Tesla has been making a lot of headlines lately, for better or worse. Spanning from massive technology updates to massive price increases, the EV giant is undoubtedly a significant part of the automotive conversation right now. Even more so than usual. However, this story is likely to be a bit more controversial than others.
Tesla terminated this employee for showing full self-driving beta testing on his Youtube channel
CNBC reports that John Bernal started working at Tesla in August 2020. He began at Tesla as a data annotation specialist. However, he quickly moved up the ranks to an advanced driver assistance systems test operator. From the sound of the position’s title, it seems Bernal’s job was testing the very program that cost him his position.
Tesla FSD beta, an unreleased version of its self-driving mode that allows auto-steering in complex urban areas and city streets, is in beta testing at the moment. Only qualified Tesla drivers with good driving habits can gain access to the beta program. Furthermore, owners must pay $12,000 to participate in the program. That, or pay $199 a month. However, Bernal purchased a 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range shortly after his employment. He took delivery of the vehicle in December 2020. Bernal was given access to FSD beta for free as a perk of his employment.
A lifelong car enthusiast, Bernal started the Youtube channel AI Addict and began sharing videos of his experiences with his Model 3 and FSD. Unfortunately, this is where problems came into play.
On February 4th, 2022, Bernal posted a video of his Tesla Model 3 striking a plastic bollard on the streets of San Jose. The video breaks down the situation and gives a frame-by-frame playback of the vehicle’s trajectory and his reaction when attempting to stop the collision. Though the bollard was plastic and no harm was done to the car, his video shows that it did take aim at another bollard. So, this was not an isolated incident. In early February, Tesla terminated Bernal from the company shortly after his crash video went live.
Fired for beta testing a beta software
Bernal’s other videos show him stress testing the FSD beta program. He tests it with things like train tracks on the road, toll booths, and other potentially problematic situations. He has various videos showing it failing to detect objects in the street and how it reacts to emergency vehicles. However, this is, in essence, what beta testing is about. It seems Bernal only makes an effort to test the beta features when traffic and pedestrians are scarce and always keeps his hands at the wheel to alleviate situations that the car does not recognize.
There is one situation in which it really makes sense for him to have been let go. One could argue he is revealing company “secrets” as an employee. However, it’s a tough argument to make. Any Tesla driver with $12,000 and a good driving record could just as easily make these videos. Of course, Tesla could just as easily pull their FSD privileges as well.
Unfortunately, at the time of his termination, that’s exactly what the company did to Bernal. He explained his removal from the program and company doesn’t in a video he posted on March 15, 2022.
“I was fired from Tesla in February with my Youtube being cited as the reason why even though my uploads are from my personal vehicle off company time and property with software that I paid for. The morning of being fired, I had zero improper use strikes on my profile. Shortly after being fired, my system was suspended,” said Bernal.
His termination certainly seems a bit unjust. However, since this story broke his youtube channel has rapidly been gaining subscribers. Perhaps, Tesla closing the door on him opened a door a career path on Youtube.