Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has been ordered by a judge to give a three-hour deposition in a lawsuit over a fatal 2018 Tesla crash involving Autopilot. Attorneys for the victim’s family want to question Musk over his statements about Autopilot’s capabilities in the years before the incident.
The plaintiffs are particularly interested in a 2016 Code Conference interview where Musk claimed that Tesla cars with Autopilot could drive with “greater safety than a person.” They also express concerns about a 2016 self-driving demo video, which they say was staged to show features that weren’t ready. Huang, the victim, may have been falsely led to believe he could trust his Model X to drive down the highway without being ready to take over. Tesla says Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash, but also claims that Huang ignored three car warnings to put his hands back on the steering wheel.
Tesla tried to resist the deposition by claiming that Musk couldn’t remember the associated statements and that his popularity could prompt the creation of AI-based deepfake videos. However, the judge rejected this argument, stating that it is a “deeply troubling” tactic that could shield any well-known person from responsibility for their statements. The lawsuit is set to reach trial on July 31st.
While Tesla has faced criticism over its Autopilot safety claims, it has also had some recent victories, including the NTSB ruling out Autopilot as a factor in a deadly 2021 crash in Texas. However, there are still concerns about Tesla’s ability to survive the Huang lawsuit.
As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and it remains to be seen how Tesla will handle the responsibility that comes with being a leader in the self-driving car industry.