Elon Musk has been promising that Tesla's Full Self-Driving would be coming "next year" for the better part of the past decade — but as it turns out, he may be the reason it hasn't come to fruition.
As the Washington Post reports, Musk apparently decided a few years back to do away with in-car radar sensors in an effort to make his electric vehicles cheaper, and did so against the warnings and wishes of Tesla's engineers, who were reportedly shocked at the suggestion, per former employees who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One of those former employees said that some of the engineers were so concerned by Musk's push to remove the sensors, which are an important safety feature that exist in most other self-driving vehicles, that they recruited a former executive to try to get him to change his mind.
You can imagine how well that went, and the proof is pretty public: in May 2021, Musk announced that going forward, all Teslas manufactured in North America would be made without radar technology, and the company later began disabling the radar systems in cars and replacing them with "Tesla Vision," its camera-only form of driver's assistance.
According to almost a dozen people, including people who used to be Tesla employees and test drivers, as well as some safety officials and experts, this decision from the top that was supposed to save on manufacturing costs has resulted in an uptick in the kind of crashes that the Musk-owned EV company has become infamous for.
Removing the sensors from Teslas wasn't just a bad idea for safety, either: the camera system that replaced it has also become such a buggy headache that Musk has often had company engineers go in and fix glitches — and that was before he took even more of those smart folks to go write code at Twitter because he fired all the original data people.
Taking off the sensors was "not the sole reason they’re having [trouble], but it’s big a part of it,” Missy Cummings, a former senior National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety adviser, told the Post. "The radar helped detect objects in the forward field."
While no automaker has yet achieved robust and reliable self-driving technology yet, their removal at Tesla seems to have hamstrung the company — or rather, Musk's stubbornness has.
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