Musk/Tesla’s Bold New Financial Plan

Tesla Inc. released a new compensation plan for Chief Executive Elon Musk on Tuesday, with payments dependent on massive increases in the electric car maker’s stock market value.

The announcement comes as Tesla prepares to report 2017 financial results that are expected to include massive cash losses. The new pay plan is similar to Musk’s current arrangement, the crux of which is this: The higher Tesla’s stock price goes, the more Tesla stock Musk gets.

The eye-popping part: The new plan envisions the Palo Alto company’s value skyrocketing. It sets market value targets in 12 increments, starting at $100 billion and topping out at $650 billion. (The company’s current market value is about $59 billion.)

If the stock hits none of the milestones, Musk would get nothing. It’s unclear how much the financial rewards will motivate Musk, who already is a billionaire and by all indications isn’t in it simply to get rich. The company sees itself not simply as an electric car manufacturer, but rather, as it said Tuesday, as the “world’s first vertically integrated sustainable energy company.”

Musk upbeat about the future of artificial intelligence

When it comes to AI, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has strongly urged caution recently. But, on Thursday, Musk also confirmed that Tesla is developing its own artificial intelligence software and hardware as the company continues its push toward a future of autonomous driving. What’s more, Musk is confident that his own company’s work on AI will be fruitful, as the CEO boasted about the products’ potential at a machine learning conference in California yesterday.

Talking about the work of Jim Keller, Tesla’s vice president of hardware, Musk said at the conference: “Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world,” according to CNBC. Tesla currently uses chips supplied by Nvidia to power its Autopilot hardware, but Musk’s announcement signals a move away from the partnership.

Musk also reportedly predicted that it will only be two years until fully autonomous driving is available with the new Tesla-developed AI systems, and that the technology will be “an order of magnitude better than humans” within three years, according to Salesforce scientist Stephen Merity, who was at the conference on Thursday and tweeted parts of Musk’s conversation.

Musk was also busy this week stoking competitive fires with regard to his plans to transport humans to Mars with SpaceX rockets. On Thursday, Musk responded to a boast from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who predicted that the first person to set foot on Mars would arrive in a Boeing rocket. Musk, who has been vocal about his desire to reach Mars and even colonize the Red Planet, responded to Muilenburg in a tweet that said, simply, “Do it.”