Tesla Lays Off 200 Workers in Embattled ‘Autopilot’ Division, Closes California Facility

Elon Musk watches SpaceX launch
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Elon Musk’s Tesla has laid off hundreds of workers on its embattled Autopilot team as the company closed its California facility. The company’s Autopilot feature is facing mounting scrutiny from the federal government over a growing list of crashes involved the driver assist feature.

Bloomberg reports that Tesla has laid off around 200 workers from its Autopilot team. The move was reportedly a surprise given that Tesla previously disclosed layoffs targeted at salaried positions in the past rather than a reduction of its hourly employee workforce. Added to this, CEO Elon Musk outlined a plan to boost hourly jobs as recently as last week.

Elon Musk grins

Elon Musk grins (TOBIAS SCHWARZ /Getty)

Tesla said in a statement Wednesday that the only way last month's fatal Model X accident could have occurred was if the driver, Walter Huang, was not paying attention.

Tesla said in a statement Wednesday that the only way last month’s fatal Model X accident could have occurred was if the driver, Walter Huang, was not paying attention. (KTVU via Associated Press)

Tesla shares fell by 3.8 percent following the news. Tesla stock is down 34 percent this year, compared to a 20 percent decline in the S&P 500 index.

Teams at Tesla’s San Mateo office were tasked with evaluating customer vehicle data related to the performance of Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance features and performing data labeling. Many of the laid-off staff were data annotations specialists employed in hourly positions.

Musk surprised workers earlier this month stating that layoffs would be necessary as he had a “bad feeling” about the state of the global economy. He clarified in interviews since that around 10 percent of salaried employees at Telsa would lose their jobs over the next three months, but that the overall headcount would be higher in a year.

The latest layoffs are a surprise given Tesla’s focus on its Autopilot features in recent years. In job postings, Tesla stated that the labeled data that the employees were responsible for is the “critical ingredient for training powerful Deep Neural Networks, which help drive the Tesla vehicles autonomously.”

Breitbart News recently reported that a federal probe of Tesla’s Autopilot function has escalated, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now investigating if the Autopilot feature is potentially defective. The agency is studying data on 200 Tesla crashes, stating that “On average in these crashes, Autopilot aborted vehicle control less than one second prior to the first impact.”

The NHTSA first launched ints investigation into 765,000 Tesla cars ten months ago following 11 cases of Tesla cars colliding with first-responder vehicles. The NHTSA is now widening the scope of the investigation into the effectiveness of Tesla’s driver assistance system. The agency will now be reviewing information from 830,000 Tesla cars and 200 new cases of crashes involving Tesla cars utilizing the Autopilot function.

Read more at Bloomberg here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com


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