A Tesla employee was fired last month over a video he made in his private car, on his own time, and uploaded to his YouTube channel showing his Tesla Model 3 crashing into a bollard while in the beta full self-driving mode.
It’s safe to say that John Bernal is a diehard Tesla fan. He owns a 2021 Tesla Model 3 and started working for the company as a data annotation specialist in August of 2020, CNBC reports. He made it to advanced driver assistance systems test operator before he was fired in the middle of last month. By then, he’d been posting self-driving video reviews to his YouTube channel, AI Addict, for a year. From CNBC:
When the company fired Bernal late last month, his written separation notice did not include the reason for his firing. It came after one of his videos depicted a drive in San Jose where his car knocked over bollards while FSD Beta was engaged.
Bernal says before he was dismissed, managers verbally told him he “broke Tesla policy” and that his YouTube channel was a “conflict of interest.”
Bernal said he was always transparent about his YouTube channel, both with his managers at Tesla and with the public. His online resume on LinkedIn, for example, always listed his Tesla employment right alongside his YouTube channel name. Bernal said he had never seen a policy barring him from creating car tech reviews on his own time using his own property.
A copy of Tesla’s social media policy, provided by a current employee, makes no direct reference to criticizing the company’s products in public. The policy states, “Tesla relies on the common sense and good judgment of its employees to engage in responsible social media activity.” It lists social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, LinkedIn, WeChat and personal blogs, but does not specifically mention YouTube.
While Bernal is not alone in posting videos of his FSD Beta behaving badly, it’s unclear if other channels are run by actual Tesla employees. As an employee, Bernal gained free access to the pricey self-driving software that owners pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of helping Tesla develop. That access has been rescinded, along with his employment, despite Bernal having no safety strikes against him.
Out of the 60 videos Bernal posted of his Model 3 in FSD Beta mode, only 10 showed flaws in the system, according to an analysis by CNBC. He was warned once in 2021 by management to not show anything negative, but Bernal receive no written notice about his private channel. Bernal told the news outlet he though being honest and generally positive would save his job, and he still believes in Tesla’s missions, despite his firing.
“I still care about Tesla, vehicle safety, and finding and fixing bugs,” he told CNBC. Not sure how much Tesla actually cares about that, considering they fired someone who was so excited about the software he was doing extra work on it in his spare time.
If videos of FSD in the wild make the company look bad, firing the messenger isn’t going to make the software any better. Luckily, Bernal is also not dissuaded by his firing. He is currently borrowing other Teslas with the FSD beta software in order to keep making videos for his YouTube channel.