Elon wanted to use the name Autopilot, is because technically, in a plane, a pilot is supposed to be engaged, right. Which is technically true, but you have very trained pilots who have to go through training to do this. There's two of them, right. It's not just you and me jumping in a car.
And, in fact, when this autopilot technology in planes was introduced, there were crashes. And there were problems for exactly the same kinds of reasons that, you know, we're seeing problems with the advanced driver assistance, because the pilots that well, oh, yeah, the plane can, you know, move so it can handle itself. But I think when you and me hear the term autopilot, we think like automatic, right; that's how our brains work. And that has been something that, you know, people have criticized for many years, but Tesla and Elon have stood behind saying, Well, okay, that's not what we mean. But I think we all know language is really important because it affects how we perceive things and especially because most people, you know, don't go into the fine print. And it's not just the initial package Autopilot. Since 2017, they've been selling a software called Full Self-Driving, right. Like,
that, to me says, Okay, this car can drive by itself, right, pretty much anywhere. I think that's what anyone who doesn't know about the technology would think. And by everyone's admission, it's not full self-driving. And so, it's not just sort of okay, there was Autopilot, there was a misunderstanding. They made yet another package that says it's something it's not. Yeah. I don't want to make light of this, either, actually, but one thing that struck me was that this sounds like, I mean, because it's what $10,000 extra to get this full...
Unless you buy it on sale, but, yes. Yeah. So, it's $10,000 extra, and you get the hardware, knowing that the software isn't up to speed yet. So, it's the promise that this will eventually work? Exactly, exactly. I think that's what, you know, Cade sort of says in the film, which I thought really encapsulated the idea well, is that you're buying a promise. And look, there's a pattern and
a history that, you know, Tesla had sold ideas; it had sold Roadsters before they even built Roadsters, right; they only had a prototype. And so, there's some conceit that in Silicon Valley, these things happen. But, you know, you're selling a little bit - I mean, you're selling a promise, that's a long way off. And, you know, I think the conceit was okay, the cars have all the technology, the hard technology that we need. But, as we've seen, they didn't, right. Because the technology, the cameras, the computer that were in the car at the time that Elon promised that, had been changed, which, you know, some could say, Hey, that's a good thing, right.
They're putting in better technology. But it also means that the words that he said at that time, ultimately weren't true, you know, whether he knew that would be the case or not, at that time is certainly a question, but clearly there were some people at the time who didn't think it would be. I mean, it does sort of remind me of something that was said about one of our presidents, but, it's almost like he's a Teflon CEO. I mean, these things don't stick. I mean, obviously, there're investigations, you've well documented, and government - as you said the NTSB and others have taken him to task, but it doesn't seem - there's something about the Tesla culture, the fan base, maybe is the best way to put it, or not, that really just - they see what they want to see. Is that fair enough way of describing it?
I mean, I don't think you can say every single fan doesn't see limits and challenges, right. When you start talking to people, there is some diversity there. But yes, there is a group of very, very rabid fans who essentially believe what Elon says, right. And I think it would be hard to imagine a company and a technology that came about in this way, without somebody like Elon, without somebody with this cult of personality and power to get his message across, you know, directly through social media. And, you know, it is pretty remarkable that basic facts seem to be in dispute, right. But
that's part and parcel of our world today, right. He's not the only one who is out there with a major following in this world that can just sort of say things and people believe them, whether or not they're based in fact. You see this right now with, like, the Twitter debate, right? Or the attempted acquisition of Twitter, where Elon is saying, Well, we just need to sort of do a quick sample to see how many bots there are, because I'm worried about the number of bots and then, you know, you look, is that really a statistical sample? Is that even the reason why he really is questioning pulling out, right, but for some people, that's just true, right. Yeah, yeah. It's an interesting point. I mean, your film touches - and rightly so, zeroes in on this whole - these claims about self-driving technology, and the unfortunate crashes and deaths that have occurred, but it says a lot about so many other things, which - I mean, there's been other films about Silicon Valley and these sorts of things that you mention them in the film, but this whole - combined with the social media element, I think, is interesting - probably in that way, very unique. I mean, as you say, it's not just - I mean, it's not just you and
