Elon Musk reportedly personally oversaw the first exaggerated Autopilot demo

Elon Musk reportedly personally oversaw the first exaggerated Autopilot demo

In the fall of 2016, Tesla announced that its cars were now all capable of driving independently. The manufacturer then added cameras all around its vehicles, which should be enough to achieve this objective. As a demonstration, this video had been published: a Model X which comes out of its garage on its own, embarks a person who is supposed to be there only for legal reasons and who never touches the steering wheel, drives it to the office, drops it off in front of the doors and ends up parking itself.

More than six years after the publication of this video, the reality is still far from this promise. Sure, the beta version of Tesla’s self-driving software has made big strides in the US, but even then drivers need to step in regularly and stay very attentive at all times. Faced with this discrepancy between promises and reality, several legal actions have been launched in the United States, including one that was brought by the family of an Autopilot victim following an accident that took place in 2018. .

It was during the hearings related to the lawsuit that Ashok Elluswamy, current director at Tesla in charge of Autopilot, testified that the 2016 video was indeed a scene that in no way reflected the real capacities of the car. To achieve driving this Model X without an actively driving driver, the manufacturer created an extremely precise 3D map of the route between a house in Menlo Park and Palo Alto, where Tesla was then headquartered. Contrary to what the video indicated at the start, the driver was indeed forced to intervene during the filming and the car ran into the bushes during the tests for the final sequence where it parks on its own.

Even more embarrassing for Tesla, Ashok Elluswamy acknowledged that “the purpose of the video was not to show precisely what was available to customers in 2016. It was to show what was possible to build with the system. “. A statement reported by Reuters who had access to the report of the hearing and which is in total contradiction with the opening card. She could convince the courts that there was indeed misleading advertising at the time and perhaps put the manufacturer in trouble, especially in the face of customers who are increasingly unhappy at having paid for promises that do not are never carried out.

The first frame of the video could hardly be more explicit: it’s meant to be a representation of what Teslas could do in 2016.

To accompany these affidavits, Bloomberg got his hands on emails that would prove that Elon Musk was directly in charge of creating this video. A first message sent – ​​at two in the morning – ten days before the announcement would ask everyone within the Autopilot team to make the demonstration the top priority. From the outset, the CEO would have recognized that it was a demonstration of future capabilities and not of current ones, which made it possible to cheat a little bit, by “hard-coding” the behavior of the car according to the route to be followed.

Future updates, sent remotely to the entire Tesla fleet, were expected to replace this temporary code for the production version. In this same email, Elon Musk insists on this point according to the report of Bloomberg : the objective was to present the future capabilities of Tesla, this will be his message. A few days later, however, the tone would have changed. In another email shared by the site, he judges that the video seems too fake, because there are too many cuts in the editing. The objective is to get closer to a credible demonstration and besides, it would be him who would have asked to add the text at the beginning, contradicting however his first instructions.

When posting the video, Elon Musk posted a tweet that also leaves no doubt. This video is not meant to be a demonstration of upcoming abilities. His message is in the present tense and he explicitly states that the car can drive without any human interaction, which was wrong.

This new information confirms information published at the end of 2021 by the New York Times. The daily then interviewed former Tesla employees who worked on the Autopilot project and they had already questioned the video and directly implicated Elon Musk. It would be him, in particular, who would have opted for “Tesla Vision”, a system based exclusively on cameras to achieve autonomous driving. A bet that the American manufacturer is almost alone in making, its competitors relying on multiple sensors, radar and LiDAR in mind.

Elon Musk would have pushed against all odds the vision bet at Tesla

Elon Musk would have pushed against all odds the vision bet at Tesla

Elon Musk has also repeated over the years that the three-dimensional maps used by other players, including Google’s Waymo, were a bad idea because they were very difficult to generalize to the whole world and required constant updates. Tesla’s solution, based on cameras and artificial intelligence to best replicate human capabilities, would thus be superior, he said, and the only option to achieve the goal of fully autonomous driving.

Tesla fires up his neurons for his long-term vision

Tesla fires up his neurons for his long-term vision

Except that we now know that the 2016 demonstration was based on these famous 3D maps and six years later, the cars on the market that do not have them are still not able to do the same…

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