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Tesla staged 2016 self-driving demo, says senior Autopilot engineer

Enlarge / Walter Huang’s Model X in a tow yard days after his fatal crash. (credit: NTSB)

Tesla’s widely viewed 2016 Autopilot demonstration video showing the system stopping for red lights and moving off again when the light changed to green was faked, according to the director of Autopilot software, Ashok Elluswamy. Elluswamy made the statement under oath during a deposition for a lawsuit brought against Tesla following the fatal crash of Apple engineer Walter Huang in 2018.

The video, posted in October 2016 and still available on Tesla’s website, begins with the caption: “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.” We then see a Tesla Model X leave a garage, and a driver enters the car as The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” begins to play.

The heavily edited video then shows the Model X driving around, stopping for road junctions and red lights. All the while, the human in the driver’s seat has his hands near but not on the steering wheel. Upon reaching a Tesla facility, the human leaves the Model X, which goes off to park itself, avoiding running over a pedestrian in the process.

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