Tesla’s 2016 video touting the company’s self-driving technology was meant to show what its system wasn’t capable of, according to testimony from a senior engineer.
The video, now archived on Tesla’s website, shows the company’s Model X driving through a city on streets and highways while the driver’s hands hover below the steering wheel.
“The man in the driver’s seat was only doing it for legal reasons. He did nothing. The car is on autopilot,” reads a text before the four-minute video begins.
Elon Musk, CEO of the electric car maker, shared the video on Twitter with the caption: “Tesla self-driving (with no human input at all).”
“When looking for a parking space, the car reads the signs to see if it’s allowed to park there, which is why it skips the disabled parking spaces,” he added.
However, testimony from Ashok Elluswamy, head of the company’s Autopilot software, said the video was partly orchestrated, according to Reuters.
The testimony comes from 2022 testimony, which is now reportedly being used as evidence in a lawsuit against Tesla following a car accident involving former Apple engineer Walter Huang.
In a transcript of the testimony reported by Reuters, Mr Elluswamy said the video was produced “not to accurately describe the services provided to clients in 2016”.
“It’s about describing what can be built into the system,” he said.
Behind the scenes in the making of the video, the driver reportedly intervened to take control of the car during the test run, and the Tesla was also reportedly driving on a predetermined route.
He said the test car also crashed into a fence in a parking lot while trying to demonstrate that the Tesla Model X could park itself without a driver.
Although Tesla did not immediately respond independent newspaper Requesting comment, the company said on its website that “until truly driverless vehicles are validated and approved by regulators, drivers are responsible and must remain in control of their cars”.
According to its website, Tesla’s Autopilot technology is designed to assist drivers with steering, braking, speed and lane changes, but these features “do not allow the vehicle to drive itself.”
The company has come under legal scrutiny over claims it has made on its driver assistance systems.
Last year, the U.S. Justice Department began a criminal investigation into Tesla’s claims that its electric vehicles could drive themselves after crashes, some of which were fatal, were reported involving the autopilot feature.
When Mr Elluswamy was asked whether the video described the performance of Tesla’s Autopilot feature in production vehicles at the time, he reportedly said “no”.