Oct 5, 2022 - Economy & Business

Elon Musk’s risk tolerance could have big consequences for Twitter

Elon Musk gestures as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility.

Elon Musk speaking during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility on February 10, 2022. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk's risk-taking at Tesla could offer a glimpse of how he'll manage the digital public square now that he wants to proceed with his offer to buy Twitter.

Why it matters: Musk's high risk tolerance has turned everyone into guinea pigs for his self-driving car experiment — even those who don't drive a Tesla but happen to share the road with them.

What's happening: While most other auto companies use trained safety operators to test their self-driving technology, Musk's approach is to release ever-more-advanced features to ordinary Tesla owners and collect feedback as they try it out.

  • Tesla's Full Self Driving beta software is now available to 160,000 Tesla owners.
  • The name is misleading; drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention in case something goes wrong.

And things do go wrong, sometimes. Data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) identified 392 reported accidents as of May 2022 involving cars operating with assisted-driving features.

  • Roughly 69%, or 273, of those crashes involved Teslas.
  • The safety agency is investigating whether Tesla’s autopilot system increases the risk of accidents, and could issue a recall if it believes the technology's design is to blame.

What they're saying: Activist Ralph Nader, whose landmark 1965 book "Unsafe at Any Speed" led to the creation of NHTSA, calls Tesla's technology "one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions by a car company in decades."

  • He used to be a fan of early Tesla cars, but now he says, "I would not ride in a modern, recent one."

What to watch: How Musk's approach to risk-taking in business might play out at Twitter.

🎧 Hear the story of Musk's meteoric rise on the newest season of our podcast, "How it Happened: Elon Musk vs. Twitter."

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