Tesla self-driving video was staged, says engineer
Images from 2016 were used to promote the automaker’s cars, despite showing features the vehicles don’t have.
A video used by Tesla to promote its self-driving technology in 2016 was staged, according to an engineer at the automaker. In the images, the electric car company shows features that its vehicles do not have, such as stopping when the light turns red, accelerating when it turns green and parking.
The video is from October 2016. It is available on Tesla’s website and, at the time, it was shared on social media by company president Elon Musk.
At the opening, it displays the text: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. She is not doing anything. The car is driving itself”.
In the same vein, Musk wrote in the Twitter: “Tesla drives itself (without human intervention) through urban streets to highways, then finds a parking spot”. Still according to him, when looking for a vacancy, “the car reads the license plates to find out if parking is allowed”.
However, Tesla’s director of self-driving software, Ashok Elluswamy, said that the Model X (the car advertised in the video) was not driving itself.
The statement was obtained by the newspaper The New York Times. It is part of a statement given by Elluswamy in a lawsuit against the automaker, in 2018, for an accident with death.
In the video, according to the engineer, a 3D mapping of a predetermined route was used. When trying to show that the Model X could park without a driver, the test car crashed into a fence. Human interventions were also necessary during the journey.
Also according to the engineer, the video was made at Musk’s request to “demonstrate the capabilities of the system”, including those that were not working. “The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available to customers in 2016. It was to portray what was possible to incorporate into the system”, disse Elluswamy.
The company’s website reports that the technology is designed to assist with steering, braking, speed and lane changes, but its features “do not make the vehicle autonomous”.
Musk and Tesla did not comment on the case until the publication of this text. The space remains open.
The NHTSA (National Highway Safety Administration) has opened an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system after a series of accidents.
According to the body, autopilot cars from the mounter were involved in 273 accidents in 2021 alone. Musk’s electric car factory accounts for 70% of accidents in which automated steering systems were used that year.
Since 2016, 19 deaths have been recorded in Tesla cars with Autopilot or fully autonomous driving.