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Tesla lays off hundreds of autopilot workers in latest cuts

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / JUNE 27
                                A 2021 Model 3 sedan is connected to a charger at a Tesla dealership in Littleton, Colo. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it’s upgrading the probe into an engineering analysis, another sign of increased scrutiny of the electric vehicle maker and automated systems that perform at least some driving tasks.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / JUNE 27

    A 2021 Model 3 sedan is connected to a charger at a Tesla dealership in Littleton, Colo. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that it’s upgrading the probe into an engineering analysis, another sign of increased scrutiny of the electric vehicle maker and automated systems that perform at least some driving tasks.

Tesla Inc. laid off hundreds of workers on its Autopilot team as the electric-vehicle maker shuttered a California facility, according to people familiar with the matter, one of the larger known cuts amid a broad workforce reduction.

Affected employees were notified Tuesday, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as discussing private information. Teams at the San Mateo office were tasked with evaluating customer vehicle data related to the Autopilot driver-assistance features and performing so-called data labeling.

About 200 workers were let go, according to one of the people. Many of the staff were data annotation specialists. The office had about 350 employees, some of whom were transferred to a nearby facility.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The cuts are part of an effort to trim the ranks of salaried staffers as Tesla pulls back from a surge in hiring in recent years. The company, now headquartered in Austin, Texas, had grown to about 100,000 employees globally as it built new factories in Austin and Berlin.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk caught workers by surprise earlier this month when he said layoffs would be necessary in an increasingly shaky economic environment. He clarified in an interview with Bloomberg that about 10% of salaried employees would lose their jobs over the next three months, though the overall headcount could be higher in a year.

The EV market leader’s downsizing efforts have focused on areas that grew too quickly. Some human resources workers and software engineers are known to have been laid off, and in some cases, the cuts have hit employees who had worked at the company for just a few weeks.

Those affected by the latest move worked on one of the higher-profile features in Tesla vehicles. In job postings, Tesla has said that labeled data is the “critical ingredient for training powerful Deep Neural Networks, which help drive the Tesla vehicles autonomously.” Staffers in Buffalo, New York, and San Mateo spent hours labeling images for cars and the environment they navigate, such as street signs and traffic lanes.

Tesla’s shares fell less than 1% as of 4:57 p.m. after regular trading in New York. The stock tumbled 34% this year through Tuesday’s close, compared with a 20% decline in the SP 500 Index.

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