Tesla faked a 2016 video promoting its self-driving technology, according to a senior company engineer's deposition testimony

Tesla faked a 2016 video promoting its self-driving technology, according to a senior company engineer's deposition testimony
Tesla has come under more scrutiny recently for its autopilot feature.Michael Siluk/Getty Images
  • Tesla staged a video showing its self-driving capability, according to a company engineer's testimony.
  • Tesla's director of Autopilot software, Ashok Elluswamy, revealed the information in a deposition in July 2022.

In October 2016, Tesla posted a video on its site titled "Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Teslas."

Hit play, and chyrons flash against a black screen reading: The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.

As "Paint It, Black" by the Rolling Stones plays in the background, the car maneuvers through city roads, highways, and parking lots. Here and there, a man's hands appear, gently cupping the bottom of the steering wheel.

But that video was partially staged, according to a new report from Reuters. Moments where the car stops at a red light and accelerates at a green light reflect capabilities the vehicle didn't have.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

Reuters' report is based on a transcript from Ashok Elluswamy, the director of Autopilot software at Tesla, who was questioned in a deposition in July 2022 that's being used as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla for a lethal car crash involving a former Apple engineer in 2018, according to Reuters.

While Tesla's technology can help with things like braking, steering, and lane changes, according to the company's website, "the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous."


Musk, however, posted that video on Twitter in 2016 as evidence that Tesla could drive itself.

The video used "3D mapping"— a way of creating three dimensional views of objects— on a predetermined route from a house in Menlo Park, California, to the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, Reuters reported citing Elluswamy's comments.

"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 in a transcript that was seen by Reuters.

In footage that didn't make it into the final video, according to TechCrunch, the test car crashed into a fence in Tesla's parking lot, Elluswamy said in his deposition, according to Reuters.

Tesla has come under increasing criticism and regulatory scrutiny for its autopilot systems recently. In 2021, the US Department of Justice began looking into Tesla's claims about Autopilot.


Tesla did not immediately respond to Insider's request for a comment.