A former Tesla employee has informed the BBC that he harbors doubts about the safety of the technology underpinning the company’s self-driving vehicles, asserting that it is not sufficiently secure for use on public roads.
Lukasz Krupski, who disclosed data, including customer grievances regarding Tesla’s braking and self-driving software to German newspaper Handelsblatt in May, expressed frustration that his internal attempts to draw attention to these issues were disregarded.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, has consistently championed the company’s self-driving technology, asserting its superiority in real-world AI. However, in his inaugural UK interview, Krupski voiced concerns about the application of AI in Tesla’s autopilot service.
Despite Tesla’s autopilot feature incorporating assisted steering and parking, Krupski contended that both the hardware and software were not adequately prepared.
He emphasized that this situation has ramifications for everyone, as public roads effectively become experimental grounds for autonomous technology.
Krupski claimed to have uncovered evidence in company data indicating lapses in adhering to safety requirements for vehicles equipped with a certain level of autonomous or assistive-driving technology.
He also revealed instances of “phantom braking,” where vehicles would randomly brake in response to nonexistent obstacles, a concern echoed by Tesla employees and evident in customer complaints.
Feeling compelled to share his findings with data protection authorities, Krupski’s actions have triggered an investigation by the US Department of Justice into Tesla’s claims regarding its assisted driving features.
Similar inquiries from agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have also put Tesla under scrutiny.
The “Tesla Files,” divulged by Krupski through a leak of 100GB of internal data to Handelsblatt, have prompted investigations by data protection authorities, including in the Netherlands, where Tesla’s European headquarters are situated.
The whistleblower described the last six months as “terrifying,” emphasizing the toll on his well-being. However, his actions have earned recognition, as he was awarded the Blueprint for Free Speech Whistleblowing Prize.
Jack Stilgoe, an associate professor at University College London specializing in autonomous vehicles, remarked that Krupski’s claims raised broader concerns about the deployment of this technology in real-world scenarios.
Stilgoe noted that this situation serves as a test case for artificial intelligence in the open road environment, surrounded by the general public.
The UK Government’s announcement of an Automated Vehicles Bill, intended to establish a legal framework for self-driving cars, adds further relevance to these concerns, prompting scrutiny as the bill undergoes development.