Skip to main content

Tesla self-driving video? All staged, says company engineer

Fake? The 2016 video was used by Tesla to showcase how its EVs can drive on their own

While most cars on the road today offer some kind of advanced driver-assist system that lets them handle some aspects of driving, the technology was relatively new in 2016. That’s what made Tesla’s video depicting a Model X driving itself so remarkable. The video showed a Model X driving from a house in Menlo Park, California, to Palo Alto without any input from a driver (the video is at the bottom of this article if you haven’t seen it in a while).  The video was used to promote Tesla’s self-driving technology and Tesla CEO Musk quickly took to Twitter to state that the video was evidence that a “Tesla drives itself.”

Well, it turns out that the video was faked. Who would’ve guessed it? According to a new report from Reuters, the video that clearly shows a Model X driving by itself is actually a video of a Model X that’s driving by itself with technology that Tesla wasn’t offering in its production vehicles. The news comes from a transcript of a July deposition that the outlet received, which was originally taken as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla for a 2018 fatal accident involving a former Apple engineer.

Overhead shot of Tesla Model X in a Tesla parking lot in California in 2016 video.
Tesla

The testimony comes from Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot software at Tesla. “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,” said Elluswamy in his testimony.

To create the video, Tesla reportedly used 3D mapping on a predetermined route. Elluswamy claims that drivers behind the wheel of the Model X had to intervene to take control of the car, and when Tesla was trying to show off just how well the vehicle could park on its own, the Model X crashed into a fence in Tesla’s parking lot. When asked if the video portrayed abilities, like stopping at a red light and acceleration at a green light, that Tesla was offering on vehicles that customers could purchase in 2016, Elluswamy said, “It does not.”

This isn’t the first we’re hearing that the video is staged, but this is the first time an existing Tesla employee has gone on the record to definitively state that the video is fake. In 2021, The New York Times carried out an investigation that involved speaking with several of Tesla’s former employees who stated the video was fake.

Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Teslas

Tesla has been under fire because of its Autopilot driver-assist system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reportedly looking into roughly 41 crashes involving a Tesla and its advanced driver-assist systems. The U.S. Department of Justice started a criminal investigation into Tesla’s claims that one of its EVs can drive itself in 2021 after a number of fatal accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot system, claims Reuters. Someone has created a website called Tesla Deaths, which keeps track of all of the fatal accidents that have occurred in a Tesla. As of today, the website claims that there have been 348 deaths involving a Tesla.

Musk promised that Tesla would have a completely self-driving vehicle on sale by the end of 2017. It’s now 2023 and Tesla still doesn’t have a fully autonomous vehicle on sale – no automaker does, regardless of what they’re claiming – despite selling a package that’s called “Full Self-Driving Capability.”

Editors' Recommendations

Joel Patel
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Joel Patel is a former contributor for The Manual. His work has also been featured on Autoweek, Digital Trends, Autoblog…
GM slashes EV production in half for 2024, still plans to have 1,000,000 electric cars by 2025
GM won't make quite as many EVs as it said (yet)
Cadillac Escalade IQ

Back in October 2023, GM announced plans to produce 400,000 electric vehicles by the middle of 2024 and reach an annual production capacity of a million EVs by the end of 2025. While the Detroit-based manufacturer believes it is still firmly on track to achieve its long-term goal, its plans for this year appear to have been scaled down somewhat.

Instead of having 400,000 more electric cars ready to go by summer, GM will instead aim to have 300,000 of the zero-emission vehicles ready to roll at best. That number could also be as low as 200,000 if production hits the low end of GM’s estimates. The decision to scale back the company’s EV goals was revealed by CEO Mary Barra during GM’s Q4 2023 earnings call.

Read more
Fewer EVs qualify for the $7,500 EV tax credit in 2024
Your EV tax break is going away
Charging a Ford F-150 Lightning EV with a Level 2 wall charger in a garage.

In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law and repealed the previous electric vehicle tax credit that had been in effect since 2010. Unlike the previous guidelines, in which any EV could qualify for a tax credit of up to $7,500 as long as the manufacturer hadn’t sold over 200k EVs, the Inflation Reduction Act only favored electric vehicles made in America with no limit on the manufacturer sales. As a result, major automakers such as Tesla and GM made it back on the list after they were locked out in the old rules for surpassing the 200k sales.

However, electric vehicles that are made in North America are required to meet specific requirements to qualify for the federal EV tax credit. More succinctly, the federal government imposed a price cap limit and a certain percentage on the battery components and critical minerals that are used to manufacture electric vehicles. But that’s not all; the requirements get higher every year, which means fewer EVs will qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit in 2024 than in 2023. Why is it so? 

Read more
Ford promises its Mustang Mach-E GT package has the fastest ever 0-60 time
If you want to bronze a Mustang Mach-E
2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Bronze front left three-quarter view parked on a hard surface road in front of a building with red and gray siding.

Ford recently introduced a new appearance option for the 2024 Mustang Mach-E GT, which will soon be available for preordering. The Bronze Appearance Package is more for show than go, but an exclusive performance package will also be available to add go-power. This new Mach-E variant joins the 2024 Mustang Mach-E Rally and is designed for off-pavement driving.

Why the Mustang Mach-E GT matters
Ford had unexpected success with the F-150 Lightning electric truck and the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. The originally explosive EV sales growth has cooled a bit, but Ford needs to continue to develop and promote both models. Ford F150 pickup trucks have been the best-selling light vehicles, including cars and trucks, for over three decades. However, Ford snubbed the noses of many Mustang purists by using the Mustang name for a crossover utility electric vehicle. So, Ford is buttressing the Mach-E's impact with attributes long-revered by ICE Mustang buyers: personalization and performance.

Read more