working with New York Times journalists, but you do have these former employees who, you've got quite a few, actually, in the film, who are all in that self - almost all of them were in the self-driving division. I know, you also get John McNeill, the former Tesla president, too, on camera as well. You get the engineers, the designers. I mean, is this almost career suicide to come out and say some of the things they're saying? And also, there's no, how to put it, they're very typical, they're very typical engineers and designers, aren't they? I mean, they're very 'this the way it should be'. And, you know, they're not the type to throw their hands up and start screaming and shouting about how things have been done. But they do recognize that they've been uncomfortable with how this has all been rolled out, aren't they? Look, I think by nature, like, engineers tend to be careful and precise and meticulous personalities, right? They're putting things together, and they have to be really careful. And you sort of see that concern arise when they see a system that doesn't have that logic that they would expect, as the sort of rational, you know, types, right. But you mentioned, okay,
was it sort of career suicide? I mean, look, there was many, many more people that I reached out to, that Cade reached out to, that we spoke with, right, who were not in a position where they felt like they could speak publicly. And I think, you know, having those kinds of conversations with, you know, far more than unfortunately, we could get into in the film, I think gave us the confidence to understand that this wasn't just sort of, like, one bad apple who used to work there who's upset, right? There's a lot of people, and there's still some people who have some belief and got a lot out of being at Tesla, even if they have concerns, right. It's a company that's known for hiring lots of young people. And so, there is a great benefit, when you're coming into, you know, an industry to be able to move up the career ladder much faster to have someone who can motivate you to try to achieve something you couldn't, right. They'd still learn things, sometimes, but, you know, some of them got really, really concerned, as you can see with Raven or Oxshott. You know, I think the people who were willing to talk, were at a place, you know, sort of personally and professionally, where they both felt like it was the right thing to do. And in the case of several of them, you know, they
started their own companies. And so, they're kind of risk-taking entrepreneur types themselves, who were in more of a position to be open and candid than people who went to work for a competitor, right? Because even if some of the competitors have concerns about the level of the technology, and you obviously, you take that, you know, with some level of skepticism, they didn't want to be out there publicly bashing Elon or Tesla, either, right? There's sort of this quiet murmuring rather than, you know, there's an occasional burst, right, but it's not, like, you know, they're happy to have their ex-Tesla employees on staff go and speak publicly. I think this brings us, or at least for me, brings us to a point where you've already mentioned the US government's response to this, but I must have to admit, I'm a bit confused. Because, you know, we've got the former NTSB officials, former head of the NTSB, saying all the right things and, you know, publicly taking Tesla to task for being the one automotive company, at least in the US, who's not following the recommendations about self-drive, but yet, we've got this 2020 NHTSA report that seemed to exonerate Tesla. So, it's kind of this where, you know, how does that all fit together? You know, part of the challenge here is you have this alphabet soup of government agencies that are involved here, right. Before getting into details, like - NHTSA, the National Highway,
Transportation, Safety Administration, they're the regulators; like, these are the guys that have power to actually change things. But in order to change things, they need a lot of evidence and a lot of data. And also, I guess, I would say a little bit of sort of confidence, right, and someone who's got the will to push something. And, on the other hand you have the NTSB, which are these investigators, whose primary mission is to figure out, Okay, what's the safest thing that you can do; what really happened? But they have no power, right, they can just suggest things. Now, you know, most companies and, you know, most of the time, what they suggest is picked up by companies and by government officials. And, you know, part of what regulators have publicly looked into this was the first time of the Josh Brown investigation. And at the time,
there was two things. One, it was the first known fatal crash in the United States. And there was some additional data showing that there were other crashes, right, those 38 other crashes, but there wasn't tons and tons of data that would meet the high bar, at least according to the government officials; and also, they were rushing to get this done because this is the end of the Obama administration. And I think there was a fear that, you know, when Trump came in, things wouldn't happen and nothing might have come out at all about the Josh Brown crash. Alright. I think that takes us to a good point here to give our listeners a little break. So, we'll be right back with Emma Schwartz, director and producer of Elon Musk's Crash Course, latest in New York Times Presents series premiered on FX and Hulu on May 20.
