Tesla self-driving demo video was staged, engineer says

by Ana Lopez

Tesla’s Autopilot has never quite been the super feature that users were promised, and the fully self-driving mode (FSD) was controversial long before it was introduced. To make matters worse for the leading EV maker, a Tesla engineer testified that a 2016 demo video of the car’s self-driving and self-parking features was fictional.

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Per Reuters, Ashok Elluswamy – software director for Tesla’s Autopilot – admitted in a statement that the video was false. The confession seemed to confirm a New York Times report from 2021, in which anonymous Tesla employees admitted that the route of the car in the video was pre-programmed and that the vehicle even had an accident during filming.

As reported by Reuters, Elluswamy’s statement marks the first time a Tesla exec has acknowledged or even detailed how the video was fabricated.

said Elluswamy the demo was created after Tesla CEO Elon Musk asked the Autopilot team to design a “demonstration of the system’s capabilities.” However, he claimed that the video did not accurately reflect Tesla’s supposed self-driving capabilities at the time. Elluswamy’s statement was part of a lawsuit filed by the family of Walter Huang, a software engineer who died in a Tesla accident in 2018.

Huang family attorney Andrew McDevitt told Reuters that Tesla was “obviously misleading” for presenting “that video with no disclaimer or asterisk.”

Driver assistance software is pretty standard, but in recent years Tesla has been mentioned in connection with several notable accidents involving the feature. Now Reuters reports that the company is on the wrong side of several legal actions related to Autopilot.

The feature is so controversial that California lawmakers have enacted legislation preventing Tesla from advertising its cars as fully self-driving until the vehicles are truly capable of autonomous driving.

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