Former Tesla employee John Bernal said he was fired for posting YouTube videos about Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) beta. He had been creating the videos for about a year. Bernal says Tesla has also cut off its access to beta FSD in the 2021 Tesla Model 3 it owns.
The beta trigger and cutoff took place shortly after Bernal posted a video on Feb. 4 from a minor crash in which his Tesla car hit a bollard that appears to separate a car-only lane from a bike lane in San Jose. In a sequel February 7 video providing frame-by-frame analysis of the collisionBernal said that “no matter how bad this crash is, it’s the first filmed beta FSD collision that’s irrefutable.”
“I was fired from Tesla in February, citing my YouTube as the reason, even though my uploads are for my personal vehicle, outside of company time or property, with software that I paid for,” a said Bernal in the last video, which was posted yesterday on his AI Addict channel. Bernal showed a notice he received that his beta access to full self-driving was disabled “based on your recent driving data.” But that explanation didn’t seem to make sense because “on the morning of the layoff, I had no misuse strikes on my vehicle,” he said.
Bernal said his work at Tesla involved helping develop FSD and testing the software. His new video asked Tesla to re-enable the beta on his personal car, but explained that he was still testing the Full Self-Driving beta in a replacement vehicle. “This channel is meant to educate the public…I care about finding important security bugs, and I always want to help. Luckily, it’s Silicon Valley, where there’s a lot of beta to do, so today ‘today I’m in a new Tesla,” he said.
The dismissal notice “did not include the reason”
We’ve reached out to Tesla about Bernal’s firing and will update this article if we get a response. As reported by CNBCBernal started working for Tesla “as a Data Annotation Specialist in August 2020” and “was terminated the second week of February of this year, after taking on the role of Advanced Systems Test Operator of driver assistance, according to recordings he shared with CNBC.”
“Bernal’s written notice of separation did not include the reason for his termination,” but he said that “prior to his termination, officials told him verbally that he ‘violated Tesla policy’ and that his YouTube channel was a ‘conflict of interest,'” CNBC wrote. “Bernal said he’s always been transparent about his YouTube channel, both with his managers at Tesla and with the public…Bernal said he’s never seen a policy prohibiting him from creating automotive technology journals in his spare time using his own property.”
CNBC said it obtained a copy of Tesla’s internal social media policy and that it “makes no direct reference to criticism of the company’s products in public.” The policy states that ‘Tesla relies on the common sense and good judgment of its employees to engage in media activity.’”
Bernal claimed that he “never leaked anything in his videos that Tesla didn’t make public,” claiming that “the beta versions of FSDs I was demonstrating were end-use products,” according to CNBC.
First crash in a year of testing
In the video analyzing the crash, Bernal said he had been testing the software for over a year and this was his “first incident”. He also noted that he spent a year “tagging this software for Tesla” as an employee.
When the crash happened, Bernal was letting the full self-driving features control the car, but said he ‘applied the brakes as hard as he could’ once it became clear he was deviated from its trajectory. The Tesla bent the bollard to the ground. “Luckily it was just plastic,” he said.
“Some may say I should have reacted sooner, which I should have. However, in my test year the FSD is generally very good at detecting last minute objects and slowing down to avoid them,” did he declare. Although not a major accident, Bernal said there were “several other instances in the same video of the FSD system trying to go straight to other bollards after hitting one before. . It was not a one-time event.”
“Close calls, pedestrians, bicycles!”
by Bernard AI Addict Channel has nearly 8,800 subscribers and the two videos of the crash have totaled around 230,000 views combined. Most of his videos over the past year focus on Tesla Full Self-Driving. In addition to the crash videos from last month, Bernal posted one in March 2021 titled “Close calls, pedestrians, bicycles!“
Bernal told CNBC that after the video first aired in March 2021, “a manager from my Autopilot team tried to dissuade me from posting any negative or critical content involving FSD Beta in the future. They held a videoconference with me but never put anything in writing.”