Tesla video promoting Autopilot staged, engineer testifies

Jan 17 (Reuters) – Videos Tesla (TSLA.O) allegedly used in 2016 to tout its self-driving technology showed features like stopping at red lights and accelerating at green lights that the system didn’t have. Testimonials from senior engineers.

The video, released in October 2016 and promoted by CEO Elon Musk on Twitter as evidence of “Tesla Autopilot,” is still archived on Tesla’s website.

But Ashok Elluswamy, Tesla’s self-driving software director, said in a July transcript of his testimony that the Model X did not drive itself using technology deployed by Tesla, which was used as a testament to Tesla’s 2018 allegations against former Apple Inc. Proceedings of the fatal car accident. AAPL.O) engineer.

Elluswamy’s previously unreported testimony is the first time a Tesla employee has confirmed and detailed how the video was made.

The video’s tagline reads: “The man in the driver’s seat was only doing it for legal reasons. He didn’t do anything. The car drove itself.”

At Musk’s request, Tesla’s Autopilot team set out to design and document a “demonstration of system functionality,” Elluswamy said.

Elluswamy, Musk and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment. However, the company warns drivers that they must keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle when using Autopilot.

The company says on its website that the Tesla technology is designed to assist with steering, braking, speed and lane changes, but that its features “do not allow the vehicle to drive itself.”

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

The driver intervened to control the test run, he said. While trying to demonstrate that the Model X could park itself without a driver, a test car crashed into a fence in a Tesla parking lot, he said.

“The purpose of the video was not to describe exactly what was available to customers in 2016. It was to describe what could be built into the system,” Elluswamy said, according to a transcript of the testimony seen by Reuters.

When Tesla posted the video, Musk tweeted: “Tesla drives itself (with no human input at all) through city streets, highways, streets, and finds a parking spot.”

Tesla faces lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny over its driver assistance system.

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Tesla’s claims that its electric vehicles could drive themselves by 2021 after multiple crashes involving Autopilot, Reuters reported.

The New York Times in 2021, citing anonymous sources, said Tesla engineers made a 2016 video promoting Autopilot without revealing that the route had been mapped out in advance or that a car crashed while trying to complete the filming.

Asked whether the 2016 video showed the capabilities of Tesla’s Autopilot system, which was available in production cars at the time, Elluswamy said: “It doesn’t.”

Elluswamy was fired for filing a lawsuit against Tesla over the 2018 crash in Mountain View, California, that killed Apple engineer Walter Huang.

Andrew McDevitt, a lawyer representing Huang’s wife who questioned Elluswamy’s lawyers in July, told Reuters that “playing the video without any disclaimers or asterisks is clearly misleading. “

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2020 that Huang’s fatal crash was likely caused by his distraction and the limitations of Autopilot. It said Tesla’s “inadequate monitoring of driver engagement” was the cause of the crash.

Elluswamy said drivers can “fool the system” into believing they’re paying attention based on feedback from the steering wheel, when in fact they’re not. But he said he sees no safety issues with Autopilot if drivers pay attention.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source link