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Tesla's Map Issue or What to Do When Your Product Is More Dangerous Than You Thought

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 30: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, with a Powerpack unit the background unveils suit of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities at Tesla Design Studio April 30, 2015 in Hawthorne, California. Musk unveiled the home battery named Powerwall with a selling price of $3500 for 10kWh and $3000 for 7kWh and very large utility pack called Powerpack. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 22, 2019

Elon Musk, the mercurial leader of Tesla, is a dangerous driver.

It's not how he drives a car; it's how he drives his car company. This week he said Tesla is running out of money, and the company stocks predictably crashed. Unfortunately for stock holders, it is not the first time Musk has smashed up their value. But his most dangerous move may be a decision not to use precision maps on self-driving Teslas.

'Wasn't a Good Idea'

Tesla plans to build self-driving cars without LIDAR, which is the technology enabling virtually all self-driving cars. It's how they see, but Musk doesn't like how it works. He calls it an expensive "fools errand." "We briefly barked up the tree of high precision lane line (maps), but decided it wasn't a good idea," he said. Brad Templeton, a transportation writer for Forbes, disagrees. He says more detailed maps could have saved lives in fatal Tesla accidents. All that, of course, is a matter of opinion.

Stocks, on the other hand, tell it to you straight. After Musk announced Tesla would run out of money in 10 months, its stock price plunged to a 30-month low.

Crashing Stock

Not to second-guess a billionaire, but it's not the first time he has seriously hurt the company with cavalier remarks. Last year, he and Tesla paid $40 million in fines for ill-advised tweets. The Securities and Exchange Commission found Musk was misleading investors with tweets which said he was considering taking Tesla private and that he had secured funding. That was false, regulators said, and it hurt investors.

He later tweeted it was "worth it." Perhaps that's true for a billionaire; for investors, maybe not. Based on the latest market response, many apparently have figured out what to do with a dangerous driver.

Get out of the car.

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