Tesla Giving Special Treatment To Musk And High-Profile 'VIP' Drivers In FSD Development: Report


EV giant Tesla Inc TSLA has reportedly been giving special treatment to its CEO Elon Musk and a select group of “VIP” drivers in the development of its full self-driving (FSD) driver assistance software aimed at vehicle autonomy.

What Happened: Tesla’s self-driving technology relies on video data from the company’s fleet on the road to continuously enhance its driving skills and make it better than an average human driver.

However, the employees working on bettering the software focus on data from Musk and a select set of VIP drivers, Business Insider reported on Tuesday. The video footage from Musk’s Teslas and other high-profile drivers like YouTubers receive VIP treatment in identifying and mitigating issues with the software, the report said, citing a dozen current and former employees.

This disparity in focus might allow for the software to function better through the routes taken by the CEO and the high-profile drivers and not so well along the rest, the report said.

Several sources told the media platform that they spent significant time labeling routes to and from Tesla’s Austin and California factories and SpaceX’s office in California. Similar attention was not given to other factories or parking lots in California or elsewhere, they added.

Two former Tesla employees also said that an employee was terminated after they failed to properly label a highway exit sign on a video they believe came from Musk’s car. However, another former worker also told the media platform that the employees can’t know with certainty where the data they work on came from. Anyone who claims to know is operating purely on speculation, they added.

Three current and former employees also said that the company created a system to prioritize data from drivers who are likely to share their experiences online.

John Bernal, a former Autopilot analyst and test driver, told the media platform that Tesla sent multiple test drivers to routes driven by YouTubers Raj Balwani and Chuck Cook. Bernal was terminated in 2022 for reviewing the FSD software on his YouTube channel. 

Why It Matters: Tesla is currently laser-focused on vehicle autonomy and is attempting to improve its FSD software to enable vehicles to operate without human intervention. However, it currently requires active driver supervision.

FSD is an advanced version of Tesla's Autopilot software and includes features like auto lane change and auto park. In a vehicle safety data report last month, Tesla alleged that its vehicles using Autopilot are relatively safer than its vehicles which do not use the system, and other non-Tesla vehicles.

However, safety concerns remain. In December, Tesla recalled a record-breaking 2.03 million vehicles equipped with all versions of Autosteer (an Autopilot feature), citing insufficient controls to prevent misuse. The company addressed the issue through a software update.

However, the U.S. auto safety regulator National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) commenced a probe into the remedy in April, concerned that the update is insufficient.

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Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of Benzinga Neuro and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock

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