By Dana Hull and Sean O’Kane | Bloomberg

Elon Musk oversaw the creation of a 2016 video that exaggerated the abilities of Tesla Inc.’s driver-assistance system Autopilot, even dictating the opening text that claimed the company’s car drove itself, according to internal emails viewed by Bloomberg.

Musk wrote to Tesla’s Autopilot team after 2 a.m. California time in October 2016 to emphasize the importance of a demonstration drive to promote the system, which the chief executive officer made a splashy announcement about a week later. In an Oct. 19 call with reporters and blog post, Tesla said that all its cars from that day forward would ship with the hardware necessary for full self-driving capability.

“Just want to be absolutely clear that everyone’s top priority is achieving an amazing Autopilot demo drive,” Musk said in the email. “Since this is a demo, it is fine to hardcode some of it, since we will backfill with production code later in an OTA update,” he wrote, referring to using temporary code and updating it later using an over-the-air software update.

“I will be telling the world that this is what the car *will* be able to do,” Musk continued, “not that it can do this upon receipt.”

The email sheds light on Musk’s mindset before he and Tesla then made claims about capabilities that have yet to materialize more than six years later. After cycling through several different iterations of hardware, the company to this day tells customers using Autopilot and the system it markets as Full Self-Driving to keep their hands on the wheel and be prepared to take over at any moment.

In October, Bloomberg News reported that prosecutors in the US Justice Department’s Washington and San Francisco offices and investigators at the Securities and Exchange Commission were probing whether the company made misleading statements about its vehicles’ automated-driving capabilities.

Musk and Tesla — which disbanded its media relations department roughly three years ago — didn’t respond to requests for comment.

‘Absolute priority’

Under the subject line “The Absolute Priority,” Musk wrote in his Oct. 11, 2016, email that he had canceled his obligations for the upcoming weekend to work with the Autopilot team on both Saturday and Sunday. He said everyone would be required to write a daily log of what they did to contribute to the success of the demo, and that he would read them personally.


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