Tesla, Twitter, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has long warned about the potential dangers of AI.In court filings reported by Reuters on Wednesday, Tesla’s lawyers echoed Musk’s warnings to claim that the billionaire’s own words could possibly be deepfakes. They argue that the mere possibility of digital alterations of Musk’s statements somehow overrides any need for him to testify about them in a legal setting.Tesla is currently being sued by the family of Apple engineer Walter Huang, who was killed in a car crash while driving his Tesla Model X in 2018. According to his family, Huang’s death was the result of a malfunction with Tesla’s automated driving feature, Autopilot. Tesla has argued that Huang was playing video games, despite warnings from Tesla, right before the crash occurred.Musk’s previous claims about Tesla’s safety have come up in the lawsuit. For example, in 2016, during an interview with tech journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, Musk claimed that the “Model S and Model X, at this point, can drive autonomously with greater safety than a person. Right now.”The video of that particular interview, which was uploaded in June 2016 by the now-defunct Vox-owned tech website Recode, is still viewable on YouTube.
In order to argue that an interview with Musk about such claims, under oath, wasn’t needed, Tesla’s lawyers claimed that Musk could not recall saying such words and any purported evidence that he did could be a deepfake, or AI-generated manipulated media.The judge wasn’t buying it. “Their position is that because Mr. Musk is famous and might be more of a target for deep fakes, his public statements are immune,” said Judge Evette D. Pennypacker of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. “In other words, Mr. Musk, and others in his position, can simply say whatever they like in the public domain, then hide behind the potential for their recorded statements being a deep fake to avoid taking ownership of what they did actually say and do.”Judge Pennypacker ordered that Musk be interviewed in a tentative 3-hour deposition. Although, some details could change. The trial is set to begin on July 31.