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Tesla’s Self-Driving Model X Video in 2016 Was Fake: Senior Engineer

Tesla’s self-driving technology has seen skepticism from experts for a long time. Rightfully so, it seems, as many Teslas have been involved in catastrophic accidents due to alleged auto-pilot failures. The recent revelation from one of Tesla’s former employees has added fuel to that fire.

Citing testimony from Ashok Elluswamy — Director of Autopilot software at Tesla — a report from Reuters states that a 2016 video that Tesla used to promote its self-driving technology was staged to show capabilities that the system did not have.

The video, which remains archived on Tesla’s website, was released in October 2016 and promoted by CEO Elon Musk as evidence that “Tesla drives itself.”

Elluswamy said that Tesla’s Autopilot team set out to engineer and record a “demonstration of the system’s capabilities” at Musk’s request. The video carries a tagline saying: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.”

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

Drivers intervened to take control in test runs, and a test car crashed into a fence in Tesla’s parking lot when trying to show the Model X could park itself with no driver.

Elluswamy said that the intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016 but to show what was possible to build into the system.

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

Tesla faces lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny over its driver assistance systems. The US Department of Justice began a criminal investigation into Tesla’s claims that its EVs can drive themselves, after a number of crashes involving Autopilot.