Tesla attorneys have argued that Elon Musk can’t be responsible for video evidence of him touting “Full Self-Driving” mode because the videos might be deepfakes, so the judge in the trial of a man killed in a 2018 Tesla crash is ordering Musk to be deposed himself.
There are multiple lawsuits against Tesla alleging the company has been overblowing claims about “Full Self-Driving” mode, leading to some horrendous accidents. These lawsuits (and accidents) are happening all over the country, but the trial taking place right now in a Santa Clara County Superior Court is that of a fatal 2018 self-driving Tesla Model X crash in Mountain View that killed Apple engineer Walter Huang.
Federal transportation authorities concluded Huang’s Tesla was in autopilot mode when it crashed into a U.S. 101 highway barrier, while Huang, behind the wheel, was playing the video game “Three Kingdoms.”
Huang’s family in the lawsuit blames not only an autopilot malfunction, but Musk’s declarations that the technology was more advanced than it really was. At the heart of that argument is Musk saying, as plainly seen in the Youtube video here (queued up right to the moment where he says this), that “A Model S and a Model X, at this point, can drive with greater safety than a person. Right now.”
Attorneys for Huang’s family have several such videos. But Reuters reports that Tesla’s lawyers responded that these could just be deepfakes and therefore video testimony is untrustworthy. So according to Bloomberg, Judge Evette D. Pennypacker ordered that fine, Musk can be deposed himself.
“Their position is that because Mr. Musk is famous and might be more of a target for deep fakes, his public statements are immune,” the judge wrote. “In other words, Mr. Musk, and others in his position, can simply say whatever they like in the public domain, then hide behind the potential for their recorded statements being a deep fake to avoid taking ownership of what they did actually say and do.”
It’s not live testimony, but Musk would be subject to a sworn deposition of up to three hours in length. And the order is tentative; Tesla’s attorneys will have another chance to change the judge’s mind this week. The case is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
Image: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Tesla CEO Elon Musk leaves the Phillip Burton Federal Building on January 24, 2023 in San Francisco, California. Musk testified at a trial regarding a lawsuit that has investors suing Tesla and Musk over his August 2018 tweets saying he was taking Tesla private with funding that he had secured. The tweet was found to be false and cost shareholders billions of dollars when Tesla's stock price began to fluctuate wildly allegedly based on the tweet. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)