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Tesla's FSD Is Biased Towards Influencers And Elon Musk: Report

Photo: Tesla
Photo: Tesla

If you’ve followed Tesla’s FSD software over the years, you might have noticed an interesting pattern. Constant updates, version after version full of tweaks and fixes, yet the cars still try to drive full speed into moving trains. All that work, all those patches and bug fixes, it all has to be going somewhere, right?

According to a new report from Business Insider, it’s going somewhere very specific: Tesla is focusing FSD and Autopilot development around Elon Musk and his loyal cadre of influencers. The CEO and his elite video-posting few get special treatment, as the software is catered to their use cases — which, in theory, makes it look good to all:

BI spoke with over a dozen current and former Tesla employees, all but one who spoke on condition of anonymity, who said images and video clips from Musk’s Teslas received meticulous scrutiny, while data from high-profile drivers like YouTubers received “VIP” treatment in identifying and addressing issues with the Full Self-Driving software. The result is that Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD software may better navigate routes taken by Musk and other high-profile drivers, making their rides smoother and more straightforward.

That means, experts say, Tesla’s resources are being unevenly distributed and could serve as a distraction toward the company’s larger mission of truly autonomous driving.

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John Bernal, a former Autopilot analyst and test driver, and three other former workers told BI they were informed they were working on data from Musk’s car and specifically told to treat the clips with care. While workers at the data-labeling plants are typically rated on how fast they can annotate the data, Bernal and two other workers said they were told to take more time with data from Musk’s vehicles, adding that the clips would go through an extra round of quality assurance as well.

“It seems pretty clear that Elon’s experience would be better than anyone else’s,” one former employee said. “He was seeing the software at its best.”

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Business Insider lists too many individual examples to quote here — go check out the post over there, the number is staggering — but there’s a clear throughline: FSD and Autopilot are tailored to Musk and his biggest fans.

Other users, too, have anecdotally backed up this same discrepancy. Fred Lambert at Electrek said as much:

As someone with FSD Beta for more than 2 years, I have often pushed back against this narrative because I’ve found some significant discrepancies between videos from Tesla influencers, mainly in California, Musk’s claimed performance of FSD Beta, and what and my friends have been experiencing in our Tesla vehicles, especially in Quebec and the Northeast.

And stories abound on the Tesla forums:

This explains why FSD works better for Elon and VIP youtubers like Whole Mars than the rest of us.

This sort of favoritism isn’t going to get FSD to Level 4 certification throughout the US. I’ve noticed in V11 and V12, the YouTubers seem to have better to much better experiences than I do locally. Just making it work in Ann Arbor, south Florida and the south San Francisco Bay area is a stupid approach.

Community consensus has long been that FSD performs better in CA.

Whether that’s because of Tesla actively working on the top problems Elon encounters or they’re just passively letting the higher volume of Teslas in CA influence their training doesn’t matter to me.

Congrats to everyone living in CA! Colorado is mediocre for FSD

His employees are enabling him. V12 is significantly worse than V11 and even V10.

Buyers considering a Tesla have long had oddities to consider, uniquities of the automaker, but “the product you see isn’t the one you can buy” is a new level. Shoppers who made their FSD purchase decision based on YouTube videos may be disappointed when their own experience doesn’t quite line up. Perhaps that’s why so few of those free trial users actually bought the software.

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