For Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard, making Autopilot the brand’s priority is a big mistake. In a long interview with Insider, the former CEO criticizes Elon Musk’s strategy and politics. Explanation.
If Elon Musk is the face of Tesla today, the billionaire is not the founder of the brand. Indeed, we owe the founding of Tesla in 2003 to two men: Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. It wasn’t until a year later, in 2004, that Twitter’s current owner became chairman of the company’s board of directors.
In the years that followed, relations between Elon Musk and Martin Eberhard were never in good shape, and in 2007, the billionaire ousted Eberhard as CEO of the company. Since then, Martin Eberhard has continued his career in the automotive industry and participated in the launch of several electric cars.
Diversification of Tesla’s activities criticized
And while Elon Musk will present Tesla’s future strategy at a new Investor Day conference on March 1, 2023, Martin Eberhard just gave a river interview in the site’s columns. Insider. The opportunity for this veteran to give his opinion on the current policy of the company.
He mainly criticizes the acquisition of Solar City in 2016, a solar power company, which he calls a “distraction” for Tesla. It is recalled that this acquisition had been the subject of careful investigation by the authorities. It was not for nothing that it was led by Lyndon Rive, cousin of Elon Musk. Some shareholders even took legal action against the SpaceX boss at the time. According to them it isThe takeover had only one purpose: to save Solar City’s treasury, then in trouble.
Autopilot, the technology that threatens Tesla
In this interview, Martin Eberhard also discusses the case of Autopilot, which he sees as the main threat to the sustainability of the brand. “In my opinion, we need to get rid of the habit of thinking that these autonomous driving technologies are necessarily connected to electric cars. I’d like people to think about making cars that people can drive,” he explains.
If he finds these technologies particularly useful, especially for developing more efficient driver aids, he disapproves to see autonomous driving become the central element of Tesla’s communications. “Keep in mind that all that FSD nonsense (editor’s note: Full Self Driving, Tesla’s autonomous driving system) autonomous, on autopilot – none of that existed when I was there. We were still trying to get the car running and didn’t think about it at all. It came later. It requires a budget much, much bigger than what we had at the time.” he specifies.
A car is not an iPhone to Martin Eberhard
In his eyes, Elon Musk and Tesla are making a terrible mistake by considering “a car as a software platform, like an iPhone or whatever”. On this point, recent events prove him right. Each software update of the FSD beta is characterized by the appearance of new bugs. Recently, Tesla admitted that the FSD can cause accidents, the fault of failures causing the “vehicle behaves unsafely at intersections”. In the aftermath, Tesla has issued a mass recall of 362,000 FSD-equipped cars in the United States.
“I have an iPhone and every time I get a software update there are bugs. It’s not very serious, it’s just an annoyance on the iPhone. But if these kinds of bugs appear, for example, in the software that controls my brakes or the steering, it can kill you.” he complains. For Martin Eberhard, the technology is still too immature to be deployed on the road.
As you may know, Martin Eberhard is not the first to criticize Autopilot and FSD. Creating Tesla’s self-driving technologies the subject of several official investigations. NHTSA, the federal agency in charge of road safety, has been investigating Autopilot since August 2021 after the multiplication of accidents involving the system. And on February 1, 2023, the brand confirmed that the US Department of Justice was in turn investigating FSD and Autopilot. Finally, the Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation to determine whether Tesla made misleading claims about the capabilities of its self-driving software.