Musk published one blog post on Tesla’s website on October 19, the day before the video went up that said all Tesla cars from that day on would come with the hardware necessary for full self-driving capability. His emails to staff that month discussed the importance of a demonstration to promote the system.
Musk’s direct involvement in the video, and subsequent promotion of Tesla vehicles’ ability to drive themselves, comes at a time when the executive’s reputation and trustworthiness are increasingly on the line. In addition to his Twitter distractions, Musk also promised during Tesla’s Q3 investor call that the automaker would have an “epic end of the year,” but ultimately Tesla missed Wall Street’s Q4 delivery estimates. In addition, the company’s stock fell by 65% in 2022.
Musk is also set to take the stand this week in a class action lawsuit from shareholders who say his infamous 2018 tweet, in which he claimed funding had been secured to take the company public — that was not the case – caused them to potentially lose billions of dollars. The jury will determine whether Musk knowingly, and therefore fraudulently, claimed secured funding when he did not.
“A Great Autopilot Demo Ride”
On October 11, Musk sent an email under the subject line “The Absolute Priority” to let the Autopilot team know that he had canceled his plans for the upcoming weekend to work on the video.
“I just want to be absolutely clear that everyone’s top priority is getting a great Autopilot demo ride,” Musk said in the email, according to Bloomberg. “Since this is a demo, it’s fine to hard code some of it as we’ll be adding production code later in an OTA update,” he wrote, referring to the use of a 3D digital map that the Model X used to follow a predetermined route.
“I’ll tell the world this is what the car *will* be able to do, not that it can do this on reception,” he continued.
Despite that promise, the internal emails show that Musk himself asked the Autopilot team to open the video saying, “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He does nothing. The car drives itself.”