Elon Musk reportedly personally supervised the first exaggerated Autopilot demo
In the fall of 2016, Tesla announced that its cars can now be driven independently. The manufacturer then added cameras around their cars, which is enough to achieve this goal. As a demonstration, this video was released: a Model X that pulls out of a garage on its own, picks up a person who only has to be there for legal reasons and never touches the steering wheel, drives to the office, drops off in front of the doors, and parks itself.
More than six years after the publication of this video, the reality is still far from this promise. Of course, the beta version of Tesla’s self-driving program has made great strides in the US, but even so, drivers must start regularly and be very careful at all times. Faced with this discrepancy between promises and reality, several legal actions have been launched in the US since the 2018 crash, including one initiated by the family of an Autopilot victim. .
It was during a court hearing that Tesla’s current director of Autopilot, Ashok Elluswamy, testified that the 2016 video was indeed a mockup of the car’s real capabilities. To achieve driving this Model Xi without an active driver, the manufacturer created an extremely accurate 3D map of the route between the house in Menlo Park, where Tesla’s headquarters were located at the time, and Palo Alto. Contrary to what the video initially showed, the driver did indeed have to intervene during the filming, and the car crashed into bushes during the test of the final sequence where it parked itself.
Even more embarrassing for Tesla, Ashok Elluswamy admitted that “the purpose of the video was not to show exactly what was available to customers in 2016. It was to show what was possible to build with the system.”. It has been reported Reuters who had access to the report of the meeting and which was completely contradicted by the opening card. It could have convinced the courts then that it was indeed deceptive advertising and possibly put the manufacturer in trouble, especially with customers who are increasingly unhappy about paying for promises that are never fulfilled.
To accompany these statements, Bloomberg He obtained emails that prove Elon Musk was directly responsible for the creation of this video. The first message, sent at two in the morning ten days before the announcement, will ask everyone on the Autopilot team to make the demo an absolute number one priority. The CEO would have understood from the start that this was a demonstration of future capabilities, not current capabilities, and this allowed him to cheat a bit by “hard-coding” the car’s behavior to suit the route to be taken. followed.
Future updates sent remotely to the entire Tesla fleet were expected to replace this temporary code for the production version. In the same email, Elon Musk insists on this point, according to the report Bloomberg : the goal was to present the future possibilities of Tesla, this will be his message. But a few days later the tone would change. In another email shared by the site, he decides that the video looks too fake because there are too many redundancies in the publication. The aim is to come close to a reliable demonstration, and besides, it would be he who asked to add the text at the beginning, contrary to his first instructions.
While posting the video, Elon Musk sent a tweet that left no doubt. This video is not intended to demonstrate future capabilities. His message is in the present tense, and he makes it clear that a car can drive without any human interaction, which was a mistake.
Tesla drives itself from city streets to highways and streets (no human input), then finds a parking spot https://t.co/V2T7KGMPBo
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 20, 2016
This new information confirms information published at the end of 2021 New York Times. The daily later interviewed former Tesla employees who worked on the Autopilot project, who have already questioned the video and contacted Elon Musk directly. In particular, he would choose the camera-only Tesla Vision system to achieve autonomous driving. A bet that the American manufacturer is almost alone, its competitors rely on multiple sensors, radar and LiDAR.
Elon Musk would push the vision bet on Tesla against all odds
Elon Musk has also reiterated over the years that the 3D maps used by other players, including Google’s Waymo, were a bad idea because they were too difficult to generalize to the entire world and required constant updates. He said Tesla’s solution based on cameras and artificial intelligence to best replicate human capabilities would be superior and the only option to achieve the goal of fully autonomous driving.
Tesla fires up his neurons for long-term vision
Except we know that the 2016 show is based on these famous 3D maps and six years later, cars that aren’t on the market still can’t do the same thing…