In October 2016, Elon Musk ordered his self-driving team to develop a slick demo video of a self-driving car driving a typical employee commute to Tesla headquarters.  In an email, Musk said, “Just want to be absolutely clear that everyone’s top priority is achieving an amazing Autopilot demo drive”. “Since this is a demo, it is fine to hardcode some of it, since we will backfill with production code later.”  After viewing a version of the video Elon Musk said that there were still too many jump cuts, and that the demo footage “needs to feel like one continuous take.”

Musk told his team, “I will be telling the world that this is what the car *will* be able to do, not that it can do this upon receipt.” During a deposition in June 2022, Ashok Elluswamy, the current director of Autopilot software, was asked whether the video accurately reflected the capabilities of Autopilot at the time of its release.

He responded, “The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016, it was to portray what was possible.”

Elluswamy also admitted that when Tesla were filming the video, Autopilot crashed “into a fence in our parking lot.”

But Elon Musk had other plans for the video. According to internal emails, when the video was finally up to Elon Musk’s standards, he dictated that the following opening text be added to the video:

The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.

Watch Tesla’s staged video below: