Elon Musk’s xAI poaches another engineer from Tesla in a clear conflict of interest

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Elon Musk’s xAI, an artificial intelligence startup, has poached yet another engineer from Tesla in a clear conflict of interest.

Last year, Musk launched a new AI startup, xAI, and it has been a controversial endeavor – primarily because he has himself described Tesla as “an AI company”.

A few years prior, Musk had left OpenAI officially over a “conflict of interest with Tesla” over the automaker’s own AI effort.

It’s not clear how starting his own AI startup would be different. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for conflicts of interest to popup.

Earlier this year, we reported on Musk bizarrely asking for a 25% voting control over Tesla because of his fear that some entity could take over the company to control its AI projects.

He warned that without this level of control, he would “prefer to build products outside of Tesla”, presumably at the new xAI, which many saw as a clear conflict of interest by publicly admitting that he would focus AI efforts outside of Tesla.

Separately, xAI has also been recruiting from Tesla’s own AI team.

The Information reported today that a fourth Tesla engineer has moved from the automaker to Musk’s new startup:

Last month, Tesla machine-learning scientist Ethan Knight became the fourth Tesla engineer to leave the car company for xAI, the startup’s website shows. At Tesla, Knight had overseen the team working on computer vision for Tesla’s self-driving technology, according to a former employee. His departure follows those of engineers who worked at Tesla on supercomputing, Autopilot and artificial intelligence infrastructure and who have joined xAI in the past 12 months.

Tesla’s board has never commented on the conflict of interest situation nor on Musk’s demand to get 25% voting control over Tesla’s shares.

Electrek’s Take

This is such a strange situation for a major company like Tesla to be in. With any other company or CEO, you would think that the board would be all over these conflicts of interest, but not with Tesla and Elon.

Again, it highlights a clear governance problem at the company – something that also led to the rescinding of Elon’s compensation package. All things that are distracting the company from the actual mission. It’s a shame.

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