Tesla disclosed some of its autopilot source code after GPL violation

Abided by General Public License (GPL), Tesla handed out some of its software blueprints into public but it’s not everything

Tesla, a technology company, and the independent automaker are well known for offering the safest, quickest electric cars. The company uses a lot of open source software to build its operating system and features, such as Linux Kernel, Buildroot, Busybox, QT, etc also they have always been taciturn about the finer details and tech of its popular artefacts, such as Model S, Model X, but now Elon Musk’s company has just released some of its automotive tech source code into the open source community.

Munificent! Isn’t it? However not exactly, this move seems to be the result of Tesla’s violation of a General Public License. According to GPL rules, the users need to share their source code but the company has gone ahead a long way enjoying the service without paying heed.

This contravenes has led to a lot of complaining, in response to which the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has coerced the car-makers to comply with the terms of GPL.

The Software Freedom Conservancy provides a non-profit platform for Free and Open Source Software projects. And in this case they have clearly backed the controversial GPL claim against Tesla and gave a chance to fix the issue:

“Conservancy has been engaging with Tesla on its GPL compliance since June 2013, when we advised Tesla that we had received multiple reports of a GPL violation regarding Tesla’s Model S. Customers who purchased Tesla’s Model S received onboard system(s) that contained BusyBox and Linux but did not receive any source code, nor an offer for the source. In parallel, we also asked other entities to advise Tesla about GPL compliance. We know that Tesla received useful GPL compliance advice from multiple organizations, in addition to us, over these years.”

Following this cautionary advice, this week Tesla released some of its source code on GitHub, i.e. only part of the Autopilot framework; it does not include installation instructions and also lacks some details about how to build the directories for the root file system (initramfs).

They sent out an email to the concerned members of the open source community:

“I’m reaching out you since you are someone who has expressed interest or requested open source code from Tesla in the past.

We would like to let you know that we now have two repositories on GitHub that might be of interest. You can find them here:



Today they contain the buildroot material that is used to build the system image on our Autopilot platform and the kernel sources for those boards as well as the Nvidia Tegra-based infotainment system in Model S/X. It is expected to be amended with material for other systems in the car in the near future.

Currently, the material that is there is representative of the 2018.12 release, but it will be updated with new versions corresponding to new releases over time.

It does not contain the proprietary applications Tesla has built on top of this system image such as the actual Autopilot software stack, Nvidia proprietary binaries, etc.

Work is underway on preparing sources in other areas as well, together with a more coordinated information page. We wanted to let you know about this material as it is available now while work continues on the other parts.

For further questions, please contact [email protected].”

 SFC commended Tesla for taking steps in accordance to set the things right:

“We’re thus glad that, this week, Tesla has acted publicly regarding its current GPL violations and has announced that they’ve taken their first steps toward compliance. While Tesla acknowledges that they still have more work to do, their recent actions show progress toward compliance and a commitment to getting all the way there.”

The Conservancy though did not miss pointing out that Tesla still needs to work on being fully compliant.

Overall, even the company doesn’t equip the coders to build their own autonomous car yet it would be fascinating for the entire tech fanatical to have a glace of Tesla’s software!

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