- Elon Musk reportedly berated a Tesla manager for wanting to create a system to monitor Autopilot malfunctions.
- The Tesla CEO said it would slow Autopilot’s progress, according to The New York Times.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the software after 12 crashes.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk dismissed plans to monitor the health of the electric carmaker’s Autopilot system, according to a recent report from The New York Times.
The publication spoke to 19 people who helped work on the project, which allows Tesla vehicles to independently break and steer. The sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that since the program was introduced in 2014, there have been times that Musk has misrepresented the true capabilities of the Autopilot software, as well as sacrificed additional safety measures for speed and aesthetics.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.
In 2015, several Tesla engineers met with Musk to discuss plans for a second version of Autopilot, according to the Times. During the meeting, one manager on the program, Hal Ockerse, reportedly told the CEO he wanted to include a system that could monitor the Autopilot software. Two sources who attended the meeting told the Times that Ockerse’s plan would include a computer chip and other hardware that would act as a safeguard in case the Autopilot software were to suddenly stop working or malfunction.
Multiple sources told the publication that Autopilot’s previous version had malfunctioned in winter weather, making it difficult for drivers to predict when the software would work.
Musk reportedly rejected Ockerse’s idea as soon as it was proposed. The sources told the Times that Musk dressed-down the manager for proposing the idea. They said the CEO was already angry going into the meeting because Autopilot had malfunctioned during his morning drive.
Musk argued the system would slow down Autopilot’s progress — a concern the CEO has echoed throughout Tesla’s history. Musk has repeatedly taken steps to expedite delivery timelines for Autopilot and its sister software, Full Self-Driving (FSD). For example, the company regularly updates it FSD software, using its beta drivers to identify bugs in the program.
That same year, Ockerse left the company after working at Tesla for little over a year. He later worked at Apple on an autonomous systems special project group and then at Chinese carmaker Nio, per his LinkedIn page. Ockerse did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.
Tesla’s Autopilot system has recently come under fire. Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the software after it was involved in at least 12 accidents. In several of the accidents, the Autopilot failed to recognize emergency vehicles, driving through parked fire trucks and police cars.
Tesla is one of few companies to develop autonomous driving software without the use of radar or LiDAR technology. While Autopilot can steer and brake on its own, Musk has repeatedly warned that the system does not replace a license driver. However, Musk has said in the past that one day automated cars will be able to cut back on the human errors that cause over 5 million car accidents in the US each year.