Elon Musk ordered to testify under oath about Tesla’s Autopilot system

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been ordered by a California judge to be interviewed under oath about his statements regarding the safety and capabilities of the carmaker’s Autopilot features in a lawsuit filed by the family of Walter Huang in 2018. Huang’s family argues that Tesla’s partially automated driving software failed, while Tesla claims that Huang was playing a videogame on his phone before the crash and disregarded vehicle warnings.

Subject to change, the ruling is currently provisional, and there is a scheduled hearing on Thursday to determine whether or not to depose him.

Plaintiff attorneys in the case sought to question Musk about recorded statements that highlight the capabilities of Autopilot, including a 2016 statement where he supposedly said: “A Model S and Model X, at this point, can drive autonomously with greater safety than a person. Right now.” However, Tesla disputed this request, claiming in court documents that Musk is unable to recall specifics about such statements, and also pointed out that Musk is frequently the target of believable “deepfake” videos.

Judge Evette Pennypacker tentatively ordered a limited, three-hour deposition where Musk could be asked whether he actually made the statements on the recordings, and called Tesla’s arguments “deeply troubling.” The plaintiffs also claim that Musk finalized the details of a 2016 promotional video that states, “The car is driving itself,” which displayed some features that did not exist at the time, citing multiple Tesla engineers.

Set to begin on July 31st, the impending trial of the lawsuit contributes to the mounting legal and regulatory examination of Tesla’s Autopilot system.

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