Elon Musk’s lawyers argue recordings of him touting Tesla Autopilot safety could be deepfakes

A California state choose issued a tentative order requiring Tesla Inc. Chief Govt Officer Elon Musk to present a deposition in a lawsuit blaming Autopilot for a deadly crash in 2018.

Tesla’s argument for why Musk shouldn’t be required to testify is “deeply troubling to the court docket,” Santa Clara County Superior Courtroom Decide Evette D. Pennypacker stated within the order.

The electrical-car maker argued that it couldn’t vouch for the authenticity of videotaped interviews through which Musk touted the corporate’s driver-assistance know-how, saying it’s potential a few of them had been digitally altered.

“Their place is that as a result of Mr. Musk is legendary and is likely to be extra of a goal for deep fakes, his public statements are immune,” the choose wrote. “In different phrases, Mr. Musk, and others in his place, can merely say no matter they like within the public area, then conceal behind the potential for his or her recorded statements being a deep pretend to keep away from taking possession of what they did truly say and do.”

Tesla faces a number of lawsuits and federal investigations over whether or not its assisted driving characteristic is flawed. Bloomberg Information reported in October that federal prosecutors and securities regulators had been probing whether or not the corporate made deceptive statements about its autos’ automated-driving capabilities.

Whereas judges usually spare chief government officers and different high-ranking officers from having to present depositions, Pennypacker stated Musk might be questioned for as much as three hours about sure statements he made about Tesla’s assisted driving options. His testimony would add to tons of of hours of depositions already given by different witnesses within the case, which has been scheduled to go to trial this 12 months. 

A listening to on the tentative ruling is ready for Thursday in San Jose, the place attorneys for Tesla can attempt to persuade the choose to alter her thoughts. The ruling was reported earlier by Reuters.

Tesla and its attorneys within the case didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.

The lawsuit was introduced by the household of Walter Huang, an Apple Inc. engineer who died throughout his morning commute when his 2017 Mannequin X veered right into a concrete barrier on a freeway about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. The household claims the Autopilot system malfunctioned and steered the automotive into the median.

In response to Tesla, Huang’s fingers weren’t detected on the steering wheel a number of instances throughout the 19 minutes main as much as the crash, throughout which Autopilot issued two visible and one audible alert for hands-off driving. Huang was taking part in the online game Three Kingdoms on his telephone on the time of the crash, in accordance with an investigation by the Nationwide Transportation Security Board.

Attorneys for the Huang household have sought paperwork from Tesla to again up quite a few public statements by Musk between 2014 and 2017 in regards to the firm’s progress creating self-driving know-how. A few of these statements have been cited in latest shopper lawsuits accusing Tesla of failing to ship on Musk’s longstanding promise to supply a totally self-driving automotive.

The household’s attorneys argued that Tesla has didn’t adequately reply to their calls for for data throughout the pretrial discovery course of and requested the choose to sanction the corporate.

However Pennypacker denied that request in Wednesday’s ruling.

“It’s clear to the court docket that Tesla made efforts to reply to plaintiffs’ discovery requests,” she wrote. “In some circumstances, plaintiffs merely don’t just like the solutions acquired.”

The case is Huang v. Tesla Inc., 19CV346663, California Superior Courtroom, Santa Clara County (San Jose).

(Updates with extra particulars from ruling)

–With help from Dana Hull.

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