On the same morning it was announced that the SEC was investigating Tesla over defective solar panels, the NY Times released a whopper of an expose on what it calls "Elon Musk's Unflinching Vision" for self-driving vehicles.
The longform piece highlights how Tesla has been under investigation by the NHTSA and how Autopilot has been at the center of numerous controversial crashes. It also highlights how the NTSB has adopted a tone of caution with Tesla, as we have written about extensively.
Among the lengthy list of questionable statements made by Elon Musk about autonomous driving was the buried lede that the company apparently heavily altered and pre-prepared a 2016 video that was supposed to show the merits of the company's forthcoming "Autopilot 2.0" system.
The video, referred to as the "Paint It Black" video by those familiar with it (as that is the song that accompanies the video), purported to show "just how autonomous the system could be," the NYT wrote.
In fact, the video even says at the beginning of it that "the person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons" and that "he is not doing anything" and that "the car is driving itself":
But as many skeptics suggested at the time, the video was heavily altered, according to the NY Times. This morning's expose revealed that "most of the Autopilot team" worked on the video but that "the final video did not provide a full picture of how the car operated during the filming."
The NY Times wrote:
As Tesla approached the introduction of Autopilot 2.0, most of the Autopilot team dropped their normal duties to work on a video meant to show just how autonomous the system could be. But the final video did not provide a full picture of how the car operated during the filming.
Additionally, it was reported that the car was travelling on a pre-planned route and that, "at one point during filming, [it] hit a roadside barrier on Tesla property while using Autopilot and had to be repaired":
The route taken by the car had been charted ahead of time by software that created a three-dimensional digital map, a feature unavailable to drivers using the commercial version of Autopilot, according to two former members of the Autopilot team. At one point during the filming of the video, the car hit a roadside barrier on Tesla property while using Autopilot and had to be repaired, three people who worked on the video said.
The video was later used to promote Autopilot’s capabilities, and it is still on Tesla’s website.
We can't help but wonder whether or not regulators - specifically the NHTSA, SEC and FTC - will take a keen interest in the claims made by Elon Musk to support this video and his software at the time, and what former members of the Autopilot team told the New York Times.
According to this NYT story, the $TSLA 'Paint It Black' video, like so much else of the company's pronouncements about its AV capabilities, was a fraud.— Donut Shorts (@DonutShorts) December 6, 2021
The car needed a 3D digital map to complete its course and crashed during filming
You've been Muskedhttps://t.co/uwcScE03OD pic.twitter.com/B4s4FGyAmG
You can read the full NY Times piece here.