For reasons beyond my comprehension, stock photo service Shutterstock offers this footage shot in Slovenia and in Austria early in 2017 of a Tesla Model S on Autopilot in traffic with no one at the wheel, as well as with an actor texting while driving and “falling asleep” in the driver’s seat. Please, take it in.
The videos, spotted on Twitter today by Ed Niedermeyer, are listed as being shot in February 2017, shot in both Austria and nearby Slovenia.
I could give you a line about how it goes without saying that this is reprehensible on multiple levels, but more often than not, it doesn’t go without saying, and I’ll explain this in full.
First of all, it’s sketch as hell to do this. As in, it is not safe to even pretend to fall asleep at the wheel of a Tesla on Autopilot. These are very much not self-driving cars, and the limitations of the system do not allow for you to fully cede control. At any point in the video, the Tesla Model S’ Autopilot system could have had trouble reading the road ahead, or bobbled, or for any reason required the driver to quickly get hands back on the wheel and drive the car safely. Eyes closed, seat reclined, arms folded, that’s not going to happen.
Tesla repeatedly has asserted that this kind of behavior is not advisable, to be clear.
Second of all, this video is not something that you want to be operating as stock footage. It has repeatedly come up as an issue that drivers do not fully understand how limited Autopilot is. This ongoing case between Tesla and the father of a man killed when his family’s Model S crashed into a barrier while on Autopilot covers this painful and ongoing misunderstanding.
These Shutterstock videos are not helping combat the wrong impression that Autopilot is a self-driving system.
Now, this isn’t the first time people have misused Tesla’s Autopilot, and the company has defended its position on this before. I’ll blockquote this section from Ryan Felton’s investigation linked above on that fatal Autopilot crash to show what I mean:
Tesla previously said that “any vehicle can be misused.”
“For example, no car prevents someone from driving at very high speeds on roads where that is not appropriate or from using cruise control on city streets,” the automaker said. “In contrast, Tesla has taken many steps to prevent a driver from using Autopilot improperly.”
But Tesla owners have continued to post examples of the system being misused, raising concerns that some either don’t understand Autopilot’s limitations, or rely on it far too much.
When reached for comment, a Tesla spokesperson clarified the company’s official position on the stock footage:
The videos show abuse of our system and portray an extremely inaccurate view of Autopilot.
Jalopnik also reached out to Shutterstock, and a spokesperson offered to put us in contact with the videographer in charge of this shoot, but we have not yet heard back.
Also, honestly, it is just wild that Shutterstock has kept these videos up in the year they’ve been online. A number of high-profile and deadly Autopilot crashes have happened in that time. This blows my mind.