Opinion | Ford Is Leaving Tesla in the Dust

Opinion | Ford Is Leaving Tesla in the Dust

That was back in 2017. In the years since, Tesla’s become even crankier, while its competition has loosened up. Public perception hasn’t yet caught up with the reality of the situation. If you want to work for a flexible, modern company, you don’t apply to Tesla. You apply to 120-year-old Ford.

Tesla’s veneer of irreverence conceals an inflexible core, an old-fashioned corporate autocracy. Consider Tesla’s remote work policy, or lack thereof. Last year, Mr. Musk issued a decree that Tesla employees log 40 hours per week in an office — and not a home office — if they expected to keep their jobs. On Indeed.com, the question, “Can you work remotely at Tesla?” includes answers like, “No,” and “Absolutely not, they won’t let it happen under any circumstances,” and “No, Tesla will work you until you lose everything.”

But on the other hand, the cars make fart noises. What a zany and carefree company!

Ford’s work-from-home rules for white-collar employees, meanwhile, sound straight out of Silicon Valley, in that the official corporate policy is that there is no official corporate policy — it’s up to the leaders of individual units to require in-person collaboration, or not, as situations dictate. There are new “collaboration centers” in lieu of cubicle farms, complete with food service and concierges. That’s not the reality of daily work life for every person at Ford — you can’t exactly bolt together an F-150 from home — but it’s an attempt to provide some flexibility for as many people as possible.

Ford also tends to make good on its promises, an area that’s become increasingly fraught for Tesla. Ford said it would offer a hands-free driver assist system, and now it does, with BlueCruise; you can take your hands off the steering wheel when it is engaged on mapped sections of highway. Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system is not hands-free in any situation, despite its name, and Tesla charges customers $15,000 for the feature on the promise that someday it will make the huge leap to fully autonomous driving.

If you want to pay $15,000 for a feature that’s currently subject to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall whose filing is titled “Full Self-Driving Software May Cause Crash,” don’t let me stop you, but a Tesla engineer also recently testified that a company video purporting to show the system in flawless action was faked. This makes sense, given all the other very real videos of Full Self-Driving doing things like steering into oncoming traffic or braking to a complete stop on a busy street for no reason. Tesla’s own website warns, “The currently enabled features require a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.” So, full self-driving, except for that.

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