Skip to Content

Some Tesla Engineers Think Autopilot Isn’t Safe

August 25, 2017

Debate rages over whether semi-autonomous cars are a good idea—even at Elon Musk’s automaker. Shortly after the Tesla CEO boasted last year that his cars would soon come with the capabilty to drive themselves, the head of the company's Autopilot technology, Sterling Anderson, resigned.

The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that Anderson's replacement spent less than six months at the post before he quit, too. It's part of a pattern of high turnover that has plagued the Autopilot team, fueled by a concern over "reckless decision-making that has potentially put customer lives at risk," as one engineer who resigned put it. 

Mobileye, the company that supplied the brains behind Autopilot, also parted ways with Tesla last summer, after a high-profile crash killed a driver while the self-driving system was engaged.

Tesla's approach to self-driving technology is different from the one most other companies use. In most cases, lidar sensors are the centerpiece of an autonomous car's sensor package. Lidar is great for building a highly detailed 360-degree view of the environment, and it can work at long distances. Autopilot, on the other hand, relies mostly on building a picture of the world from a combination of radar, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras. This is easier to build into a car and less expensive than a lidar-based system (though that might be about to change).

But critics say Tesla's setup isn't ready for the kind of autonomy that Musk talks about. And now, evidently, we know that the company's own engineers feel much the same way.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks

One insider says the company’s current staffing isn’t able to sustain the platform.

Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve.

How to befriend a crow

I watched a bunch of crows on TikTok and now I'm trying to connect with some local birds.

Starlink signals can be reverse-engineered to work like GPS—whether SpaceX likes it or not

Elon said no thanks to using his mega-constellation for navigation. Researchers went ahead anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.