Tesla’s own engineers suggest Elon Musk exaggerated ‘full self driving’

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Words: Matthew Hansen
10 May 2021

Here’s the thing. While it could easily be argued that Tesla does get targeted by the motoring press, it could also be argued that other brands are far better at concealing their own inner struggles.

The electric car juggernaut is once again in the media over its development of level five autonomy via its Full Self Driving (FSD) system. It’s a system that’s currently in its beta testing phase, but it seems that Tesla’s outspoken CEO Elon Musk and its own engineers are at odds with one another over how close it is to being finished.

Discussions between Tesla Autopilot Software director CJ Moore and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from March were recently uncovered as part of a public records request from legal transparency website PlainSite.

Back in January, Musk told investors during an earning’s call that he was “highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human this year”.

Quizzed about these comments by the DMV, and reportedly presuming that they came from a Tweet, the communications show Moore was blunt. “Elon’s tweet does not match engineering reality per CJ [Moore]. Tesla is at Level 2 currently,” said the DMV.

“Tesla indicated that Elon is extrapolating on the rates of improvement when speaking about L5 capabilities, [but] Tesla couldn’t say if the rate of improvement would make it to L5 by end of calendar year,” it added.

“Tesla indicated that they are still firmly in L2” territory. This was backed up by a letter to Tesla’s Eric Williams which stated, Notwithstanding other public messaging from Tesla about developing vehicles capable of full driving automation, Tesla reiterated that the City Streets feature is currently a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) level two (2) Advanced Driver-Assistance feature and that Tesla will continue to monitor how participants interact with the feature and make improvements.”

Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ and FSD systems have landed the brand in hot water numerous times over the last 12 months, despite being two of the most advanced pieces of tech in any new car you’ll find today.

Most recently the systems have been criticised for how easily they can be activated while nobody is sitting in the driver’s seat. Various ‘expose-style’ tests were conducted illustrating such following a fatal crash in the US involving a Tesla that, according to police, didn’t have anyone in the driver’s seat.

Musk, meanwhile, has repeatedly pledged over the years that FSD is set to be launched en mass ‘by the end of the year’, only for it to not arrive. With the programme in the public beta phase, you can’t doubt that it’s at least creeping slowly to becoming reality.

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