Watch two moments from a 2016 Tesla self-driving ad that are totally staged, according to a senior engineer

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Watch two moments from a 2016 Tesla self-driving ad that are totally staged, according to a senior engineer
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, said that in the 2016 video the Tesla "drives itself."Getty
  • A senior Tesla engineer testified in a deposition that the company staged a 2016 self-driving ad.
  • The car can't stop at a red light and accelerate at a green light on its own, as the video shows.
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A senior Tesla engineer testified in a July 2022 deposition that the electric-vehicle company staged parts of its 2016 self-driving Tesla ad, Reuters reported.

In the video, which was released in 2016, the Tesla drives itself through Bay Area streets, on the highway, and in a parking lot, and is able to stop at a red light, before accelerating forward when it turns green.

However, the car's system wasn't actually capable of doing that, according to Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot software at Tesla. Elluswamy's testimony is being used as evidence against Tesla in a lawsuit involving a deadly crash in 2018.

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Watch two moments from a 2016 Tesla self-driving ad that are totally staged, according to a senior engineer
In Tesla's self-driving ad from 2016, the car is able to stop at a red light.Tesla

A person sits in the driver's seat of the Tesla throughout the video, cupping the bottom of the steering wheel, but at the beginning of the video, text overlay reads that the person is "only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself."

Elluswamy said in his testimony that the car used 3D mapping technology to drive on a predetermined route from Menlo Park, California, to Palo Alto, where Tesla was formerly headquartered.

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In 2016, Elon Musk tweeted a link to the video, saying the "Tesla drives itself (no human input at all)."

Watch two moments from a 2016 Tesla self-driving ad that are totally staged, according to a senior engineer
In the self-driving video, the Tesla is able to accelerate forward when the traffic light turns green.Tesla

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

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

Tesla's Autopilot system is an "advanced driver assistance system" that "reduces your overall workload as a driver," according to the company website. But even with features that help with steering and parking, "the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous," Tesla says.

The electric carmaker's autopilot system has come under scrutiny from regulators and customers.

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In 2018, Tesla settled a class action lawsuit that cited the video, alleging it was misleading.

More recently, news broke that the US Department of Justice started a criminal investigation into the company's "self-driving" claims in 2021. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also opened a probe into Tesla Autopilot in 2021, and per Reuters, it is moving quickly to determine if Tesla properly ensures drivers using the feature are paying attention.

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