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Tesla fired an employee working on the company’s automated driving system for sharing his honest reviews on YouTube of the company’s beta system for self-driving cars.
John Bernal was an advanced driver assistance systems test operator at Tesla’s Autopilot and the host of a YouTube channel called AI Addict, which has over 8,500 subscribers, where he posts videos reviewing Tesla’s Full Self Driving Beta system.
The system – which is not yet fully operational – was put on display with its flaws, with Bernal calling it ‘potentially life-saving technology’ despite showing it off with features that aren’t finished or fully debugged.
He would take the system out for test runs in Silicon Valley, showing off what it could do, but also not editing out the car occasionally going the wrong way or running into bollards on the street. Several YouTubers have tested out the software publicly.
At least one of his videos – Titled ‘Close Calls, Pedestrians, Bicycles!‘ – where FSD Beta required Bernal to take over steering manually to avoid danger has gotten over 250,000 views. Roughly 10 of the 60 videos on AI Addict show flaws in the FSD system.
Bernal’s channel, which has over 8,500 subscribers, features videos he posts often reviewing Tesla’s Full Self Driving Beta system
The system – which is not yet fully operational – was put on display with its flaws, with Bernal calling it ‘potentially life-saving technology’
In footage recorded in February, a Tesla Model 3 sporting the technology can be seen smashing into a bike lane bollard at 11 mph on streets of San Jose. During the same drive, the feature attempts to drive down some light-rail tracks, mistaking it for a road.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed in January that the FSD Beta system had never had an accident, but the new footage offers proof that this is no longer the case.
Bernal said that he was told by a manager before he was fired in February that he ‘broke Tesla policy’ and that his channel was a ‘conflict of interest.’
He told CNBC he was transparent about the channel and said he only worked on it on his own time, informing his managers at Tesla and making it clear on his LinkedIn resume that he both worked at Tesla and operated his YouTube channel.
The company’s social media policy has nothing specific against criticizing company products in public forums.
‘Tesla relies on the common sense and good judgment of its employees to engage in responsible social media activity,’ the policy states, making reference to several social media networks but not including YouTube.
When FSD Beta first launched in October 2020, the company asked drivers to be ‘selective’ about how they posted about it on social media, but CEO Elon Musk eventually said by September 2021 that testers ‘were not really following it anyway’ and the restrictions shouldn’t exist.
The company never put any details in writing as to why Bernal was fired. They have not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment.
At least one of his videos – Titled ‘ Close Calls, Pedestrians, Bicycles! ‘ – where FSD Beta required Bernal to take over steering manually to avoid danger, including this one where it runs into bollards on the street
Bernal had worked at Tesla’s Autopilot since August of 2020
After he was fired, Bernal lost access to the self-driving beta system – an $8,000 value that employees were gifted free use of – he had access to in his personal 2021 Tesla Model 3. He still has access to the company’s driver assistance software.
Bernal is a self-described ‘lifelong car enthusiast’ and bought his car because he was able to get free access to the software, but also gives Tesla the right to collect internal and external data.
He claims said he never disclosed anything in his videos that Tesla had not released to the public.
‘The FSD Beta releases I was demonstrating were end-user consumer products,’ he said.
He adds that he had no record of unsafe driving, which is often required for access to the beta system to be revoked. Users are typically allowed several strikes before losing access.
Ultimately, Bernal said he’s upset to have lost a dream job and claims ‘I still care about Tesla, vehicle safety and fixing bugs.’
Tesla had to recall nearly 54,000 vehicles in January equipped with its ‘Full Self-Driving’ software, after it allowed vehicles to run through stop signs at low speeds, without coming to a complete halt.
The company also had to recall over 800,000 vehicles because seat belt reminder chimes may not sound when the vehicles are started and the driver isn’t buckled up.
All were to be fixed with online software updates, where possible.
Safety advocates and automated vehicle experts say Tesla is pushing the boundaries of safety to see what it can get away with, but now NHTSA is pushing back.
That recall is the 15th done by Tesla since January 2021, according to NHTSA records, with almost all of the more than one million vehicles sold in the US requiring an update due to a recall.