The Cyberlandr, an ambitious, ultra-high-tech, ultra-compact, premium camper for the Tesla Cybertruck, broke out to much attention and even some acclaim when it debuted last month. Promising a full camper experience in an incredibly compact and attractive package, the Cyberlandr seemed like the perfect companion for the Tesla Cybertruck. It takes a hyper-futuristic camper to match a cyberpunk pickup truck that looks like it’s from the future, after all.
It did not take long before the hype surrounding the Cyberlandr translated into potential sales. Granted, the transforming pop-up camper was priced at a premium at about $50,000 per unit, but for some Cybertruck reservation holders, the expense was worth it. Just days after its unveiling, the Cyberlandr accumulated $50 million worth of pre-orders, and after a few days more, $60 million. Considering the price of the camper, that’s about 1,350 reservations from Cybertruck buyers.
But inasmuch as the Cyberlandr is exciting, the road to actually producing the transforming camper is steep. Stream It, the company behind Cyberlandr, is a software firm that specializes in AI-enhanced video analytics. Over the years, Stream It has created software products that are capable of gathering and analyzing video data in real-time. The company has some experience in hardware, but only on components such as computer modules. Never has it attempted such a complex product such as the Cyberlandr.
This has led to a healthy dose of skepticism surrounding the Cyberlandr, which promises to provide a sink, kitchen, living area, and bathroom with shower in a camper that fits on the 6.5-foot bed of the Cybertruck. While a lot of the Cyberlandr’s features such as its auto-dimming windows and floor heaters rely on Stream It’s software prowess, skeptics have shared concerns about the camper being too complex, or too ambitious, to become an actual feasible product.
WILLING A DREAM INTO REALITY
During a conversation with Teslarati, Stream It Founder and Chief Analytics Officer Bill French, who holds a Cybertruck reservation himself, explained that while the task of producing the Cyberlandr is indeed complex, he believes that Stream It has a good chance of pulling it off. This is because ultimately, campers, even those as ambitious as the Cyberlandr, are nowhere near as complex as a whole electric car.
“We’re not building the truck. We’re building an add-in to the truck. Add-ins fall into a different class. It’s a smaller, more constrained environment. We only have to worry about that which sits in the truck. That’s not to say that it’s not complex. It is an advanced add-in, but it’s not as complex as the truck,” French said.
Stream It CEO and Tesla Model 3 Performance owner Lance King notes that this is what will separate Cyberlandr from other ambitious projects that have fizzled out, or worse, unraveled. The electric vehicle sector has witnessed such events over the past year, with some companies that were once considered darlings of the sustainability segment falling from grace in a rapid and shocking manner. King noted that the best thing Cyberlandr could do is to simply be honest about what it can already accomplish, and what it needs help with.
“We’re trying to be honest and open with where we’re at instead of pretending we got more than what we have. That’s a great place to start. We’re also humble enough to say we don’t have deep expertise in certain areas, so we’re partnering with people who do. So we’ve partnered with designers and engineers and even Munro and Associates on setting up the factory. And we’re making great progress with them,” King said.
A STRAIGHT PATH
Munro and Associates, led by automotive veteran Sandy Munro, has become one of the EV sector’s most trusted voices. With his expertise in lean design and engineering, Munro and his team have helped companies, including Tesla, optimize products like the Model 3 and Model Y. Stream It decided to take a more proactive approach when it reached out to Munro’s team. Instead of making mistakes and having Munro analyze ways to address and solve them, the software firm is aiming to get the automotive veteran’s go signal even before the production of the Cyberlandr begins. This is especially notable as Munro’s team is being tapped to help design not only the Cyberlandr itself, but its factory as well.
But even with the help of Munro and Associates, establishing a factory for a camper as complex as the Cyberlandr is no joke. In previous interviews, King and French have noted that they would like to establish a factory close to Gigafactory Texas. This way, Cybertruck customers could get their campers installed right after taking delivery of their all-electric pickup truck. According to the Stream It CEO, however, such a place has not been found, and the company is now eyeing locations within 15 to 40 minutes from Gigafactory Texas.
The company has also decided against building a factory for the camper, instead opting for an existing site that could host a production facility. Part of this is due to the Cybertruck’s aggressive timeframe, which suggests that the first vehicles could roll off Gigafactory Texas by the end of the year. With this in mind, Stream It would have to not only work hard, but raise a substantial amount of funding to make the Cyberlandr a reality. King shared an estimate for the buildout of the Cyberlandr’s production facility, as well as funding options that Stream It is looking into for now.
