Tesla video promoting self-driving was staged, engineer testifies

Tesla video promoting self-driving was staged, engineer testifies
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Jan. 17 (Reuters) – A 2016 video showing Tesla (TSLA.O) According to a senior engineer’s testimony, it was staged to promote its self-driving technology by showing capabilities such as stopping at a red light and accelerating at a green light that were not in the system.

video, which Archived on Tesla’s websiteReleased in October 2016 and promoted on Twitter by CEO Elon Musk as proof that “Tesla drives itself”.

But the Model X itself was not driving with the technology Tesla used, Ashok Eluswami, director of Tesla’s Autopilot software, said in a transcript of a July deposition taken as evidence in a 2018 lawsuit against Tesla over a fatal crash involving a former Apple. (AAPL.O) the engineer

Illuswamy’s previously unreported testimony represents the first time a Tesla employee has confirmed and detailed how the video was made.

The video has a tagline that reads: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is doing nothing. The car is driving itself.”

Illuswamy said Tesla’s Autopilot team was engineered at Musk’s request and headed out to record a “demonstration of system capabilities.”

Eluswamy, Musk and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment. However, the company warns drivers that they must keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicles while using Autopilot.

The Tesla technology is designed to assist with steering, braking, speed and lane changes, but its features “do not make the vehicle autonomous,” the company said on its website.

To create the video, Tesla used 3D mapping on a predetermined route from a home in Menlo Park, Calif., to Tesla’s then-headquarters in Palo Alto, he said.

The drivers intervened to control the test run, he said. While trying to show the Model X could park itself without a driver, a test car crashed into a fence in Tesla’s parking lot, he said.

“The purpose of the video was not to accurately portray what was available to customers in 2016. It was to portray what was possible to build on the system,” Illuswamy said, according to a transcript of his testimony seen by Reuters.

When Tesla released the video, Musk tweeted, “Tesla drives itself (no human input) through urban streets to highways, then finds a parking spot.”

Tesla’s face Litigation and regulatory scrutiny on its driver assistance system.

The US Department of Justice has begun Crime investigation Tesla claims that its electric vehicles can drive themselves in 2021, after several crashes, some of them fatal, involving Autopilot, Reuters reported.

The New York Times reported in 2021 that Tesla engineers created the 2016 video to promote Autopilot that the route was pre-mapped or a car crashed trying to complete the shoot, citing anonymous sources.

Asked if the 2016 video showed the functionality of the Tesla Autopilot system available in a production car at the time, Eluswami said, “It doesn’t.”

Eluswami was deposed in a lawsuit against Tesla that resulted in the death of Apple engineer Walter Huang in a 2018 crash in Mountain View, California.

Andrew McDevitt, the lawyer who represents Huang’s wife and who questioned Eluswami in July, told Reuters that “showing that video without a disclaimer or an asterisk is clearly misleading.”

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2020 that Huang’s fatal crash was likely caused by his distraction and autopilot limitations. It said Tesla’s “ineffective monitoring of driver engagement” contributed to the crash.

Illuswamy said drivers were “fooling the system” into believing the Tesla system was paying attention based on feedback from the steering wheel when they weren’t. But he said he doesn’t see any safety issues with Autopilot if drivers are paying attention.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Lisa Schumacher

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