Elon Musk’s pedestal is crumbling, exposing Tesla risks

“The Steve Jobs–style reverence that fans have granted Elon Musk and the tremendous growth of the companies he has backed have helped the CEO of Tesla Motors Inc. weather years of questionable moves,” Therese Poletti writes for MarketWatch. “His pedestal is now in peril, however, amid a jaw-dropping series of hazardous developments that should concern all Tesla investors.”

“As most investors and media members were barbecuing on the Sunday of Fourth of July weekend, Tesla announced disappointing second-quarter sales,” Poletti writes. “That sneaky release followed an announcement about a federal investigation into the death of driver Joshua Brown, a Tesla evangelist who crashed his Model S into a truck while he was using Tesla’s semiautonomous driving technology, dubbed ‘Autopilot.'”

“It’s entirely feasible, although unlikely, that the continuing NHTSA investigation into Brown’s accident could find some fault with Tesla’s Autopilot technology, or as one auto safety advocate told Bloomberg, Tesla might have to recall the cars to fix any defect with Autopilot,” Poletti writes. “The company is failing to reach its own expectations while adding to future projections and attempting a risky, potentially unwise acquisition, all while under federal investigation for one of its most prominent technological advances. Yet the company and its CEO act as if they are made of Teflon, and don’t need to have the types of checks and balances that corporations use to avoid disaster.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Elon Musk is no Steve Jobs.

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34 Comments

  1. The job of do-nothing critics is to bring people down. Tesla is fine, turning out a great product that is heavily in demand, as fast as they can. Tesla wouldn’t exist if any other car manufacturer was doing their job properly. Elon Musk is towing them all into the future, kicking and screaming.

  2. Just another want-to-be stock manipulator.

    Florida crash – probable illegal turn by truck driver
    Pennsylvania crash – not known if Autopilot was engaged
    Wyoming crash (non-fatal) – driver engaged Autopilot under circumstances specifically not recommended by Tesla

    Meanwhile, in Germany, a man and his son survived an 80mph rollover due to being forced off the road by another vehicle while Autopilot was NOT engaged.

    Accidents happen. So does stock manipulation.

    1. It’s interesting to see when Tesla apologists go out of their way to excuse away problems. Auto-Pilot has a lot of problems. Yes, Tesla has given guidance and warning about the feature. But they don’t enforce it in software. First Auto-Pilot is a misnomer. It should be called Driver Assist or something that makes it clear in the name that it’s not intended to be trusted. Second, it’s BETA software. Can you think of any other company in the world whose BETA software you’d trust with your LIFE? I can’t. Third, the software in its present form cuts against human nature. What you are supposed to do is only use it in specific driving circumstances (divided highway with no intersections in good weather conditions) with the driver alert, awake and not distracted from watching the road at all times. It cuts against human nature to have someone on a hight state of alert while NOT actually controlling the vehicle. But it’s necessary because the software is not capable of operating safely unattended. There are a lot of conditions it doesn’t handle well. But selfish and entitled know-it all tech savvy owners are letting the car do the driving while they allow themselves to be distracted, or they are turning it on in locations that are not suited to its capabilities.

      Tesla is in danger of getting the industry mired in over-regulation. They need to impose some self-discipline and some discipline with their customers. For example, their nav system should be able to deactivate “Auto Pilot” based upon the type of road and the weather conditions. The vehicle should check to make sure the driver is alert and paying attention to the road. I’m not sure how, but I’m sure they could figure that out if motivated. And they should turn it off and require owners to take a class and be certified in the operation of this software. Remember it’s BETA, flawed and limited. This isn’t their end goal. They’re enlisting the help of owners to perfect it and it needs to be not as casual as turning on cruise control. If Tesla doesn’t self-regulate and more people die due to their stupidity and Tesla’s poor software design, they’ll have to pay lobbyists to write the regulations for them. Wait. What? Oh. Nevermind.

      1. You are railing on about things of which you have few facts. We’e talking four specific incidents here.

        1 Florida – We will never know it the driver was attentive. What we will know if the speed of the Tesla at impact an if the driver had his hands on the steering wheel. What we already know is the truck was pulled across a highway with oncoming traffic.

        2 Pennsylvania – We don’t have the log data yet. We do know you have to be going dammed fast to flip a car as heavy as a Tesla, with a center of gravity as low as a Tesla.

        3 Wyoming – What we do know is Mr Pang (the driver) engaged the system in improper circumstances and that he did not have his hands on the wheel. The system, having warned the driver and detecting no hands on the wheel, was in the process of bringing the car to a halt, but hit an obstacle before it was able to complete the action.

