Musk oversaw video exaggerating Tesla’s self-driving capabilities

According to an internal email seen by Bloomberg, Elon Musk oversaw the creation of a 2016 video that exaggerated the capabilities of Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, claiming the company’s cars could drive themselves. I even dictated the text.

Musk wrote to Tesla’s Autopilot team shortly after 2:00 am California time in October 2016, highlighting the importance of a demonstration drive to promote the system. In a press conference and blog post on Oct. 19, Tesla said all cars after that date will ship with the hardware needed for full self-driving capabilities.

“I want to make it clear that everyone’s number one priority is getting an amazing Autopilot demo drive,” Musk said in an email. “Since this is a demo, I don’t mind hardcoding some of it, because later he will backfill the production code with an OTA update” update.

“I want to tell the world that this is what this car can do,” Musk continued.

The email sheds light on Musk’s thinking before he and Tesla claimed features that have yet to materialize in more than six years. After several different iterations of the hardware, the company has, to this day, offered customers using Autopilot and the system it markets as fully autonomous that it is behind the wheel and ready to take over at any moment. I am telling you that

In October, Bloomberg News reported that prosecutors from the Washington and San Francisco offices of the U.S. Department of Justice and investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated whether the company made misleading statements about the automated capabilities of its vehicles. reported that

Musk and Tesla, which disbanded their media relations division about three years ago, did not respond to requests for comment.

“absolute priority”

Musk wrote in an email dated October 11, 2016, with the subject line “absolute priority”, that he had canceled the following weekend’s obligation to work with the Autopilot team both Saturday and Sunday. He said everyone should keep a daily log of what they did to contribute to the demo’s success, and they would read it personally.

Nine days later, after Tesla staff shared a fourth version of the video, Musk responded that there were still too many jump cuts and that the demo footage “should feel like one continuous take.” .

Musk, in an earlier email, wrote that it was clear Tesla was demonstrating what the car could do in the future, but then opened the video to staff with a black screen and three sentences referring to the present. instructed to

The nearly four-minute video Musk shared in a tweet later that day begins with the text he asked for: .”

A few seconds later, the engineer climbs into the Model X and begins playing Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones. Engineers keep their hands off the steering wheel as the car pulls forward from the driveway, turns left, and travels to Tesla’s former headquarters in Palo Alto, California. When the engineer exits the vehicle, the driver’s side door closes and the vehicle parallel parks in a space where no one is behind the wheel.

A video left on Tesla’s website is of interest to lawyers in several lawsuits related to autopilot crashes. March 2018. Attorneys for the family that sued Tesla in May 2019 told his Ashok Elluswamy, current director of Autopilot software, in a deposition last June that the video showed exactly how his Autopilot would function at the time of release. I asked if it reflects.

“The intention of the video was not to accurately depict what was available to customers in 2016,” said Elluswamy. “It was about portraying what was possible.”

Reuters first reported the deposit earlier this week. Elswamy declined to comment.

fence collision

When Tesla and Musk released the video, they failed to reveal that their engineers created a three-dimensional digital map of the route taken by Model X, Elswamy said during the deposition. Years after the demonstration, Mr. Musk argued that the company did not rely on high-definition maps for its self-driving systems, and that those that did were less able to adapt.

Mapping details, along with Ellswamy’s admission that the car was involved in an accident during a demonstration, broadly corroborate a December 2021 New York Times report, and Tesla’s video shows the did not get a complete picture of how the vehicle performed.

When asked if the Tesla went over a curb, went through bushes or hit a fence, Elswamy said, “I don’t really know about curbs and bushes. I know about fences.”

Last year, the U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration began releasing data on crashes involving automated driver assistance systems, and the agency mandated automakers to self-report. Tesla reported the majority of such crashes, but regulators warned the data was too limited to draw conclusions about safety.

NHTSA has two active investigations into whether the autopilot is flawed. The agency upgraded Tesla’s first in June of last year, which focused on how his autopilot handled a crash scene with a first responder vehicle. The company launched another of his investigations into hard braking four months ago.

“Not Fraud”

In August, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Tesla of misleading consumers about its driver assistance systems. The following month, a customer in the state accused the company of deceptive marketing and sought class action status for other car owners to join his lawsuit.

In a motion to dismiss a California customer’s lawsuit on November 28, Tesla said, “Failure to achieve long-term, ambitious goals is not fraud.”

Musk said Tesla’s ability to build self-driving cars will determine whether the company is “worth paying a lot of money and basically zero.” In his Twitter Spaces conversation last month, he said the company is ahead of other automakers in this regard.

“What Tesla has that other automakers don’t is that cars can be upgraded to self-driving,” Musk said. “This is something no other car company can do.”

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