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Opinion
Edward Niedermeyer

Toyota Bets $1 Billion That Tesla Is Speeding

Is Silicon Valley getting too far ahead of society and the legal system?
Tour Of Ecoful Town Developed By Toyota Motor Corp.
Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

It was just a few weeks ago that Tesla sent the Silicon Valley hype machine into overdrive, releasing an autopilot system that ratcheted up expectations about a new world of autonomous-drive technology. Yet almost as soon as the new software feature was beamed to into the computers of Tesla's Model S sedans, YouTube videos of daredevils pushing the system's limits showed that the innovation, marketed as a safety device, had unleashed a lot of danger. This week, chief executive officer Elon Musk told analysts on the firm's quarterly earnings call that Tesla would have to put "additional constraints" on the system in order to "minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it."

There is a lesson here: For all the power of Silicon Valley's narrative of disruptive innovation, it's becoming clear that its mantra of "moving fast and breaking stuff" has very different implications in the realm of the dangerous hardware known as cars than it does for social media apps. And the legacy car makers are taking it to heart.