There’s been so much going on in the Teslaverse lately—Cybertruck, new Gigafactories, impending battery breakthroughs—that Autopilot hasn’t been in the headlines much. Make no mistake, however—Autopilot, which will revolutionize our society when it comes to full fruition, is near the top of Tesla’s priority list, and there’s a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes. In fact, few outside the company realize how many highly skilled engineers are working on this ever-evolving system.
Above: Autopilot is gaining more self-driving features over time (Source: Tesla)
CleanTechnica’s Zachary Shahan recently had the good fortune to score an interview with Elon Musk, who was keen to share the credit with the large and diverse Autopilot team. “It is extremely important to emphasize that Tesla Autopilot is the work of 300 super-talented engineers,” said Musk. “Please put in bold letters [via] my quote that what people experience in the cars is the result of a large number of extremely talented engineers working very hard. Please give me the least credit.”
The Autopilot team includes “just under 200 [engineers] on the software side, and a little over 100 on the chip-design side,” as well as “over 500 highly skilled labelers” (soon to be expanded to 1,000). It is supervised by several directors, each responsible for the various hardware and software components, who report directly to Elon. Despite the size of the team, Musk stays closely involved with the details—he meets with the heads once a week.
The fact that 300 “Jedi engineers,” as Shahan calls them, are required to keep your Tesla driving smoothly and safely testifies to the incredible complexity of the task at hand. As Shahan writes, getting a computer to drive a car is easy, but getting a computer to drive a car on roads shared with humans is another matter. Designing a system that can drive a car on any road anywhere in the world, under any foreseeable condition…that’s a programming problem for the ages, and one that even Tesla has yet to solve.