        4 Germany – Occupants survived terrible crash brought on by the improper actions of the driver of another vehicle.

        I wouldn’t trust my life to Teslas’ software. I would use it appropriately and be very alert. The car does detect the presence of the drivers hands on the wheel and does provide alerts to help them stay focused.

        You, sir, are broadcasting out of your rhetorical ass.

  3. Yes, Musk is no Jobs.

    Musk is trying to do something much more difficult- he is trying to build a large industrial base for electric cars, batteries, solar panels, and rockets INSIDE the United States.

    Jobs did this with personal computers at Apple at first, and at NEXT but Apple’s “go-go” years with the iPhone, ect is built by “supply chain management” of overseas manufacturing even though key components such as chips and glass are made in the US.

    1. Musk is doing some amazing things, no doubt. I am highly impressed by both Tesla and SpaceX. Musk is willing to take major risks, and we will all benefit from his adventurous spirit.

      I take exception to your downplaying of Job’s accomplishments as iCEO/CEO of Apple from 1998 onwards. Sure, there are “chips” made in the U.S. as well as “glass.” But an iPhone or iPad is a whole lot more than that and uses a lot of different chips that are not necessarily manufactured in the U.S. Other significant considerations include the fact that Apple is manufacturing and selling *hundreds of millions* of products to the mass market while Tesla is building a much smaller number of vehicles which have initially been targeted to a niche market of wealthy consumers. I am actually more impressed overall by the progress of SpaceX. It is seeming more and more likely to me that humanity’s push into space will be led by the private sector.

      Outtake? Both companies and both leaders have done/are doing amazing things and pushing us into the future, sometimes kicking and screaming. Both guys defied the skeptics by thinking different and changing things.

  4. These journalists-commenters act as if the likes of the Yugo, Takata and the Pinto never happened.

    Tesla will do fine.

    Whether it breaks into the mainstream, only time will tell & the same can be said for “Autopilot” and other autonomous vehicles.

  5. Since Autopilot was an over the air upgrade why would they have to recall anything if there was a fault? They’d just fix it or at worst they’d disable it.
    I don’t know what the exact circumstances for federal investigations of accidents are, but I don’t find it surprising that a high profile accident where a new technology is (even tangentially) involved would be looked at, I would hope it would be.
    Tesla may not be all upside, but this article is clearly designed to paint a picture of complete doom in order to manipulate things. Just like all the articles where Apple are continually declared to be doomed despite outperforming every other company.

    1. I was wondering that too. But that assumes that the deficiencies are all in the software and that better software can overcome the weaknesses in the system. But there is a possibility that the hardware (sensors) aren’t up to the task at hand. Not being able to see a white truck due to the glare of the sun could be a software issue or a camera and sensor issue. Maybe they need more kinds of sensors? Dunno. I do question the wisdom of having unpaid, untrained people operating BETA software that if and when it fails could mean the death of human beings. Calling it Autopilot is pretty dumb too. Even thought they make clear in the manual and onscreen that it requires the driver to remain alert and attentive, I find it difficult to believe that’s being followed. I wonder what their threshold of deaths is before they would withdraw the software capability.

      1. Even if it wasn’t fundamentally able to be “fixed” through software, there would still be no need for a recall because it was a feature that was provided in the first place anyway, it’s a beta, so if they could just removed it or temporarily disable it.
        All companies make risk assessment, from what I’ve read Tesla seem more concerned about these things than a lot of other companies would be.
        For me, the most frustrating thing about all this is that some people are taking one accident as a sign that automated systems are fundamentally unsafe because they seem to be comparing it to some magical world where there are no human caused accidents – even though the truck was driven by a human.

  6. Thank goodness Musk is not a Jobs.

    If he was Jobs America would probably be paying the Russians and then the Chinese seats in their spacecraft well into the 2030’s.

    I am so glad Musk is being critisized. It’s time for the mediocre do-nothings of the world to stand up and be counted! What’s wrong with having few abilities and less intelligence? Let’s bring all the great people down a few notches so they know what it’s like to be and under-achiever.
    Bart Simpson is the guy we should praise, not Elon Musk. Or even Steve Jobs.

  7. Tesla’s biggest issue is not being able to make enough cars to meet demand. If they could do that they would probably be in the black. They need someone with the logistical prowess of Cook to sort out the manufacturing issues.
    I am not too keen on Tesla bringing in other models if they can’t handle the current demand.
    Whilst the auto-pilot death is disturbing, it is important to wait until the official investigation is completed before coming to conclusions.

  8. An unusually boneheaded comment by MDN. Elon Musk continues to prove himself to be very much the same caliber CEO as Steve Jobs. He is the definition of the highest level visionary. He both inspires his employees and instills fear, as of course did Jobs. We were lucky to have Jobs, and we are lucky to have Musk. So again, what a disappointingly terse comment by MDN.

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