For years we have wondered if what’s going on at Tesla is just a shitshow or a scam, and none of that conversation is made any easier after reading a new report from the New York Times, in which multiple former employees claim that the company’s 2016 “hey our cars can totally drive themselves” video was faked.
We’ve already blogged about how mind-blowing it is that in the video, as laid out in the Times, the car itself crashed into something while on Autopilot.
To be honest, that seems like a teething problem you’d get with any new tech in the car world, and it’s just vaguely funny that it happened to Tesla while filming a debut video.
What really strikes me is that what you were watching in the video — what Tesla claimed you were watching — was not actually what was going on at all. When someone says they are your friend and actually stab you in the back, that’s being a fake friend. When you tell someone they’re buying a real Monet and it’s a copy, that’s a fake they’re buying. When you say you’re showing the world a car driving itself and it’s actually following a pre-set route 3D scanned beforehand, that’s ... well, take a read yourself:
As Tesla approached the introduction of Autopilot 2.0, most of the Autopilot team dropped their normal duties to work on a video meant to show just how autonomous the system could be. But the final video did not provide a full picture of how the car operated during the filming.
The route taken by the car had been charted ahead of time by software that created a three-dimensional digital map, a feature unavailable to drivers using the commercial version of Autopilot, according to two former members of the Autopilot team. At one point during the filming of the video, the car hit a roadside barrier on Tesla property while using Autopilot and had to be repaired, three people who worked on the video said.
Now, you might be able to argue that the intrepid people at Tesla were merely confused. Maybe they all thought that this constituted self-driving. After all, the car was driving itself, in the same way a model train drives itself, provided you build a track for it, run electricity to it, and make sure that there’s nothing to throw it off its predetermined course. But the problem is engineers at Tesla did know that this was not what their boss Elon Musk was claiming it was, per the NYT:
When Mr. Musk unveiled Autopilot 2.0 in October 2016, he said at the news conference that all new Tesla cars now included the cameras, computing power and all other hardware they would need for “full self driving” — not a technical term, but one that suggested truly autonomous operation.
His statements took the engineering team by surprise, and some felt that Mr. Musk was promising something that was not possible, according to two people who worked on the project.
This is where we do really start to diverge from “plucky car company just faking it till it makes it” and “company that is misrepresenting itself to the world at large.” It casts doubt on all of Elon’s other promises. Does anyone at Tesla even think what it’s planning is possible?
And again, this video doesn’t even look good even after all of that deception. As we noted in our original coverage, the car in the video drives into an oncoming lane at one point, all while operating in what are almost lab-perfect conditions. There is no weather, no broken pavement, perfect lane lines and markings. In ideal conditions, with the pre-made digital mapping, the car still struggled. I believe I called it “fantasy land bullshit.”
Wow, I can’t believe I made it through this whole post without saying anything legally actionable and successfully not intimating that anything going on here is a [REDACTED].