Tesla Faked 2016 Self-Driving Video, Engineer Says
A video published by Tesla in 2016 used to promote its self-driving technology was partially staged to show capabilities the system was not able to perform, according to testimony from a senior Tesla engineer, Reuters reports.
The original video, published in October 2016 and promoted by CEO Elon Musk, shows a Tesla Model X driving from a house in Menlo Park, California, to the company's headquarters in Palo Alto without any human intervention.
The Model X in question wasn't driving itself with technology Tesla implemented in its production cars, however, according to Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot software at Tesla. Reuters obtained a transcript of a July deposition taken as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla for a 2018 fatal crash, where Elluswamy describes the video as a "demonstration of the system's capabilities" rather than something actually available to customers.
“The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016," Elluswamy said, according to Reuters. "It was to portray what was possible to build into the system."
According to Elluswamy's deposition, drivers had to take control in test runs. At one point, when driving to show the Model X could park itself in a parking lot with no driver, the car crashed into a fence, he said. When asked if these kinds of capabilities, like stopping at a red light and accelerating at a green light, showed what was available to customers in 2016, Elluswamy said, "It does not."
This isn't the first time Tesla's been accused of faking the 2016 video in question. In 2021 the New York Times published an investigation that spoke with several former employees who claimed the video was staged. But this is the first time an active employee has revealed what went down behind the scenes.
Tesla has come under fire recently for its Autopilot systems, both from critics and regulatory bodies. The company is set to face a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice over its self-driving claims, according to a Reuters report from October 2022.
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