Elon Musk or no Elon Musk, Tesla is the biggest AI play out there. That’s what legendary investor and CEO of Ark Invest, Cathie Wood, told Fortune editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell at the Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in San Diego on Wednesday.
That should be good news to bombastic Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who openly abhors AI giant ChatGPT. Last month, he teased plans to create a rival chat bot, dubbed TruthGPT, which he said would lack ChatGPT’s liberal edge. Musk co-founded OpenAI, which created ChatGPT, but he left in 2018. In December, he accused his former company of “training AI to be woke.” (Now, he says he regrets his comments, and calls himself a “huge idiot” for leaving OpenAI.)
Lucky for Musk, his main company, Tesla, is headed for greatness in its own right in Wood’s eyes. Wood’s investment time horizon is five years, and her firm is focused on five exponential growth industries. Tesla sits at the convergence of three of them, she said: artificial intelligence, robotics, and autonomous vehicles. Wood has boundless enthusiasm for Tesla’s future—which she said could see “explosive growth” whether or not its CEO remains at the helm.
Tesla is in the pole position (the most beneficial position on the starting track), she explained, thanks to its sheer magnitude. It has more data than all the other automotive companies and tech companies touching transportation—combined. It has 4 million robots, as Wood calls them, on the road, continuously collecting data. Because of its vastness, it has the strongest bet of analyzing “the corner cases, the exceptions, and what causes accidents,” she said.
Wood, a long-time Tesla investor, has long maintained that the EV giant is headed for the moon. Its planned robotaxi fleet rollout will be “one of the most important investment opportunities of our lifetimes,” she said last month, arguing that Tesla stock will surge over 1,100% by 2027. She’s also unperturbed by Musk’s antics that have given many of his once-supporters pause.
“I think there are people who won’t buy his cars now,” Wood told Barron’s in January. “But if he does what we think he’s going to do on the cost side, there are a lot of people who will use economics as their guide…and I think there are a lot more of those people than there are of the naysayers around Twitter.”
In San Diego on Wednesday, Wood said she believes the autonomous vehicle market will grow “from nothing today to $8 to $10 trillion dollars in revenue in 2030, or thereabouts,” she said. “To put that in perspective, the size of the U.S. economy today is $22 trillion, so we’re talking about one of the biggest growth engines in history.”
“But what is Tesla without Elon?” Shontell asked.
“I think Elon has set Tesla in motion, certainly its EV side,” Wood responded. “He calls Tesla a manufacturer of factories. That’s in motion. AI and autonomous vehicles are not quite there yet; we say autonomous is going to take off next year.”