You're listening to Factual America. Subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter at Alamo Pictures to keep up-to-date with new releases or upcoming shows. Check out the show notes to learn more about the program, our guests and the team behind the production. Now back to Factual America. In terms of taking your eyes off the road, thirty seconds is an eternity. I really feel like we've struck a great balance between improving the safety, and improved the usefulness.
I remember Elon talked about how it was going to be the radar that was sort of first rank or priority one. We're making much more effective use of radar. I just thought radar's been around for 75 years. If they could do this now, why didn't they do it before? I think the timing was significant. I mean, it was right after this tragic accident. And they were trying to make it sound like we got this under control. Obvious question I have to ask. Would the improvements
have mitigated or saved Josh Brown's life? We believe it would have. And so, the truck would have been seen by the radar only and braking would have been engaged? It cannot be said with absolute certainty. But we believe it is very likely that yes, it would have. Welcome back to Factual America. I'm here with award winning journalist and
filmmaker Emma Schwartz, director and producer of Elon Musk's Crash Course, latest in the New York Times Presents series. It's premiered on FX and Hulu on May 20. It's already made quite a splash. I'm sure you've - if you've been paying attention to the news, you would have certainly come across this. I mean, we've been talking about the self-drive technology, and what Elon Musk has said and not said - well, not so much what he's not said, but what he said and the promises he's made. And, you know, how much of this is Musk? And how much of this is Silicon
Valley? Because, I mean, you reference Theranos, and we know about 'fake it until you make it' and 'move fast and break things'. Is this Musk? Or is this just how Silicon Valley rolls? I mean, I think it's a bit of both, right. Because clearly there is this sort of 'fake it till you make it' mentality in Silicon Valley. And then again, you know, Elon Musk is someone who's
made it, right. He's made multiple companies that have sold. He's made cars, he's made rocket ships, not personally, but the companies that he's built. And I think what's different here is Elon Musk is, like, a household name, right. He's a man with this huge following. We've talked about that, right. But his promises have a different weight than, you know, another founder who's saying it
to a venture capitalist to raise money. His words resonate with millions of consumers, not just in this country, but around the world. And so, when he says something, because he's been successful, right. Step back here for a second. One of the things when we started getting into this film, right, is, you know, Elon is a guy who's defied conventions, right. He started a car company when you said - people said you - we haven't had a new car company in decades, and to be coming successful car company, when nobody has startup car company, to the big leagues, right. He's, you know, helped found a rocket company, right. So, he did things that people thought were crazy. And so, you know, when you get into this technology, and Tesla,
and the attempt at creating self-driving car, he's using technology that other people think is, well, not enough to be robust or safe enough. And you have to ask that question. Okay, well, does he know something that the rest of us don't because he's defied conventions? And, you know, as sort of we got into it, it was just harder to say, Well, okay, maybe he's right again, defying conventions here. And, you know, you gotta wonder is he someone who's had so many successes that he just assumes the next thing will be a success. Whereas we're all prone to having failures even after we've succeeded, right. And I think that can be harder to acknowledge and understand when you've been so successful, right. One of the, you know, we went through a lot of archive, and there was this line that kept kind of sticking out to me every time I would sort of come back to it on paper in the timeline. And that was where Elon talks about sort of wishful thinking, and that even he sort of falls prey to that, that we all want to believe something's true, even when the facts on the ground, sort of make it seem like, that's probably not going to be true. And
I couldn't help but wonder, you know, is this one of those cases for him? And, you know, how significant that is given his sort of outsized influence on sort of public opinion. So, that's - I mean, I know you're not - we're not trying to - I'm not trying to put words in your mouth or his mouth, but I mean, there is this - because, as you said, he's not just - it's not like he's a bullshit artist. He's backed up - like you said, he's started up many of these companies. He's backed it up, I think; you know, if we're gonna compare it's not like an Elizabeth Holmes at Theranos, where she flat out knew, you know, that - I guess it's still the case is still going...
