Tesla Engineer Says Elon Musk’s Claim of Full Autonomy “Does Not Match Reality”

In March this year, Tesla admitted to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that, despite the name, neither Autopilot nor the newer Full Self-Driving Suite were fully self-driving. On a related note, maybe it’s best not to believe the hype that we’ll be getting Level 5 autonomy (L5) by the end of the year.
Tesla engineer admits Elon Musk's claims on full autonomy by the end of 2021 are out of touch with "engineering reality" 1 photo
Even Tesla’s most diehard supporters will admit that Autopilot and the more advanced FSD Beta are misnomers: they are, despite the fancy names, only driver-assist features that require constant supervision and intervention. Advanced features, to be sure, but still driver-assist ones. That said, to hear it from Tesla, especially after Elon Musk’s most heated proclamations on the topic, was unexpected.

On a related note, here’s another thing about Elon Musk and his most heated proclamations: they are not always accurate. Or, as one of Tesla’s engineers puts it, not in touch with “engineering reality.”

The revelation comes in another batch of correspondence between Tesla and the California DMV, obtained by non-profit PlainSite through the California Public Records Act. Only one sentence in the batch is redacted, and it’s perhaps the most important.

On the topic of Musk’s tweet that Tesla would have Level 5 autonomy by the end of 2021, the email stated: “Elon’s tweet does not match engineering reality per CJ.” CJ is CJ Moore, the Tesla Director, Autopilot Software. That sentence has been redacted, as the image shows, but is still searchable. The document is available as a PDF at the bottom of the page.

“Tesla indicated that Elon is extrapolating on the rates of improvement when speaking about L5 capabilities,” but “Tesla couldn’t say if the rate of improvement would make it to L5 by end of calendar year,” the email further notes. As of March, and even with the expansion of the FSD Beta program, Tesla was still “firmly” in L2.

As you can imagine, the release of this new batch of documents is fueling yet another heated debate online. Tesla supporters are saying this is just the media throwing dirt at Tesla and Musk and their accomplishments in the field of autonomous driving. Critics, meanwhile, are saying Musk has been over-promising the capabilities of FSD as a future fully autonomous suite, just so he could sell more $10K packages and boost Tesla stock.

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 Download: DMV, Tesla call on FSD (PDF)

About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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