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Engineer: Tesla Self-Driving Demo Video Was Staged

Tesla’s Autopilot has never really been the super feature users were promised, and full self-driving mode (FSD) was controversial long before it was introduced. Now, to make things worse for the leading EV manufacturer, a Tesla engineer has testified that a 2016 demo video of the car’s self-driving and self-parking functions was a work of fiction.

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Per Reuters, Ashok Elluswamy — software director for Tesla’s Autopilot — admitted in a statement that the video was counterfeit. The admission seemed to affirm a New York Times report from 2021, in which anonymous Tesla workers admitted the route taken by the car in the video had been programmed in advance, and the vehicle even had an accident during filming.

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

Elluswamy said 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 the video did not accurately represent Tesla’s supposed self-driving capabilities at the time. Elluswamy’s deposition was part of a suit brought 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 without any disclaimer or asterisk.”

Driving assistance software is pretty standard, but in recent years Tesla has been named in relation to several noteworthy accidents involving the feature. Now Reuters reports that the company finds itself on the wrong end of several legal actions related to Autopilot.

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

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