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Report: Elon Musk drives with customized 'aggressive' Autopilot

by Justin King

The executive is said to be deeply involved in Autopilot development, sometimes making conference calls from his car while running experimental software.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk drives with an experimental Autopilot system that operates with much more aggressive settings than the software that rolls out to customers, according to The Information.

The executive is said to be deeply involved in the Autopilot development process. Running experimental software on his own vehicle provides an opportunity to identify bugs and test improvements.

Most automakers employ teams of drivers that are trained to methodically test software changes and quickly take over manual control if the automated systems behave unexpectedly.

The latest report claims Tesla's test drivers are able to change certain tuning characteristics, such as following distance or proximity to nearby vehicles during lane changes. An unnamed source claims Musk's settings are dialed up particularly high, leading to "situations that many of us wouldn't want to be in" and consequently alerting him to "big bugs" that may not have been noticed when operating with less aggressive settings.

Tesla in 2015 decided to go all in-house with its Autopilot system, splitting from Mobileye to have more control over how the technology is deployed. The company has since developed its own processor chips, optimized to run neural network algorithms, to further improve performance and lessen reliance on Nvidia's off-the-shelf autonomous driving platform.

The Autopilot HW3 upgrade is expected to be ready next year.