I was a Tesla early adopter and friend of Elon Musk — and feel duped by his self-driving claims

I was a Tesla early adopter and friend of Elon Musk — and feel duped by his self-driving claims

Vivek Wadha says he loves his
Tesla but he’ll never buy another one.
Getty

Vivek Wadhwa once called himself a friend of Musk and a Tesla fan, but he sees things differently now.
The entrepreneur says he feels burned by Musk’s self-driving claims.
Wadhwa loves his Tesla, but he says he’ll never buy another one again.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and writer known for his musing on all things tech. His words have been edited for length and clarity.

Elon Musk actually convinced me to buy a Tesla. 

I met him about 10 years ago at an event at Fox Studios, where I interviewed him on stage. 

Before that, we had drinks and I said, “Tell me the craziest thing you’re going to do.” 

He said, “I’m going to retire on Mars.” 

That’s how we started talking. He seemed dead serious and I was blown away by that.

I stayed in touch with him. When The New York Times was continually reporting on him, I defended him in The Washington Post, calling myself a “Tesla fanboy.” He endorsed my first book and we met up with the same social circles. 

I used to call him a friend. Maybe he wouldn’t call me one, but I did. I will always call him the greatest innovator of our time. I believe that, but I’m more critical now.

I was one of the first to get Autopilot 

I was also one the first to get the Tesla Model S. When I saw this video of Enhanced Autopilot in 2016, I was told I’d need to upgrade to get Full Self-Driving. So I literally bought a new car. I sold my old one and I bought a new one. I wrote about that as well.

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I started having doubts when my car first crashed into my garage while using Summon mode. 

Then once while I was interviewed by “PBS News Hour” while driving, the car almost crashed on Autopilot when I was on El Camino Real. If I hadn’t slammed on the brakes, that might have been the first filmed Autopilot crash. It really shook me up. 

Vivek Wadhwa said his Tesla almost crashed using Autopilot on “PBS News Hour.”
Mark Matousek / Business Insider

Since then, my wife and kids have basically said, “Dad, don’t use that when you’re driving.” 

I used to put the car into Autopilot when we were on the highway and they’d start complaining. There was a time when I would just put it into Autopilot and assume it would work flawlessly. But now, there’s no way. 

I still use Autopilot when I’m on the highway, but I’m cautious. I don’t trust it. I don’t use it on windy roads. I don’t use it on roads I don’t know. I use it like you would use any basic cruise control.

I feel like I’ve been duped

This self-driving software feels dangerous. I don’t think cameras are enough. Elon made a bad decision to discontinue the use of radar in his cars, and now it feels like the car is partially blind and doesn’t have enough data now to be able to see what’s going on. 

Elon doesn’t want to admit it. He just keeps saying “any day now, any day now,” but he’s been promising autonomous driving for years. I don’t think FSD will ever be what he’s said it would be.

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I’m supposed to have FSD. I bought it, but he’s not updating the early versions of the cars. Tesla won’t upgrade my car — they just ignore me. 

The first generation of people who jumped on board with FSD have been completely ignored. I feel like I’ve been duped. I want my money back. The current price for FSD is $15,000. They could pay me $15,000 and I’d stop complaining. I would join a class-action lawsuit in a heartbeat, without a second thought.

I love my Tesla, but I’ll never buy another.

I’ve had three Teslas and it’s still the only car I drive. I love it. My Tesla is a spaceship on wheels. It can practically fly. It’s quiet as a mouse and it handles like nothing else. 

It’s still a beautiful car. But, my next car will not be a Tesla. There’s no way. 

I don’t have complaints about the car itself. The complaint is that I didn’t get the Full Self-Driving that I was promised when upgrading my car. And what’s more, the service isn’t what was advertised. 

For the first year, I was optimistic, but  every year I’ve been losing confidence because really nothing has improved. There’s very minor upgrades here and there, but it’s exactly the same as it was when I first got it. 

I’ve been waiting for six years for this car to drive itself, and I know it’s never going to happen.

Elon Musk did not respond to Insider’s request for comment ahead of publication.

Do you work for Tesla or have some insight to share? Reach out to the reporter via email at gkay@insider.com, on secure messaging app Signal at 248-894-6012, or through Twitter DM at @graceihle. Reach out using a non-work device.

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