John Bernal, creator of AI Addict on YouTube.
Provided by: AI Addict
Tesla has fired a former autopilot employee named John Bernal after he shared candid video reviews on his YouTube channel, AI Addict, which showed how the Full Self Driving Beta system works in various locations around Silicon Valley.
Following Bernal’s dismissal, Tesla also closed his access to the FSD Beta system in the car he personally owns, a 2021 Tesla Model 3, despite the fact that there were no “safety warnings” in the software.
The FSD Beta option is best described as a set of new driver assistance features that are incomplete or completely debugged. Chief among these is “automatic control on city streets”, which allows the car to move through difficult urban conditions without having to move the steering wheel. Customers must first have an FSD that costs $ 12,000 in advance or $ 199 a month in the U.S., and then obtain and maintain a high driver safety score determined by Tesla software that monitors their driving habits.
Although Tesla did not invest details in writing about why he was fired, Tesla and other Silicon Valley companies often promote a culture of loyalty. Internal criticism may be tolerant, but criticism is publicly seen as disloyalty.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Bernal’s situation.
The origins of his channel
Bernal started working on Electric vehicle maker Ilona Maska as a data annotation specialist in August 2020 at an office in San Mateo, California. According to records he shared with CNBC, he was fired in the second week of February this year after moving to the position of operator testing advanced driver assistance systems.
As a lifelong car enthusiast who is proud to work at Tesla, Bernal, a few months after starting work there, ordered the purchase of a 2021 model 3 with a rechargeable battery. He received the car on December 26, 2020.
He says he bought the car in part because Tesla offered employees free access to the FSD – then costing $ 8,000 – as a bonus. Employees had to agree to give the company the right to collect internal and external vehicle data in exchange.
Surprised to see “Tesla’s life-saving technology”, in February 2021 he launched the AI Addict channel on YouTube to show what a publicly available version of FSD Beta can do.
Most AI Addict videos show Bernal driving through Silicon Valley with a friend on his Tesla using the latest released versions of FSD Beta software.
Bernal was not alone in publishing his experience with Tesla’s experimental software. Tesla FSD beta users, such as Dirty Tesla, Chuck Cook, Kim Paquette and many others, are in a hurry to watch each new release on their channels.
“I still care about Tesla”
When the company fired Bernal late last month, his written notice of separation did not include the reason for the dismissal. It happened after one of his videos showed a trip to San Jose, where his car knocked down the pedestals while FSD Beta was involved.
Bernal says that before he was fired, managers verbally told him that he had “violated Tesla’s policies” and that his YouTube channel was a “conflict of interest.”
Bernal said he has always been transparent about his YouTube channel, both with his managers at Tesla and with the public. For example, his online resume on LinkedIn next to the name of the channel on YouTube always showed his work at Tesla. Bernal said he had never seen a policy that would prohibit him from creating reviews of automotive technology in his time using his own property.
A copy of Tesla’s social media policy provided by current employees does not provide a direct link to public criticism of the company’s products. The policy states: “Tesla relies on the common sense and prudence of its employees to participate in responsible activities on social networks.” It lists social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Snapchat, LinkedIn, WeChat and personal blogs, but does not specifically mention YouTube.
Bernal said he never disclosed anything in his videos that Tesla did not publish to the public. “The beta versions of FSD that I demonstrated were consumer products for end users,” he said.
But his video sometimes showed problems with the Tesla FSD beta system.
In March 2021, for example, AI Addict released a video called “FSD Beta 8.2 Oakland – close calls, pedestrians, bikes!” on which it was seen that his car was going through several “divisions”. This is where FSD Beta required Bernal to take control manually to avoid danger. At 11 minutes and 58 seconds of video, the Tesla FSD Beta system starts driving at an intersection when a vehicle crosses a Bernal Model 3. He almost ran into another car.
Since then, the video has garnered about a quarter of a million views.
After its first launch, Bernal told CNBC: “A manager from my Autopilot team tried to dissuade me from publishing any negative or critical content in the future that involved a beta version of the FSD. They held a video conference with me, but never wrote anything. “
According to an analysis by his CNBC channel, about ten of the 60 videos he published found flaws in the FSD beta. Three of the videos were devoted to other Tesla topics and did not discuss FSD Beta, and three more were devoted to electric vehicles from other automakers and were not related to Tesla at all.
Bernal posted screenshots and photos showing that his access to the FSD beta was revoked by the company after it was discontinued, even though he did not receive any “strikes” for unsafe driving or improper use of the system. Typically, FSD Beta users are allowed multiple strikes before access is revoked.
The loss of access to the beta version of FSD in his own car limited his ability to create system reviews. However, it has gained access to other vehicles with FSD Beta enabled and plans to continue its independent research and reviews.
Bernal knew he could attract attention by posting honest reviews of FSD Beta. But as long as he was truthful, he said, and given his generally sympathetic views on technology, he thought Tesla would allow it or at least formally tell him if he needed to stop before he would ever lose his job. dreams.
He told CNBC: “I still care about Tesla, vehicle safety and finding and fixing bugs.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently named himself “The absolutist of freedom of speech.” But his car company has a long history of asking customers and employees not to speak publicly about issues affecting their cars or business.
For example, like many large companies, Tesla requires its employees to sign an arbitration agreement, which obliges to resolve conflicts with the company without public lawsuits. Employees or conscripts may legally challenge and sometimes exempt from compulsory arbitration and continue their day in court, but such cases have been rare.
Previously, Tesla also required customers to sign a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for services.
As previously reported by CNBC, when FSD Beta began to spread, the company asked drivers who signed up for the early access program to be selective or refrain from posting on social media.
Federal vehicle safety regulators are concerned that such practices could have a chill and hide critical complaints from the safety agency. As a result, they initiated an investigation into the FSD Beta program.
By September 2021, Musk had stated at a conference that the company should have no such restrictions at all. At a code conference during an interview with Kara Swisher, he said FSD beta testers “still don’t watch this.”