- several news reports say tesla has made changes to the staff of its autopilot self-driving development team.
- the reports, citing current and former unnamed tesla employees, say elon musk is not happy with the pace at which the autopilot program has progressed.
- musk has said that tesla vehicles will be able to drive to a destination without any driver intervention by the end of 2020.
elon musk is reportedly not happy with tesla's progress toward fully autonomous driving, according to a recent article in the information. several key people involved with developing the software are reported to have left in recent months. the technology blog electrek has also reported on the matter, following up on its own story from may. amid the departures, several longtime tesla employees have been promoted or moved into key roles to fill the gaps. three-year tesla employee drew baglino is now reportedly in charge of the autopilot group. tesla spokespeople did not respond to c/d requests for comment.
back in february, musk promised in a podcast that by the end of 2020, an autopilot-equipped tesla would be able to drive to a destination without any driver intervention. "i am certain of that. that is not a question mark," he insisted. as wired highlights, however, "musk has repeatedly underestimated the time it would take to complete ambitious projects," citing earlier promises made with respect to the self-driving capability of tesla’s cars.
in april, the company announced a hardware update to its autopilot system, saying it was going into model 3 cars that month and had been added into model s and x cars in february. the new dual-cpu setup could also potentially be retrofitted to older models. based on musk's comments on the subject, it's clear he sees self-driving as more of a software issue, especially given the new computing power, and is dismissive of other automakers that insist additional sensors such as lidar are necessary. "lidar is a fool's errand," he said earlier this year. "anyone relying on lidar is doomed. doomed." autopilot in its current form relies primarily on cameras and a single forward-facing radar unit.
according to sources cited in the information, one of the biggest challenges for autopilot to advance beyond the current capabilities is adapting to the challenges of city driving, which brings complications not encountered in a limited-access highway settings such as pedestrians, parked cars, and obscured signs.
while musk is reportedly not happy with the progress toward his aggressive timeline, autopilot currently leads the industry in terms of capability; but many have considered tesla's confidence in the system overstated or even flat-out misrepresented.
"compared to other production advanced driver-assistance systems, they have more capability. tesla is the only one with on-ramp to off-ramp functionality," commented sam abuelsamid, principal analyst for navigant research. "that said, it's not really consistent enough to call it autonomous. you have to keep a very close eye on it and keep your hands on the wheel."
and, in fact, autopilot is currently designed as a hands-on driving aid, despite numerous examples of people giving full control to the car. elon musk even tweeted about an adult video that a model x user filmed while the car drove itself on autopilot, seeming to approve, and without mentioning that, no, you shouldn't do that on a public road.
the only current advanced driver-assistance system (adas) on the north american market designed for hands-free operation is cadillac's super cruise, which is restricted (or geofenced) to certain limited-access highways and uses an interior camera to make sure the driver is regularly monitoring the road. tesla's website still offers a full self-driving capability on its vehicle configurator that claims "automatic driving from highway on-ramp to off-ramp including interchanges and overtaking slower cars" and promises "automatic driving on city streets" later this year. the option costs $6000 on the model 3.