A day after Elon Musk suggested that auto-driving Tesla cars might not be sold to the public and could instead be hawked as robotaxis, a report dropped revealing that in recent weeks nearly a dozen Tesla Autopilot engineers had already hit the eject button.
You can’t make this stuff up.
As many as 11 individuals on Tesla’s software Autopilot team departed the company during the past few months, according to The Information , continuing a purge which began when Elon Musk booted the team’s leader in May.
This comes as team members insisted they could not meet Musk’s (over)promise of delivering fully capable self-driving cars in 2020 on both city streets and highways.
These aren’t the first people to bail on Tesla. The company also lost vice presidents across several divisions, as well as executives running the finance, communications, security, and legal divisions.
Tesla stockholders and other assorted Elon Musk groupies should not take these departures lightly.
It isn’t unusual to see exits from various divisions and companies. Except those departures are usually spread out over a number of years, particularly with mature firms.
Historically, rapid and bulk flight indicate one of two things: accounting malfeasance or generalized chaos within the company.
We aren’t simply talking about vice presidents and middle managers leaving. Senior management officers from several divisions have jumped ship.
Taking a senior position at Tesla has to be considered a high-profile job. To depart that position suggests that the individual who was recruited no longer feels that their skill-sets are valued in the current business environment.
Even worse, they don’t see that situation improving anytime soon.
If these highly-qualified individuals are leaving such high-profile jobs, the logical conclusion is that they aren’t being allowed to do the job they were hired for in the way that is best for the company.
This should tell investors and consumers a lot about company culture. It is a personality cult. The product itself has a cult-like following. Tesla is all about Elon Musk.
The significance of these Autopilot departures cannot be overstated. One of the highest profile functions of future Tesla vehicles is its ability to drive itself.
While there are other competitors in this market, for 10% of this division’s workforce to get up and leave means that they do not believe the timeline that Elon Musk has set for the product is in any way realistic.
And that’s not the only problem: There has always been doubt regarding the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system, not only in its supposed ability to reduce crashes, but also in the numerous crashes in which it has allegedly played a part.
Earlier this year, a Quality Control Systems report ripped apart the NHTSA’s positive analysis of Tesla’s autopilot safety claims.
QCS replicated the NHTSA’s analysis and found much of the data it had used to be flawed, and that the data itself had not even been provided in the analysis. Thus, Tesla’s boast of a 40% reduction in crashes as the result of its Autopilot technology had its support ripped away.
This report came out around the same time the Consumer Reports removed its recommendation of the Tesla Model 3 because of its reliability issues and questions about the safety of its self-driving technology.