If anyone is “Mr. Tesla” these days, it’s obviously Elon Musk. But at one point the moniker went to Martin Eberhard, who co-founded the electric vehicle maker in 2003. Eberhard led You’re here Motors as CEO before Musk overthrew him in 2007.
Eberhard isn’t a big proponent of self-driving, and he’s worried about Musk’s focus on it. In a interview published by Insider today, he suggested it could be dangerous.
On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that Tesla will call back more than 360,000 vehicles equipped with its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software due to apparent collision risks. (Musk dispute the word “reminder” because the required corrections will be carried out via a live software update rather than service centers.)
Eberhard noted of Tesla’s early days, “all that FSD autonomous autopilot crap – none of that existed when I was there. We were always busy trying to get the car to work and we didn’t We never thought about it at all. It came later. It requires a much, much larger budget than we had.
Musk prioritized it. Last summer, in a interview with THE Youtube channel “Tesla Owners Silicon Valley”, he said that achieving self-driving technology is the “difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money or being worth practically zero”.
Musk said the FSD mode was key to making Teslas compelling enough for the automaker to challenge established automakers.
Eberhard has different thoughts. “In my opinion, we need to get out of the habit of thinking of all this autonomous stuff as being connected to electric vehicles,” he told Insider. He said he appreciates “safety-focused systems” like the driver-assist features that come with current Teslas.
It’s the autonomous driving that bothers him. The FSD feature requires drivers to keep an eye on it, but it allows Teslas to automatically park, enter freeways, change lanes, and stop at traffic lights.
“I think the technology is way too immature to be put on the road,” Eberhard said. “I mean, it’s my cautious nature, but I would have had a hard time getting software as buggy as this out on the roads.”
Eberhard is not alone. Last weekend, tech CEO Dan O’Dowd spent nearly $600,000 on a Super Bowl ad warning Americans about Tesla’s FSD feature. He tweeted“I’m trying to remove the worst, most poorly designed, developed and tested automotive product on the market.”
You’re here threat O’Dowd and his group The Dawn Project filed a lawsuit last August after posting a viral video showing a Tesla allegedly in FSD mode hitting a child-sized dummy. In a cease and desist letter to O’Dowd, Tesla called the Project Dawn tests “grossly misleading and likely fraudulent.”
Tesla has been the subject of lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny over its self-driving feature. And last month, reports have emerged that a 2016 video demo of Tesla’s FSD mode had, according to the testimony of a company engineer, been staged.
Fortune contacted Tesla but did not receive an immediate response.
Eberhard said that, in his mind, thinking of a car as a software platform is a mistake.
“I have an iPhone, and every time I get a software update there are bugs in there,” he told Insider. “These bugs mean, for example, that my newsfeed app sometimes crashes. That’s okay, because it’s just an annoyance on iPhone. But this kind of bug appears in the software that controls, for example , my brakes or the steering, it can kill you.
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