A Tesla Motor Inc. associate works on the Model S electric car at the company’s factory in Fremont, California (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Tesla Enlists Employees to Be ‘Full Self-Driving’ Beta Testers

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk has asked for Tesla Inc. employees to test what the company has billed as full self-driving capability and is dangling $13,000 in savings to entice them to help.

Musk wrote in an email obtained by Bloomberg News that Tesla needed about 100 more employees to join an internal testing program linked to rolling out the full self-driving capability. Any worker who buys a Tesla and agrees to share 300 to 400 hours of driving feedback with the company’s Autopilot team by the end of next year won’t have to pay for full self-driving -- an $8,000 saving -- or for a premium interior, which normally costs $5,000, Musk wrote.

“This is being offered on a first come, first served basis,” he said in the email. “Given the excitement around this, I expect it will probably be fully subscribed by noon or 1pm tomorrow.”

Tesla representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment on the email.

Musk, 47, announced almost two years ago that all of the company’s cars would start being offered with the hardware necessary for full self-driving, with only testing and regulatory approvals standing in the way. A falling-out followed with two key partners -- Mobileye NV and Nvidia Corp. -- and Tesla has yet to enable customers to actually activate the full self-driving capability they’ve paid thousands of dollars for.

The team behind Tesla’s driver-assistance system Autopilot has experienced turnover amid a fierce war for the engineering talent needed to develop autonomous vehicles. Jim Keller, the head of the program, left the company in April and is now at Intel Corp., which acquired Mobileye.

Musk once vowed to demonstrate a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to New York using full self driving by the end of 2017, a timeline that’s continued to slip. On the company’s last earnings call, Musk said that the Tesla’s self-driving chip technology that had been in the works for three years was “finally coming to fruition.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.