Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sat down with a couple of Recode bigwigs at the annual Code Conference to talk over a variety of subjects concerning his companies. When the subject of self-driving cars came up, however, Musk's input was quite fascinating. He does not see Google, for all intents and purposes the progenitor of the current self-driving car trend, as any sort of threat. He didn't have much to say about Google's partnerships aside from a casual mention of Google's technology getting licensed out, leaving it to be assumed that he's written them off or will deal with them as competition from them crops up. When the interviewer asked him about Apple, however, he said that they would be in "more direct" competition with Tesla in the self-driving car space.
While he did name Apple as being in more direct competition with Tesla on self-driving cars than Google, he also said that they would likely be a bit too late to the party to pose any serious risk, giving a ballpark guess of the year 2020 for Apple entering production on their own model. Google, meanwhile, he discounted as "not a car company", since they won't be producing their own commercial self-driving car model or selling their current prototype to the public. With Google's deal with Ford taking center stage in their commercial self-driving efforts, it's not hard to see why Musk disregards Google as a direct competitor in the space, but didn't have much to say about other car companies.
Speaking on the matter of Apple's efforts in the self-driving car space, Musk said that "…it's great they're doing this, and I hope it works out." Naturally, Tesla will be welcoming competition in the self-driving car space as with any other consumer product or market area, but this talk hints that Musk may end up treating different companies different ways when it comes to competing, both in the actual product and in winning consumers' hearts, but this is, of course, speculation; Musk didn't say much of anything concrete regarding Tesla's future strategy in the self-driving car space as competition mounts, leaving it to be anybody's guess and, more than likely, leaving the company able to spring surprise tactics on competitors when the time is right,