Car collision The pillars, the brakes lock to avoid imaginary collisions, and more than 2,400 car acceleration complaints are out of its owner’s control. 100 GB of internal Tesla documents have been leaked to the German newspaper Handelsblatt Provide a realistic picture of the EV company’s technical limitations.
23,000 files obtained Handelsblatt Coverage issues in Europe, the US and Asia between 2015 and March 2022, appearing to show serious flaws in Tesla’s Autopilot technology. Unveiling revelations that the company may face new pressure from regulators, who are likely to scrutinize reports for evidence that the company misled authorities or customers about the safety of its cars.
The leaks may also reinforce concern among Tesla investors and analysts that the company has lost its way. Its vaunted self-driving technology seems so far from being safe enough on the road that it doesn’t seem like it’s moving viable new products from the drawing board to the showroom. Tesla hasn’t launched a new consumer vehicle since 2020, and it’s widely seen as lagging behind other automakers, who are ramping up their development of new electric vehicles to meet growing demand. Half-hidden amidst the rush of revelations is a teaser for a classified report on Tesla’s long-awaited “Cybertruck,” an odd-angled pickup truck announced in 2019. It’s unlikely to be good news.
“Tesla desperately needs a new credibility story,” says Ferdinand Dudenhofer, director of the Automotive Research Center in Duisburg, Germany.
The content of the leaked documents is shocking, with accounts of near-death experiences at the hands of Tesla Autopilot. But analysts say it is not unexpected.
“For most of us who’ve been covering Tesla for a decade, this isn’t surprising, and it probably shouldn’t be surprising to most Tesla customers either,” says Matthias Schmidt, an independent auto analyst in Berlin.
Schmidt says Tesla has long taken a “move fast and break things” approach to product development, which has led to concerns about whether its new versions are road-ready. There have been 393 recorded deaths related to Teslas, 33 of which were related to Autopilot. Schmidt claims that Musk “accepts driver death as a result of charging technology.” Musk did not respond to a request for comment for this story or to address Schmidt’s claim.
It is often difficult to separate the Tesla brand from the personality of its CEO. Musk usually brushes off criticism of his products — mostly via Twitter, which he acquired for $44 billion last October. But the scale of the German leaks could make it difficult for Musk to sell his version of the story, according to Dudenhofer.
Dudenhöffer says, comparing the controversy to the Volkswagen scandal of the mid-2010s, when it was discovered that the automaker was downplaying the environmental impact of its cars.
Dudenhöffer blames Tesla’s mounting woes on Musk, who splits his time between managing Tesla, his rocket company SpaceX, and Twitter, which has been in a perpetual state of crisis since its takeover last year. “He no longer has to be the CEO and lead Tesla, because he makes mistake after mistake after mistake,” says Dudenhöffer.