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Tesla Engineer Testifies Self-Driving Video from 2016 Was Staged

Recently released testimony reveals Tesla actually crashed while attempting to park in Autopilot.

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 Three Tesla Model X’s are displayed inside of the Tesla flagship facility on August 10, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
Three Tesla Model X’s are displayed inside of the Tesla flagship facility on August 10, 2016 in San Francisco, California.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

A Tesla engineer testified that Tesla faked a Model X driving by itself in a 2016 video. You know, the one from 2016 where the company vehemently insists that no one is in control of the car? Yeah, that one.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to readers of this beloved We called bullshit on this video way back when it was published, even while CEO Elon Musk and his company insisted this was the real McCoy:


But it was not driving itself at all, according to Tesla’s director of Autopilot software, Ashok Elluswamy. It was actually on a pre-programed track than self driving two very different sets of programing. The New York Times first broke the story of the hoax in 2021, but this is the first time a current employee has confirmed the incident while under oath.

The testimony comes from a deposition taken this past summer as evidence for a lawsuit over a fatal 2018 Tesla crash, according to Reuters:

To create the video, the Tesla used 3D mapping on a predetermined route from a house in Menlo Park, California, to Tesla’s then-headquarters in Palo Alto, he said.

Drivers intervened to take control in test runs, he said. When trying to show the Model X could park itself with no driver, a test car crashed into a fence in Tesla’s parking lot, he said.

“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.

When Tesla released the video, Musk tweeted, “Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot.”


When asked if the 2016 video showed the performance of the Tesla Autopilot system available in a production car at the time, Elluswamy said, “It does not.”


Musk and Tesla have had a hell of a time both last year and this year. The automaker is the subject of multiple investigations both at federal and state levels. Its problems also extends over seas, as whole countries question the validity of Tesla’s self-driving claims.

For Tesla’s part, the automaker does advise owners that its product is not truly self-driving, but call its softwares “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” kind of defeats the purpose of that disclaimer. We’ve seen Tesla owners, and owners of other cars with advanced safety drivers assistance systems putting way too much trust in their vehicles. Recently, a Tesla owner admitted to letting his FSD Beta vehicle drive him home while he was drunk behind the wheel.