A number of current and former Tesla employees have revealed that they had concerns about the company’s Autopilot system before May’s fatal crash involving the semi-autonomous driving setup.
While speaking with CNN Money, some of them said that chief executive Elon Musk’s “hyperaggressive” push for the technology is putting users at risk and that he’s taking risks which other established automakers wouldn’t.
A former Autopilot engineer, Eric Meadows, said that when he was testing the system in mid-2015, he was pulled over by the police for being suspected of driving drunk. In reality, it was the car’s self-driving system that had difficulty dealing with the sharp turns on a Los Angeles highway. Meadows admitted that he was pushing the car’s limits, but believed customers would do the same, leaving him with concerns that “someone was going to die”.
Another former employee said that Musk believed such engineers were “overly cautious”and pushed back against them to launch Autopilot as quickly as possible. At one stage, je reportedly wanted to allow videos to be played on the center console when Autopilot was in use. However, liability concerns raised by other executives apparently made him reconsider his decision.
Tesla’s official line is that “safety is a top priority… we constantly build updates to our software and specifically Autopilot features to continue to improve the feature and driver experience.”