“We’re estimating it at around the $100 million range to reach the market potential over the next year or two with the intent to raise. We’re currently exploring many different ways of financing it, including debt, traditional equity, private equity, and SPACs. So we’re looking at all four of those. And they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. And so, we’re evaluating what’s the best way for us,” he said.
THE RISKS OF INNOVATION
The Stream It CEO later explained that Cyberlandr would not be built by a manufacturing partner, simply because it is such a unique product. Instead, the company is aiming to develop a solid production system for the futuristic camper on its own. Elaborating further, French added that ultimately, the Cyberlandr’s capability to hide inside the Cybertruck’s vault is something that has never really been done before in the RV industry. To make such innovations possible, a great degree of software has to be employed. Software is where Stream It’s experience lies.
Yet at the end of the day, manufacturing is hard. Tesla itself, with its long experience building premium electric vehicles, still struggles with build quality from time to time, especially when launching a new product like the Model Y. When asked about this, King noted that Tesla actually built its reputation as the world’s premier electric car maker because it is a software company at its core. While it is true that Tesla remains challenged with things like paint quality and panel alignment, King and French explained that the EV maker’s software provides such a unique, superior experience that it simply resonates with customers.
“There are always challenges in manufacturing, and it’s just the nature of it. But aren’t you glad that a software company like Tesla decided to make cars? Teslas have the highest customer satisfaction rating of any car, even though JD Power says they have the lowest initial quality. So there’s not a direct correlation between some of those little nitpicky things like the paint not being perfect or the doors not lining properly with the satisfaction of driving the car. The only reason Tesla is able to reinvent the car was because they weren’t in the auto industry. So when people say, ‘Well, you’re not on the RV industry, how can you make an RV?’ It’s because we’re innovating. We’re making a new kind of RV because nobody in the RV industry has innovated in 50 years,” King said.
French pressed this point further. “That underscores the fact that nobody in the RV industry has been in software and built an RV, and every RV on the road today shows that really, the engineering skills that go into those products is a very different mindset, a very different approach. And it’s, you know, it’s basically saying, ‘It’s time to build a camper, starting with software.’ If you start with software, and you think about it, suddenly dimensions and size and fit and finish all begin to come together when you start to use technology to build this product instead of, you know, the physical aspects of assembling rivets and bolts, pieces of plywood and all the other stuff, all the stuff that you see that goes into into a traditional RV style camper,” he said.
ON THE SHOULDERS OF AN EV GIANT
Eventually, Stream It would like to collaborate with Tesla directly so that buyers of the Cybertruck could have the Cyberlandr installed even before they take delivery of their all-electric pickup truck. The company also hopes to eventually collaborate with Tesla when it comes to servicing the transforming camper when needed. Stream It has not yet contacted Tesla with a proposal, but King and French noted that they intend to do so once the final specs of the Cybertruck are available and once the Cyberlandr’s production is ironed out.
There is no doubt that the Cyberlandr is a moonshot, and the path ahead is steep. It’s a great concept, but its feasibility remains to be seen for now. With $60 million worth of orders, there’s definitely a lot of people looking forward to it. Stream It would now have the responsibility to prove its skeptics wrong and show that even ambitious dreams can come true if one works hard enough. Bill French admits as much, stating that in a lot of ways, the Cyberlandr is a moonshot built on top of a moonshot (Tesla). And Tesla, with its superior battery technology and heavy software focus, just happens to be the perfect platform for such an ambitious product to build itself up.
As For Lance King, the CEO believes that the potential of the camper is great.So much so that it may help usher in the post-SUV age.
“The last 25 years, the entire world moved from sedans to SUVs. Well, what comes after the SUV? Or will we really still have those in 25 more years? The answer is no. The post SUV is what we call an adventure vehicle. This is the first of those adventure vehicles. And we think that 10 years from now, you’ll look back on it and say, ‘Well, why would anybody buy a car that doesn’t have a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and office in it?’ We wouldn’t buy a phone that doesn’t have an internet browser and a camera and video recorder and production studio, and, you know, it goes on and on. I think we’re about to look at vehicles the same way,” he said.