We don't actually... ... know what he's thinking, right. So, we don't know how much he knows about how good the technology is. And we know that there's people who've raised questions about the technology.
What he said publicly is, he certainly believes it, right. But you're at a point right now, where you've got to wonder if he - how you could not recognize the challenge he's up against. And one thing happened, you know, recently, and this is sort of a little bit in the weeds here, but he's promised for years that, you know, Teslas are going to be like robo-taxis that help make money, right, that you can buy one and make money off your car. I mean, like, we think we buy a car, it's like, it loses money as soon as you drive it off the lot.
And he's been like, Oh, no, it will turn into a self-driving taxi. And when you're not using it, you can make money. And recently, just this year, he said, Well, we might be creating, like, a separate [inaudible] for a taxi, like, something different. And, like, people in the sort of, like, Tesla self-driving universe said, Oh, wait, is that Elon trying to pivot from this idea that all these cars have the hardware necessary for full self-driving? And does he realize he needs to try something different? And, you know, is that sort of his way of spinning that he has a new product, rather than admitting that the product that he has out there hasn't met the promises that he said it would have, you know, for years? So, I really wonder how much - what really is going through his head and what those motivations are, right. But, you know; so, you're saying, Okay, no, we can't say he's exactly like Elizabeth Holmes, he hasn't been charged with crimes, convicted of crimes; like, there's a difference on that level from what the government has done and what we know publicly. But I think there are some real questions about, you know, what does he
really know about how capable that technology is, and how much he's sharing with the public? But I think, I mean, one of the many things your film does so skillfully, there's that section towards the end, again, spoiler alerts, but, where you, you know, you basically say, you know, you pretty much have - I'm sure it's not every example; you could have - the whole film could have just been him saying, We're two years away from this technology being - and he's been saying that since what, roughly, 2016 or so. Or maybe even earlier. So, he is an intelligent man. So, he knows that if he's been saying it's only two years away, and now, six, eight years on, it still hasn't happened. He's got to be doubting it. I mean,
there has to be some, you know, and as you pointed out, maybe that's the reason for potentially a pivot. But he's got to realize, you know, that something's not working here. Yeah, he'll say - probably, right - Like, oh, my timelines are off, but I always believe them when I say them. But I guess I would have a hard time, like, saying that with a straight face if that were me. Because I would look back and say, Oh, well, I guess I was wrong there when - maybe I was too ambitious. And he has acknowledged that it's harder than he thought. But he's still out there saying, It's happening this year. And what do you - I mean because, I mean, obviously your background as a journalist and obviously documentary filmmaker, and you're working with the New York Times journalists on this, but - isn't there a little bit of, you know, there's a bit of a media buy-in to all this, too, isn't there? I mean, you're doing your part to shine a light but, you know, we've been hearing about - no one cries. No one shouts BS. No one says - you know, it's not just
Musk. I mean, the others can make announcements and say, Well, we're going to do this in a couple of years. And it's almost reported kind of as fait accompli, isn't it? I mean, I guess what I'm getting at is - We have this kind of love-hate relationship in our society with technology. We're enamored with it. And it's almost like we want to believe all these things. Yeah. And it's complicated, which is what makes it possible, right. You get in a Tesla and it like, it feels cool, right. Like, it's tech, if you're not used to that, like, you're like, oh, wow, this is neat. Or when you see the car, like, kind of takeover,
you might wonder, Oh, wow, like, look what it can do. It can drive. But what, you know, even the engineers who are developing this technology have learned is, like, just because it can do sort of 80% or 90% - these numbers, obviously are guesses, right - but just because it looks like it can drive some of the time, doesn't mean you can deal with the complexity of what human driving really is. And so, you know, I think this is one of the sort of challenges of sort of short term reporting where new things happen and you report them. Versus having a longer view, which longer articles or documentaries are able to have, right, because you can say, Okay, we've seen this over time. And it hasn't materialized. And I think that was really, at the heart of what we wanted to try to do with this film was sort of step back from the day-to-day and look at, okay, what have we learned? And why does it matter? And I think - I mean, I guess one last question I'm gonna ask about that. I mean, do you think these tech achievements are possible without the Elon Musks of the world, you know, or the - not to disparage anyone else, but like Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg, these types. I mean,
