Improving the Autopilot feature of Tesla cars and teaching them to drive themselves fully autonomously has become a "super high priority" for the company, says Elon Musk. The chief executive has said that he is searching for new software developers to help improve Autopilot and teach the company's electric cars how to drive themselves in any situation.
Autopilot was rolled out to Tesla Model S and Model X cars as a software update in late October, letting the vehicles drive themselves on motorways. But it didn't take long for owners to use Autopilot inappropriately; videos appeared on YouTube showing owners sitting in the back seat while their car drove itself, with one showing a car becoming confused and driving into the path of oncoming traffic.
Musk tweeted to say he was ramping up the Autopilot software team at Tesla "to achieve generalised full autonomy". It isn't clear what Musk means by "generalised" but it is safe to assume the next step for Autopilot is to make it work on single-lane roads in towns and city centres, not just on motorways as it currently does.
The Tesla boss said: "We are looking for hardcore software engineers. No prior experience with cars required. Please include code sample or link to your work... Should mention that I will be interviewing people personally and Autopilot reports directly to me. This is a super high priority."
Replying to tweets from his followers, Musk said he would be hiring for the job from any country. No closing date or extra details about the vacancies were given.
Described as a beta by Tesla, Autopilot controls the accelerator, brakes and steering of compatible cars. Lane changes are done by flicking the indicator stalk, and the car uses radar and cameras to keep itself in the lane and a safe distance away from surrounding traffic.
When switching the system on, the driver must agree to keep their hands in contact with the wheel at all times (placing them palm-up on your legs and touching the wheel lightly is fine), and a warning sounds if they fail to do so.
Autonomy is becoming big business for car makers, and Tesla isn't alone. The new BMW 7-Series can drive itself on motorways too, operating the steering itself while maintaining a safe gap from the vehicle in front. It is understood that almost all car makers have invested time and money into autonomous research centres – mostly based in California, where Google, Apple and Uber are also working on the development of self-driving cars.