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Tesla whistleblower calls cars with Autopilot “experiments in public roads”

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A former Tesla employee who leaked thousands of accident reports and other documents expressed his doubts about the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system in an interview with the BBC published today.

“I don’t think the hardware is ready and the software is ready,” ex-Tesla employee Lukasz Krupski said. “It affects all of us because we are essentially experiments in public roads. So even if you don’t have a Tesla, your children still walk in the footpath.”

The nonprofit group Blueprint for Free Speech recently awarded Krupski with its Whistleblowing Prize. “In late 2021, Lukasz realised that—even as a service technician—he had access to a shockingly wide range of internal data at Tesla,” the group’s prize announcement said. “Not only did access controls seem almost entirely absent, other lapses were evident in the data Lukasz was seeing: serious lapses that risked putting Tesla’s customers, and those sharing the roads with them, in danger.” Those safety risks included sudden accelerations and braking.

Krupski was also featured last month in a New York Times article titled, “Man vs. Musk: A Whistleblower Creates Headaches for Tesla.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk once thanked Krupski after the employee “put out a fire at a Tesla car delivery location in Norway, seriously burning his hands and preventing a disaster,” the report said.

“Congratulations for saving the day!” Musk wrote to Krupski in a March 2019 email after the incident, a few months after Krupski was hired. But Krupski now says that “he was harassed, threatened and eventually fired after complaining about what he considered grave safety problems at his workplace near Oslo,” the NYT report said.

Tesla took legal action against Krupski

Krupski “was part of a crew that helped prepare Teslas for buyers but became so frustrated with the company that last year he handed over reams of data from the carmaker’s computer system to Handelsblatt, a German business newspaper,” the report said.

The data Krupski leaked included lists of employees and personal information, as well as “thousands of accident reports and other internal Tesla communications.” The documents helped form the basis of reports on Tesla’s difficulties in manufacturing the long-delayed Cybertruck.

Krupski was fired last year. Among other things, his bosses accused him of taking pictures at a Tesla facility in violation of company policy. Krupski said he took photos at the facility to document safety problems.

Tesla “accused Mr. Krupski of misappropriating company information and threatened to seek damages from him,” and “obtained an injunction from a Norwegian court ordering Mr. Krupski not to distribute any more company information,” the NYT wrote. “The court also seized his laptop and turned it over to Tesla.”

Autopilot safety investigation

Meanwhile, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating Tesla Autopilot safety in response to crashes, including some causing deaths. Krupski told the NYT that he was interviewed by the NHTSA several times, and has provided information to the US Securities and Exchange Commission about Tesla’s accounting practices.

The ease with which Krupski obtained personal information about Tesla employees is under scrutiny, with the Netherlands Data Protection Authority investigating the data breach. Former Tesla employee Benson Pai sued the company in US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that it “failed to implement or follow reasonable data security procedures” to prevent unauthorized access. The lawsuit seeks class-action status.

Krupski reportedly intends to sue Tesla for compensation over his firing. But because he has used up all his savings, Krupski “cannot pursue the case further until he scrapes together enough money to pay a lawyer,” the NYT wrote.

Krupski initially stayed anonymous after leaking the Tesla data but went public for the first time last month. Krupski told the BBC that the experience of being a whistleblower has been “terrifying” and that “I barely sleep at night sometimes.”

Tesla says in its Vehicle Safety Report that in Q4 2022, there was “one crash for every 4.85 million miles driven in which drivers were using Autopilot technology,” compared to one crash for every 1.4 million miles driven in Tesla cars without Autopilot enabled.

Tesla has faced several lawsuits over crashes, but juries have so far sided with the car company. “Tesla has by far the best real-world AI,” Musk said in a December 1 post on twitter.com.


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