Lawyers for automaker Tesla have argued that statements made by Elon Musk about the capabilities of the company’s Autopilot software should not be trusted as they may be deepfakes, according to reports from Reuters And Bloomberg.
Tesla presented this argument as part of its justification for why Musk should not be interviewed under oath for a lawsuit blaming the company for the death of Apple engineer Walter Huang in a fatal crash in 2018.
Huang died while driving a Tesla Model X, with his family’s lawyers claiming that Tesla’s driver-assist software was at fault. The lawyers are trying to interview Musk about statements he made about the security of this software. These include a 2016 interview in which Musk claimed that “A Model S and Model X can drive autonomously right now with more safety than a person.” (You can watch Musk make this statement in a YouTube video here.)
“Their position is that because Mr. Musk is famous and may be more of a target for deep fakes, his public statements are immune”
Per ReutersTesla’s lawyers stated that Musk could not recall details of such claims and that, “like many public figures, he is the subject of many ‘deepfake’ videos and audio recordings purporting to show him saying and doing things he actually never said or did.”
But the judge in the case said this argument from Tesla’s lawyers was “deeply disturbing.”
“Their position is that because Mr. Musk is famous and may be more of a target for deep fakes, his public statements are immune,” Santa Clara County Supreme Court Justice Evette D. Pennypacker wrote. In other words, Mr. Musk, and others in his position, can just say what they want in the public domain, then hide behind the potential that their recorded statements are a big fake to avoid taking ownership of what they actually have said and do.”
Judge Evette Pennypacker tentatively ordered Musk to give a limited three-hour statement on these statements. Reuters notes that “California judges often make preliminary rulings, which after such a hearing are almost always finalized with few major changes.” A hearing is scheduled for Thursday to finalize the statement and the trial will begin on July 31.