Tesla’s new line of self-driving cars may have hit some snags.
Back in October of 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the latest version of Tesla’s Model S and Model X, which use the company’s Hardware 2 suite of cameras and radar, were on their way to becoming the self-driving cars of the future.
Since then, however, Tesla has lost at least ten engineers and four top managers on the project, including the Autopilot team, which only lasted about six months.
Safety is the big concern, as are design and marketing decisions. Over the past three years, Tesla has ignored warnings from both inside and outside sources that the vehicles aren’t as safe as they should be and that production is moving too quickly.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “weeks before the October 2015 release of Autopilot, an engineer who had worked on safety features warned Tesla that the product wasn’t ready.” That engineer, Evan Nakano, said in his resignation letter that “reckless decision-making…has potentially put customer lives at risk.”
Another engineer reported issues when he drove a prototype in May 2015. He was pulled over by police for driving erratically—they suspected he was a drunk driver (he was not inebriated at the time). When the engineer warned colleagues about the potential issues, he was dismissed due to what was officially called “performance issues.”
Rather than giving weight to employee concerns, Musk says they are being poached by other companies wanting more staff to help with their own self-driving vehicle projects.
The company has also faced challenges based on its tumultuous break with Israel tech supplier MobileEye after a self-driving car customer died in May of 2016. MobileEye was another source of concern regarding Tesla’s lack of regard for safety issues. In the aftermath, Tesla has tightened its safety features: The Model S now pulls over to the side of the road if the driver refuses to put their hands on the wheel after three warnings.
Despite these issues, Tesla’s incoming electric semi truck, to be released this September, is off to a good start. The rigs will be able to drive 200-300 miles, making them suitable for regional freight deliveries. Due to lower maintenance and fueling costs, the trucking industry could very well afford Tesla and its partners a solid opportunity to corner a new market.
Photo: Kekyalyaynen / Shutterstock.com