there's these visionary types who achieve things that, you know, like you said, previously, no one thought of, you could make a - whatever, start a new car company, and now he's got, you know, he's become the richest man in the world. No one, you know - do your own space exploration, what kind of - Oh, we got Richard Branson here in the UK, but even there, that's nothing compared to what Musk is trying to do. I mean, is there something you need to have this kind of - I don't know. Suspension of disbelief in your own self? In order to achieve these kinds of - or would these accomplishments, these innovations, just take longer if it weren't for people like Elon Musk, what do you think? I think that's an unanswerable question from any sort of, like, obviously quantifiable sense. But
I think if you look at self-driving, right, like, obviously, nobody has fully achieved it, but there are a lot of other companies out there that are trying, and trying lots of different ways. So, to say that you have to always over-promise and not acknowledge the limits, I think, wouldn't be fair, given that there's other people out there, grinding it and looking at it in different ways, right. And it's not to say that there isn't a lot of value in having visionaries who inspire people, right. You even see with some of the people who worked at Tesla in the film, he inspired people to push themselves beyond where they thought they were capable. And that's an important powerful driver of, you know, technology and development more broadly. But it's really a question of how far do you need a push? And are there other ways and, you know, some people are more public like Elon, so that doesn't mean there aren't other people out there doing this kind of work as well.
And speaking of which, I mean, what is the - I mean, I think it gets a mention towards the end of the film, but realistically, how far away are we? Well, look, I think all the companies that have been involved in this arena have learned that - what they were saying in it - it wasn't just Elon. Elon is sort of the biggest, boldest kind of voice out there is, you know, it's a lot harder than they were projecting, right. And maybe other companies realize that earlier. You know, some of the challenges is that you're dealing with lots of different technologies to figure out how it works. And some of it is that artificial intelligence, you know, has its limits today, right. What Elon is trying to do is basically say that you can use
cameras and artificial intelligence like a human brain and make a self-driving car. The problem is, the level of sophistication of artificial intelligence isn't quite like a human brain and we're still - you know, the projection now is a decade or two decades off, right, at least, and I'm just reciting what other people have told me. I know that projections have been wrong in the past. So, you know, I'm not holding my breath. I think it was really striking when I saw [inaudible] like an airplane. And you see that, and then you're like, Well, this is an idea that has, you know, long, long legs here. And it could be a long time if ever,
and what we are starting to see is sort of discrete attempts and tests in, like, closed boxes, right. Inside, you know, Phoenix, right, where there's one operational, where the weather's good, and it closes down if the weather's not good, and it's flat, and you don't go too fast. And, you know, there's constrained environments where the technology might be making inroads, but the idea that you can just step in a car, it's going to take you where you want to go, and that could be anywhere, that's a long way off at this point, for sure.
And as you've said, he's got, you know, he may not have said the words, but he has people asking him questions, well, how far are we from just being able to get in our car, fall asleep and get to the next destination? And I think he says a couple years away. That was a few years ago. And he's also - I mean, and it's only Tesla that's - what you've described as looking at the AI plus cameras. He's not using these other technologies that the others are saying is almost absolutely necessary for this to be successful. Yeah, no, exactly. And look, there's something to be said for, if you're going to be creating
something new, you have to believe, I think one of the Tesla guys, John McNeill says, you have to almost believe in the impossible, right. And there is some truth to that, right. Like, you have to believe something's achievable that hasn't been achieved to do something new. But the question is, how do you frame that? And how do you tell the public about that, when you're introducing something that you believe will be good, but it isn't there yet? I actually wanted to ask you. So, this is part of The New York Times Presents series. I mean, how did this - I mean, you've already mentioned how the project came along.
