A decide in California has ordered that Elon Musk be interviewed below oath about claims he made for the protection and capabilities of Tesla automobiles in 2016. That is all half of a bigger lawsuit being introduced towards Tesla by the household of Walter Huang, who was in a Tesla with partially automated driving software program in 2018 when he was killed in a automobile crash.

The go well with introduced by Huang’s household alleges that Tesla’s software program failed; for its half, Tesla claims Huang was enjoying a game on his cellphone and disregarded automobile warnings earlier than the crash. Solicitors for the Huang household sought to depose Musk about his 2016 declare that the Tesla Mannequin S and X automobiles “can drive autonomously with higher security than an individual—straight away” (thanks, Reuters).

Musk will be seen saying these phrases within the beneath video.

Then got here a fairly unbelievable twist that, sadly, could effectively turn into a standard function in excessive profile trials. Tesla’s solicitors opposed Musk being deposed, arguing each that he could not keep in mind particulars of the assertion, and that the recording might not be genuine:

“[Musk], like many public figures, is the topic of many ‘deepfake’ movies and audio recordings that purport to point out him saying and doing issues he by no means truly mentioned or did.”

That may be a fairly putting declare, particularly a few video posted six years in the past from the official Recode convention account (that is where the remarks have been made) and with just below 4 million views over that timespan. We have clearly seen varied examples of deepfakes in current occasions, however the source materials right here appears as legit because it will get and admittedly I doubt the expertise was there in 2016 to provide one thing like this.

The amazingly named Decide Evette Pennypacker, fortunately, did not appear to have a lot time for this. She tentatively ordered a three-hour deposition where Musk will likely be requested in regards to the statements on the recordings and mentioned the argument made by Tesla’s legal professionals to throw doubt on the veracity of the fabric was “deeply troubling”.

“Their place is that as a result of Mr Musk is known and is likely to be extra of a goal for deep fakes, his public statements are immune,” mentioned Pennypacker, earlier than occurring to say such arguments quantity to high-profile individuals making an attempt “to keep away from taking possession of what they did truly say and do.”

The Huang household’s solicitors additional allege that Musk finalized the small print of a 2016 promotional video which claims “The automobile is driving itself” and reveals options that didn’t exist on the time. It cites testimony from a number of Tesla engineers on the latter level.

The lawsuit is scheduled to start on July 31, amidst wider scrutiny over Tesla’s Autopilot system. Final week a California state courtroom jury discovered Tesla’s Autopilot function didn’t fail, within the first-ever trial associated to a crash involving the software program. It will not be the final.

As for Musk, clearly legal professionals will make any declare they will on behalf of a shopper, however this does look awfully like a wealthy and high-profile particular person making an attempt to weasel out of claims that have been presumably, on the time, a bit over-inflated. The very fact the decide hasn’t allowed him to take action is constructive, but it surely appears like this can turn into a function of high-profile trials sooner or later. One solely has to have a look at one thing just like the current case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard to see how the net ecosystem can hit new lows, and as AI expertise improves deepfakes will embed themselves into such phenomena. Musk comes throughout as a little bit of a chancer right here. However at some point somebody will make the identical declare in one other case, and it could be true.