At the beginning of March, Tesla CEO Elon Musk gradually aroused more and more hope for all the owners of his electric cars, who, like only a few hundred chosen ones before, also want to take part in the beta test of the latest autopilot software called FSD. At least every customer in the USA will soon get a “beta button” for downloading the software, Musk finally announced. Initially, it should be ready in the same month, but it is still a long time coming. And as it has now become known, members of the autopilot team at Tesla were apparently at the same time trying to downplay the progress of the system at an authority.
Contradiction to statements by Elon Musk
This emerges from documents from the Californian auto authority DMV, the publication of which was obtained by a persistent Tesla critic or hater. In March he had already found out in this way that Tesla, in an answer to the DMV, also considered its latest software, known as FSD for Full Self Driving, only as a level 2 assistance system (full autonomy means level 5 or L5). And according to the new documents, a member of Tesla’s autopilot team told the agency in March that a Twitter message from Musk on the subject was inconsistent with technical reality.
To find out, one has to take a closer look at the published DMV document, as word got around on Twitter. Some passages in it were apparently intended to be made illegible, but only partially succeeded – they cannot be seen in black and white, but are still present as hidden text that can be copied. News agencies also cited the statement by CJ Moore from the Tesla team in a virtual conference with DMV representatives on March 9th. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is the director for autopilot software.
“According to the CJ, Elon’s tweet does not correspond to the technical reality,” the statement in the document should read literally. So it is not a direct quote from the employee or one of the other participants on the Tesla side, but a summary of statements by the authority. It is also not entirely clear which Twitter message is meant by this. According to the published DMV memo, one of the triggers for the conference with Tesla was the announcement of the wide beta button by Musk on the same day. The statement by CJ Moore came after the DMV presentation but only as an answer to the more general question of how the “statements by Elon about L5 ability by the end of the year” should be assessed.
Is the Tesla boss demanding the impossible?
Regardless, the contrast to public statements by Musk is clear, and the document contains another: “Tesla cannot say whether the pace of improvement is sufficient to reach L5 by the end of the calendar year,” summarized the DMV. Musk didn’t promise that, but presented it as almost certain on several occasions. He was “extremely confident that the car this year will be able to drive itself with a reliability that is beyond human levels,” said the Tesla boss at the end of January. In an interview last November, he did not allow himself to be carried away to make a definitive statement either, but went a bit further: “I am extremely confident that Tesla will have level 5 next year, extremely confident, 100 percent,” he said.
Such statements should be based on the fact that Musk extrapolates the improvements achieved so far into the future, said his employees according to the DMV in the conference in March. But at least in exchange with the authorities, not everyone on the autopilot team seems willing to share this optimism. Against this background, the unexpectedly long wait for the coveted beta button to take part in the FSD test could be an indication that Musk is actually asking the impossible of himself and his team, at least until the end of this year.