To Accelerate AutoPilot Development, Tesla Motors Goes on Recruitment Drive for ‘Hardcore Engineers’

It’s a fact we’ve been aware of for some time now: Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] only hires the very best staff, doing whatever it takes to get experts in their field to make the necessary career shift.

Tesla's hiring engineers for the autopilot project -- and it only wants the best.

Tesla’s hiring engineers for the autopilot project — and it only wants the best.

Indeed, many within Silicon Valley compare working at Tesla to working at Apple: while it looks great on your resume, work can be demanding and stress levels can be high. For those who can keep up with the fast-moving company however, the rewards can be large. As one Tesla employee told us during a Tesla Factory tour just over three years ago, “Tesla was pretty persuasive. I said ‘no’ at first, but Tesla kept asking me until it gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Historically, Tesla has relied on talent scouts to find it the very best staff it can, putting candidates through a pretty tough selection process to hand-pick employees it feels will be at home working for Tesla.   But towards the end of last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that Tesla was on the lookout for some new employees, specifically engineers to accelerate development of its autopilot software.

As our friends over at GreenCarReports note, Musk took to his favourite social media site Twitter to make the announcement.

This isn’t the first time that Musk has used Twitter to announce a new hiring round at Tesla. Indeed, previous announcements from Musk have detailed hiring of engineers for both security projects and autonomous drive projects within the Californian automaker.  This time however, Musk threw in an extra piece of information which highlights just how seriously he takes Tesla’s goal of developing its Autopilot software to the point where it can take over the majority of driving duties on a daily basis.  He’ll be doing the interviews.

Autopilot and Model X launch have both helped keep Tesla in the spotlight.

Autopilot and Model X launch have both helped keep Tesla in the spotlight.

Don’t think either that Musk means he’ll be sitting in on the interview process as the silent CEO in the corner. While some CEOs will dabble in the interview process for high-ranking jobs, Musk — like the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs — is known for rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in during interviews, asking candidates tough questions designed to demonstrate their thought processes.

Remaining calm under the tough questioning of the nerdy and knowledgeable Musk is a plus.

Tesla, like many other automakers, is aggressively pursuing the dream of autonomous car technology. Thanks to the software-driven design philosophy at Tesla, it pushed an over-the-air software update at the end of September which switched on rudimentary autopilot features to any Tesla Model S made after October 2014.

Those features included the capability to have a Tesla Model S automatically follow the lane markings and position itself in the middle of the lane at all times, execute overtaking maneuvers on the command of the driver, as well as offering autonomous parallel parking capabilities. These features were offered alongside updates to Tesla’s active safety system, ensuring Tesla Model S electric cars made after October 2014 could detect other road users and take preventative action to avoid collisions and other road hazards.

While Tesla was careful to call the software rollout a ‘Public Beta,’ cautioning customers who opted to try the autonomous drive features to always keep hold of the steering wheel and remain alert at all times, not everyone followed Tesla’s advice. Indeed, after seeing some truly scary and irresponsible examples of drivers handing complete control over to the beta software on the public highway, Musk promised at the recent Q3 earnings call that Tesla would take steps to stop people being quite so stupid.

Increasing the size of its autopilot software team, Tesla will be able to not only implement additional safety protocols to prevent irresponsible behavior, but it will also be able to fare more quickly learn from the millions of miles of autopilot driving data already being collected by Model S owners around the world.

If Tesla succeeds, you may not need to use this all that much in the near future.

If Tesla succeeds, you may not need to use this all that much in the near future.

That data, recorded by every Tesla Model S on the road today — autopilot enabled or not — will not only help Tesla ensure its autopilot software is the best out there, but will also help the company ensure that Tesla cars are capable of  learning from one another, collaboratively sharing experiences and improvements as they are learned.

But we’re suspecting there’s another reason for Tesla wanting to expand its autopilot engineering team, namely the fact that Tesla wants to be first to market with a fully-autonomous (or fully-autonomous capable) car.  Given the positive feedback given to Tesla over the public beta thus far, we’re guessing Tesla is more than happy to invest a little extra money now for future gain.

And with Tesla now being chased by plenty of other automakers keen to bring autonomous drive software to the world by 2020 — including Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and General Motors to name a few — Tesla knows that being first could net it some significant kudos in the near future.

We can’t wait.


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