Unpacking Elon Musk's Deceptive Tesla Autonomous Vehicle Demo: What Happened and What It Means
Musk Supervised Misleading Self-Driving Tesla Demo
In 2016, Elon Musk personally supervised a promotional video that made it look like Tesla cars could navigate autonomously. The text of the video read “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.” However, according to a new report from Bloomberg, the car had been hard-coded to follow its route and even then it didn’t operate smoothly. In emails prior to the demo, Musk promised to tell “the world that this is what the car will be able to do... not that it can do this upon receipt.” These discrepancies are now key evidence as multiple legal battles play out over Tesla’s Autopilot technology.
Tesla has maintained that they were simply showing off their cars’ potential with the video. But if you watched the video and then tested any FSD release, you would immediately know that it was 100% fake and staged. Even years after the video, FSD still cannot come close to what was shown in the video. It was insinuated that this was an internal version of FSD that needed final testing; however, it's obvious now that there wasn't such a version available at all. Hence why there are justified lawsuits against Tesla.
The video wasn't actually faked though; they attempted to record it multiple times and we got to see one instance where it completed the drive without errors requiring human intervention. For a technology demonstration of "what's to come", that's a perfectly valid approach. The video shared with the public was sped up which helped hide mistakes but the car always recovered from them. What your comment is missing is that there was no disclaimer about the fact that the car had been hardcoded to follow a preprogrammed path and there wasn't a "smart" software truly piloting it - something Musk never came forward and acknowledged.
Figuring out a path is a solved problem so this isn't important when showcasing technology demonstrations. What matters is trying to drive that path without hitting cars, pedestrians, curbs etc., which wasn't faked in the video. This is the actual hard part which Tesla demonstrated they could handle in terms of dynamic aspects such as cars in front of you, people walking by or cyclists in your lane.
What did Elon Musk do in 2016?
Elon Musk personally helped supervise a misleading promotional video in 2016 that made it look like Tesla cars could navigate autonomously.
What did the video show?
The video began with text that read, “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.” In truth, the car had been “hard-coded” to navigate its route, and even then it didn’t operate smoothly.
What did Musk promise prior to the demo?
In emails to staffers prior to the demo, Musk had promised to tell “the world that this is what the car will be able to do... not that it can do this upon receipt.”
What are the discrepancies?
The discrepancies have emerged as key evidence as multiple legal battles play out over Tesla’s Autopilot technology. The company has maintained it was simply showing off its cars’ potential.
Was the video fake?
For a technology demonstration of "what's to come", that's a perfectly valid approach. These reports of it being "misleading" are bunk.The video shared with the public was sped-up. If you watched it at one-quarter speed (I did), you'll notice that it made quite a few errors, and often stopped temporarily for no good reason. Playing it at increased speeds helps to hide those kinds of mistakes. But in the shared video, the car always recovered from such things.
What was missing from the video?
What your comment is missing is the fact that there was no disclaimer about the fact that the car had been hardcoded to follow a preprogrammed path, that there wasn't a "smart" software truly piloting it. According to the article Musk never came forward and acknowledge this.
What does a preprogrammed path mean?
A preprogrammed path means that all stops, speed limits, etc are programmed in the software and not detected nor handled by the software as actual detectable objects. Basically the whole thing was an auto-steer with preprogrammed actions at various critical points to make it look like there was some decision making from the part of the car while there wasn't.
How did Nikolaï CEO try to argue his case?
Nikolaï CEO tried to argue that the demo's purpose was to showcase the truck's potential. The court didn't see it that way.
What is important in a technology demonstration?
What the video demonstrates is that they could handle the "dynamic" aspects. Cars in front of you. Cars parked along the road. People walking by. Cyclists in your lane. That is the actual hard part.
What is the lesson from this case?
The lesson from this case is that it's important to be honest and transparent when demonstrating a technology. If you are showing off a product, make sure to clearly explain what it can do right now, and what it will be able to do in the future. Don't mislead people into thinking something is possible when it isn't.