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Tesla used ‘staged video’ to promote company’s self-driving system

Tesla CEO Elon Musk used the video as evidence that Tesla “drives itself” by relying on its many built-in sensors and self-driving software.

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The Tesla video from 2016, which was widely used to promote the company’s self-driving system and its ability to follow traffic light signals was staged, according to testimony by a senior engineer. The video shows Model X driving on urban and suburban streets. The car then stops at a red light and accelerated away when the light turned green, without any assistance. The video is archived on Tesla’s website with the tagline: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself,” as per a Reuters report.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk used the video as evidence that Tesla “drives itself” by relying on its many built-in sensors and self-driving software.  However, Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot software at Tesla revealed that the Model X was not driving itself with the technology the company had deployed. Elluswamy said the video was staged using 3D mapping on a predetermined route, a feature that is not available to consumers. That means the car was moving on a predetermined path that was fed to it using a 3D map of the area it was supposed to drive on.

Elluswamy said, at the request of Musk, Tesla’s Autopilot team set out to engineer and record a “demonstration of the system’s capabilities,” according to the transcript of a July deposition taken as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla for a 2018 fatal crash involving a former Apple engineer.

“The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016. It was to portray what was possible to build into the system,” Elluswamy said, according to a transcript of his testimony seen by Reuters

The company is currently facing a number of lawsuits and investigations around its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems. Recently, California lawmakers created a new law preventing Tesla from advertising its cars as fully self-driving until the vehicles actually are fully autonomous.

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