A Tesla employee who has been posting videos of his experience with the Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta has been fired. His firing came right after sharing a video of the first confirmed crash (albeit a small one) on FSD Beta.
Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving Beta” (FSD Beta) is an early version of its self-driving software that is currently being tested by a fleet of Tesla owners selected by the company and through its “safety test score.“
The software enables the vehicle to drive autonomously to a destination entered in the car’s navigation system, but the driver needs to remain vigilant and ready to take control at all times.
Since the responsibility lies with the driver and not Tesla’s system, it is still considered a level two driver-assist system despite its name, but Tesla hopes to eventually remove the driver as a supervisor through future software updates.
In following the progress made with the Beta program, we often viewed and shared videos of early beta testers, like AI Addict on YouTube, who often posted driving experiences on FSD Beta.
What we didn’t know is that AI Addict, now known to be John Bernal, was a Tesla employee when making those videos.
Now we learn that Bernal was fired by Tesla late last month (via CNBC):
“Tesla has fired a former Autopilot employee named John Bernal after he shared candid video reviews on his YouTube channel, AI Addict, showing how the company’s Full Self Driving Beta system worked in different locations around Silicon Valley.”
While Tesla didn’t disclose the reason for his firing, Bernal was warned about his YouTube channel prior to the firing and a manager suggested that he doesn’t share things that show the system in bad light.
The timing of the firing is also interesting since Bernal has been posting FSD Beta videos for over a year and had disclosed the channel to Tesla, but he was fired just weeks after posting a video that showed Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta runing into a pole, in what could be the first FSD accident caught on video.
Electrek and several other outlets shared the video, and it gathered almost 200,000 views – 10 times more than most of his previous videos.
Bernal was terminated shortly after. He spent over a year as a data annotation specialist at Tesla before recently being moved to a role as an “advanced driver assistance systems test operator,” which is basically what he was doing on his Youtube channel – a possible conflict of interest.
The former Tesla employee said that he never shared anything about FSD beta or Tesla that wasn’t already public and in the hands of customers.
Interestingly, Tesla also rescinded Bernal’s access to FSD Beta on his personal Model 3. Previously, Tesla had only done that to people who received “safety strikes,” but Bernal had none – even after the accident last month.
It’s unclear if Tesla is within its rights to do so, but one thing complicating the situation is that Bernal bought his Model 3 as a Tesla employee when the automaker was running a promotion giving the FSD package, which at the time was worth $8,000, to employees willing to test the beta for free.
Tesla has been under scrutiny before for encouraging FSD Beta testers to not share things that might be used against the company in an NDA.
CEO Elon Musk, who calls himself a “free speech absolutist,” said that Tesla shouldn’t have NDAs as part of the FSD Beta program and testers are “not following them” anyway.
However, it was question of employees sharing the videos of FSD Beta on social media at the time.
This is a strange situation because common sense would tell me that the guy was asking for it, for lack of better words. As a general rule, you don’t start a whole YouTube channel posting dozens of videos about your experience with a product made by your employer.
It just doesn’t sound like a good idea.
On the other hand, what’s so wrong about it? It sounds like a bad idea because of the optics, but it wasn’t done with ill intentions as far as I can tell.
And now the optics are bad for Tesla since it fired the man right after he posted a video of what could be the first crash on FSD Beta.
But of course, we only get one part of the story here since Tesla isn’t commenting on the situation.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.