TECH NEWS – By pushing to remove the steering wheel from the Tesla Model Y, Elon Musk is said to have alienated his chief engineer to the point of causing his departure.
The eccentric Elon Musk has a relatively positive image with the general public compared to other billionaires. With his all-out innovation philosophy and his propensity to post memes in industrial quantities on Twitter, the Tesla boss has built up a less rigid and corporate image than, say, Jeff Bezos.
But that doesn’t mean that everything is running smoothly within the company. And if some accounts are to be believed, the carmaker’s staff has even been the scene of some rather childish spats.
This is the picture painted by Tim Higgins, a journalist at the Wall Street Journal, in his book “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century”. The book, which is intended to be an investigative work, claims that Elon Musk was particularly involved in the design process, a situation that apparently tends to make life difficult for engineers. Higgins says Musk simply refused to add a steering wheel to his Telsa Model Y in one specific example. The reason given was that there was no need for a steering wheel on an autonomous car! Particularly sure of his facts, in 2019, Musk did not hesitate to state that “the probability of seeing the steering wheel removed is 100%. Consumers will demand it”.
Tensions between decision-makers and engineers
A fad that would have particularly exasperated the brand’s engineers, including the big man in person, Doug Field. Tired of seeing his founder put his grain of salt into every little design detail, Field decided to go behind the backs of his superiors. The result: at the beginning of the production phase, the Tesla Model Y was still equipped with a steering wheel. And unfortunately for Musk, it was now too late to remove it. This situation would have increased the tensions already present tenfold, to the point of leading to the resignation of Doug Field in 2018.
However, it should be noted that Elon Musk slashed the book to pieces on Twitter, calling it “fake and boring”. He explicitly rejected some of Higgins’ claims, including an alleged meeting with Tim Cook about a possible Tesla takeover.
So this whole story should be taken with a grain of salt. But Musk has never made any secret of wanting to be actively involved in developing his products, so without jumping to conclusions, this story seems plausible. However, what is certain is that the billionaire’s plans to design a car without a steering wheel did not go away with Doug Field. The concept is still on the drawing board, and there are already steering wheel-less designs, such as this Mercedes-Benz concept car. So it will be interesting to see who will be the first company to produce a commercial prototype and all the regulatory headaches that will follow.
Tim Higgins ‘ book is available here if you want to make up your own mind about this story.
Source: Business Insider