Tesla Releases Official Autopilot Video

Courtesy of Tesla Motors

Tesla's promotional clip showing off its Autopilot self-driving software is slick counterprogramming to amateur videos of drivers abusing the system.

YouTube is littered with videos of Tesla owners using Autopilot — Tesla's semi-autonomous driving system — to let the car drive itself while they shave or even ride in the backseat. This despite Tesla CEO Elon Musk's repeated admonitions that drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel while Autopilot is engaged.

After several look-ma-no-hands videos recorded near accidents, Tesla released a software update that restricted Autopilot to certain speeds and road configurations.

Now comes this one-minute video, significant for explicitly showing what Autopilot can do — including the so-called Summon feature from the latest update, which allows the car to be remotely started and retrieved from a garage — but also for the fact that Tesla released it all.

Tesla never advertises, relying on word of mouth and the company's army of Hollywood devotees, from Jon Favreau to Steven Spielberg. The autopilot video is about as close to a commercial as the company has ever mounted, and a second video, with drivers extolling Tesla's popularity in Hong Kong, is even closer.

The videos come amid a plunge in worldwide gas prices — which Musk recently predicted would harm the prospects of electric carmakers, but not Tesla — and investor concerns that Tesla's slow rollout of its much-delayed Model X SUV will affect the company's stock price. They could also presage a shift to more mainstream marketing as Tesla prepares to unveil its Model 3, a $35,000 long-range electric, later this year which faces direct competition from Chevrolet's similarly priced long-range all-electric Bolt, scheduled to enter production in the fourth quarter of 2016.