Tesla staged a 2016 video used to promote self driving technology in its cars, according to a testimony by a senior engineer at the company.
The 2016 video, which shows capabilities such as stopping at a red light and accelerating at a green light, was promoted by Chief Executive Elon Musk as proof that “Tesla drives itself.”
But in a July deposition seen by Reuters and taken as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla for a fatal crash in 2018, Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot software at the carmaker, said the Model X in the video was not driving itself.
Tesla’s self-driving technology is designed to assist drivers with braking, speed, lane changes and steering, but the company’s website states these features do not make the vehicle autonomous.
Tesla created the video published in 2016 used 3D mapping on a predetermined route from a house in Menlo Park, California to the headquarters of the company at the time, in Palo Alto. According to Elluswamy’s testimony, drivers intervened to take control during test runs and when trying to show the Model X car could park with no driver, the test car crashed into a fence.
“The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016. It was to portray what was possible to build into the system,” Elluswamy said.
In 2021, the New York Times reported that Tesla engineers had created the video in 2016 to promote Autopilot without disclosing the prior mapping of the route or that a car had crashed during the shoot.
The same year, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into Tesla’s claims in 2021 that its cars can drive themselves, following a number of crashes involving Autopilot, some of which were fatal.