You've gotten involved. You've got a long pedigree. Certainly with Frontline. I mean, is this - for you, is this a longer term arrangement? And are we're going to see more things like this coming from - I mean, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what New York Times Presents has been doing? And is doing? And what's the vision behind the series. I mean, I think that the goal is to try to tell important stories with journalistic rigor in a documentary format, right. And, you know, a lot of times when you're putting together a film, you really want to build up characters and have people and that's oftentimes a slightly different kind of storytelling than you might have in, like, a news article. And so, I think there's been a lot of emphasis, trying to sort of figure out how can we, you know, look at people that help us bring about some of these bigger journalistic questions. So,
you know, that, I think, is one of the key goals, especially as sort of, we're moving into this environment where that differentiation between what is radio, what is TV, what is fringe, right, it doesn't exist the way it used to. It's all about how do you consume information? And, you know, what are the different formats? And what is the best way to tell different stories. And I guess, with the use of documentary film, and things you can bring to life, that you wouldn't be able to, in print or online, you know, things, and those - you know, bringing Josh Brown's friends on camera to talk about that, and that gave it a certain human element that maybe does get lost. Not intentionally, but just by the nature of the media - medium - in terms of print, you know, or a typical newspaper article, even one that's more than a few hundred words. What I also found interesting is this whole collaborative approach, because, obviously, there's been articles, pieces written, and people have taken that, and that's been the basis for a doc or even a short, but this sounds like this was something from the beginning, which was a little bit more collaborative, that it wasn't just purely based on an article; you were able to - you both were trying to, like you said, tell a story around - what is something about Elon Musk that we need to look at a little more focused, and is that something - that's the vision for The New York Times Presents, is this collaborative approach to journalism, really.
Every project is going to be a little bit different, here. But this is sort of, I think, a story that was sort of kind of sitting there, if that makes sense. And it needed to be told. And there are different ways to sort of bring that about, and, you know, we work together to do that. Okay. Well, I want to thank you for doing that. It's very much appreciated. If people haven't checked it out yet, I definitely, highly recommend. It's very - it's a snappy documentary,
it's only an hour and 14 minutes. And packs a lot in there. And in very, very insightful and very, very, very thought provoking. So, thank you again for making that. So, just to remind everyone we've been talking with Emma Schwartz, director and producer of Elon Musk's Crash Course. It's the latest in The New York Times Presents series, and it premiered on FX and Hulu on May 20. And will surely be out on some sort of international distribution in the not too distant future, I'm sure. So, thanks again, Emma. Very, very much appreciated having you on the podcast.
Thanks so much for your interest and appreciate it. One of the huge challenges of the system at a time was trying to differentiate between a truck and a bridge - an overhead bridge - you know, when a truck is parked perpendicular to the road and blocking the way, the system might think of it as an overhead bridge and so it was safe to kind of continue driving through it. So, just want to give a big thank you to Emma Schwartz, director and producer of Elon Musk's Crash Course, latest in The New York Times Presents series premiered on FX and Hulu in the US on May 20. And be on the lookout for it internationally. I'm sure it'll be out there sometime soon. And love to have Emma on again some time with one of her next projects. I'd like to give a shout out to Sam and Joe Graves at Innersound Audio in Escrick, England, in deepest, darkest Yorkshire. A big thanks to Nevena Paunovic,
podcast manager at Alamo Pictures who ensures we continue getting great guests onto the show. And finally a big thanks to our listeners. As always, we love to hear from you. So, please keep sending us feedback and episode ideas. You can reach out to us on YouTube, social media, or directly by going to our website, www.factualamerica.com, and clicking on the Get in Touch link. And, as always, please remember to like us and share us with your friends and family wherever you happen to listen or watch podcasts. This is Factual America, signing off.
You've been listening to Factual America. This podcast is produced by Alamo Pictures, specializing in documentaries, television, and shorts about the USA for international audiences. Head on down to the show notes for more information about today's episode, our guests, and the team behind the podcast. Subscribe to our mailing list or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @alamopictures. Be the first to hear about new productions, festivals showing our films, and to connect with our team. Our homepage is alamopictures.co.uk