Shocking Leaked Tesla Documents Hint at Cybertruck Problems | WIRED
cars collide Bollards, emergency brakes to avoid imaginary collisions, and more than 2,400 complaints about cars accelerating beyond their owner’s control. The Internal Tesla documents worth 100 gigabytes leaked to the German newspaper Handelsblatt paint a sobering picture of the EV company’s technical limitations.
The 23,000 files received from Handelsblatt cover issues in Europe, US and Asia between 2015 and March 2022 and appear to show serious flaws in Tesla’s Autopilot technology. The revelations could mean the company faces fresh pressure from regulators, who are likely to scour the reports for evidence the company has misled authorities or customers about the safety of its vehicles.
The leaks could also add to widespread concerns among Tesla investors and analysts that the company has lost its way. Its touted self-driving technology doesn’t seem nearly safe enough for road use, and it doesn’t seem capable of taking viable new products from the drawing board to the showroom. Tesla hasn’t launched a new consumer vehicle since 2020, and it’s widely believed that the company is falling behind other automakers who are ramping up their development of new electric vehicles to meet rising demand. Half-hidden in the tide of revelations is a foretaste of a secret report on Tesla’s long-awaited “Cybertruck,” an oddly-edgy pickup truck announced in 2019. It’s unlikely to be good news.
“Tesla urgently needs a new credibility story,” says Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Duisburg.
The contents of the leaked documents are shocking and include reports of near-death experiences by Tesla Autopilot. But analysts say it’s not unexpected.
“It’s not that surprising to most of us who’ve been covering Tesla for a decade now, and it shouldn’t be that surprising to most Tesla customers,” said Matthias Schmidt, an independent automotive analyst in Berlin.
Schmidt says that Tesla has long taken a “go fast and break things” approach to developing products, which has raised concerns about the market readiness of its new releases. There were 393 registered deaths with Teslas, 33 of them with autopilot. Schmidt claims Musk “accepts the driver’s death as a result of trucking technology.” Musk did not respond to requests to comment on this story or address Schmidt’s allegation.
It’s often difficult to separate the Tesla brand from the character of its CEO. Musk has typically dismissed criticism of his products — often via Twitter, which he acquired for $44 billion last October. But the scale of the German leaks could make it harder for Musk to sell his version of the story, Dudenhöffer says.
“He has thousands of pieces of information, from customer complaints, and at the same time he’s telling people that it’s the best product in the world,” says Dudenhöffer, comparing the controversy to a scandal at Volkswagen in the mid-2010s that the automaker discovered I downplayed the environmental impact his vehicles.
Dudenhöffer blames Tesla’s mounting troubles on Musk, who divides his time between running Tesla, his rocket company SpaceX, and Twitter, which has been in perpetual crisis since its acquisition last year. “He should no longer be the CEO running Tesla,” says Dudenhöffer, “because he’s making mistake after mistake.”