What The Simpsons Has Taught Us About Elon Musk, Electric Cars and Autonomous Driving

Last Friday, we reminded you to tune in to The Simpsons on your local FOX network on Sunday evening to watch Tesla CEO Elon Musk make a very special guest appearance on the world’s longest-running scripted animation series.

We've seen the episode and here's our take on it.

We’ve seen the episode and here’s our take on it.

Almost immediately after the show aired, we saw a flurry if interest on line from Tesla fans, some hailing it as comic genius, some laughing along with it in spirit it was presumably meant in, and some even getting broody and dark about how yet again, Elon Musk and electric cars were ultimately cast as evil and terrible by an oil-loving, Republican-voting conspiracy.

If you don’t mind, we’re going to leave those reactions well alone, but after a week we’ve finally seen some snippets from the show in question. And having lived with the Simpsons since its premiere back in the 1980s, we’re going to share five quick things that we learned about the Elon Musk, electric cars and autonomous vehicles that inhabit the fictional world of Springfield.

Disclaimer: in case you hadn’t guessed, this is a semi-satirical piece. In the spirit of Episode 12 of Season 26 of The Simpsons, we’re going to laugh along with those funny yellow people of Springfield and cover this as if it were actually news. Think of this as our silly Friday piece to end the week with a smile. At no point should you assume anything below this line is true anywhere but the wonderful world of Springfield, USA. 

Elon Musk needs Homer Simpson

In the episode in question, Elon Musk finds himself wandering the world in one of his own SpaceX crafts in search of ideas. Happening upon the Simpsons’ family garden, Musk explains that he needs someone to inspire him in order to carry on inventing cool things.

And the incoherent, low-IQ, alcohol-addled brain of Homer Simpson seems to be just that, because as soon as Musk starts to hear Homer daydream about white meatballs he realises that the overweight middle-aged dad is is perfect muse.

The Tesla Model S Hasn’t Reached Springfield

Eventually, after submitting an idea to Mr. Burns detailing how he can improve plant efficiency at the Springfield Nuclear Plant, Elon Musk ends up providing everyone in the town with self-driving cars that look suspiciously like a Toyota Prius but very unlike the Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X.

Yes, we'd be surprised too. Elon Musk is in Springfield!

Yes, we’d be surprised too. Elon Musk was in Springfield!

Despite alluding to the Tesla Model S at the start of the show when Lisa gushes about how Musk ‘perfected the electric car,’ we don’t actually see a Model S, Model X or even a Tesla Roadster throughout the show. [Ed: If we had to guess, we’d suggest that’s because the Simpsons is a) a fictitious series and b) because it avoids any nasty copyright problems with the Tesla board.]

We can all look forward to autonomous cars with collapsing wheels

While the self-driving cars on this week’s show weren’t obviously Teslas, they all had collapsable, hidden steering wheels which could be activated by a master password, allowing them to be driven like any non autonomous car.

They’re a little like the steering wheels in Men In Black II, popping out of the dash and unfolding right before your eyes. We want one.

When Elon has an idea, Tchaikovsky plays in his head.

We’re not sure if it’s actually Elon’s favourite piece of music, but every time he has an idea in The Simpsons universe, the first five horn chords of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto in Bb plays in his head.

A truly monumental piece of music, it has long been associated with feelings of euphoria and passion. But as far as we can think, it’s the first time we’ve seen it applied to Musk.

Perhaps most shocking? Elon Musk rides in Homer's old gas-guzzling sedan.

Perhaps most shocking? Elon Musk rides in Homer’s old gas-guzzling sedan.

It’s an unusual choice but it certainly seems to fit. A lot better than some we could have imagined. And we’ve a musical graduate in our midst.


When Bart steals… or rather ‘borrows’ his mother’s new autonomous-driving, all-electric car, he starts tapping away at the dashboard in order to gain access to the car’s pop-out steering wheel and non-autonomous driving mode.

Mocked by his sister Lisa, who tells him that he’ll “never guess Elon’s master password,” Bart smiles and types in “ELON RULEZ.”

To her amazement, it unlocks the car, and lets them both take a completely illegal joyride through Springfield.

So if you’re one of the many people trying to hack their Tesla Model S, maybe you should try that master password too, because as you know, everything you see on TV is real…

Missed it?

If you’ve missed the show, there’s still time to catch if you’re in the U.S. online, while those outside of the U.S. will just have to wait a little bit longer to watch the show. Or use a proxy service like we did in the interests of Journalistic fun.


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