Jan. 17 (Reuters) – 2016 video that Tesla (TSLA.O) It was used to promote its self-driving technology to demonstrate capabilities such as stopping at a red light and accelerating at a green light that the system did not have, according to testimony from a senior engineer.
which video Still archived on the Tesla websitereleased in October 2016 and promoted on Twitter by CEO Elon Musk as proof that “Tesla drives itself”.
The Model X was not driving itself with technology deployed by Tesla, said Ashok Eluswamy, Tesla’s Autopilot program manager, in the text of a July affidavit taken as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla over a 2018 fatal crash involving the former Apple company. (AAPL.O) Engineer.
The previously unreported testimony by Elluswamy marks the first time a Tesla employee has confirmed and detailed how the video was produced.
The video bears a tagline that reads: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He’s not doing anything. The car is driving itself.”
Elluswamy said Tesla’s Autopilot team has begun engineering and recording a “demonstration of the system’s capabilities” at Musk’s request.
Elluswamy, Musk and Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. However, the company has warned drivers that they should keep their hands on the steering wheel and maintain control of their cars while on Autopilot.
Tesla’s technology is designed to assist with steering, braking, speed and lane changes, but its features “do not make the car autonomous,” the company says on its website.
To create the video, Tesla used 3D mapping on a predetermined route from a home in Menlo Park, California, to Tesla’s headquarters at the time in Palo Alto, he said.
He said the drivers intervened to control the trials. He said that when trying to show that the Model X can park itself without a driver, a test car crashed into a fence in a Tesla parking lot.
“The intent of the video was not to accurately depict what was available to customers in 2016, but rather what could be included in the system,” Eluswami said, according to a transcript of his testimony seen by Reuters.
When Tesla released the video, Musk tweeted, “Tesla drives itself (with absolutely no human involvement) through city streets to highways to streets, then finds a parking spot.”
Tesla faces lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny over its driver assistance systems.
The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into claims by Tesla that its electric cars could drive themselves in 2021, after a number of crashes, some fatal, including on autopilot, Reuters reports.
The New York Times reported in 2021 that Tesla engineers created a 2016 video to promote Autopilot without revealing that the route had been set in advance or that a car had crashed while trying to complete filming, citing anonymous sources.
And when asked if the 2016 video showed the performance of a Tesla Autopilot system available in a production vehicle at the time, Elluswamy replied, “It’s not.”
Elluswamy has been impeached in a lawsuit against Tesla over the 2018 accident in Mountain View, California, that killed Apple engineer Walter Huang.
Andrew McDevitt, the attorney representing Huang’s wife who questioned Eluswami in July, told Reuters that it was “obviously misleading to show this video without any disclaimer or asterisk”.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2020 that Huang’s fatal accident was likely caused by distraction and limitations on the autopilot. It said Tesla’s “ineffective monitoring of driver engagement” contributed to the accident.
Elluswamy said drivers could “fool the system,” making Tesla’s system think they were paying attention based on feedback from the steering wheel when they weren’t. But he said he doesn’t see a safety issue with Autopilot if drivers are paying attention.
Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Lisa Shumaker
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