Tesla admits it tampered with a video that showed Autopilot capabilities

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Tesla will let you take your hands off the wheel in autonomous driving mode

A 2016 video Tesla used to promote its self-driving technology was staged to show features like stopping at a red light and accelerating at a green light that the system lacked, according to the engineer’s testimony.

The video, which remains on test websitea, was posted in October 2016 and promoted on Twitter by Elon Musk as proof that “Tesla drives itself”.

But the Model X was not based on technology Tesla deployed, Ashok Elluswamy, Tesla’s director of Autopilot software, said in a transcript of a statement taken in July as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla over a fatal 2018 accident in which involved a former Apple engineer.

The video has a message that says: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He’s not doing anything. The car drives itself.”

Elluswamy said Tesla’s Autopilot team decided to design and record a “demonstration of system capabilities” at Musk’s request.

To create the video, Tesla used 3D mapping of a predetermined route from a house in Menlo Park, California to Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto at the time.

Drivers stepped in to take control on test drives, according to the statement. While trying to prove that the Model X could park itself without a driver, a test car crashed into a Tesla parking fence.

«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.”Elluswamy said, according to a transcript of his testimony.

When Tesla posted the video, Musk tweeted: “Tesla drives himself (with absolutely no human intervention) through urban streets onto highways and then finds a parking spot.”

Tesla is facing lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny over its driver assistance systems.

The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Tesla’s claims that its electric vehicles can drive themselves by 2021 after a series of accidents, 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 without revealing that the route had been mapped in advance or that a car had crashed while trying to complete the footage, citing unnamed sources.

When asked if the 2016 video showed the performance of Tesla’s Autopilot system available in a production car at the time, Elluswamy said: “Don’t do it”.

Andrew McDevitt, the lawyer representing Huang’s wife who questioned Elluswamy in July, told Reuters it was “obviously misleading to present this video without any disclaimer or asterisk.”

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