Faraday Future-designed 'Self-Driving' Car Was Piloted by Remote Control
Faraday Future has yet to provide anyone the opportunity to say anything strictly positive about it this year. Even today, when there is the seed of good press stemming from a recent teaser video of its FF Prototype, the company remains mired by new allegations that highlight just how absolutely wrong everything about it appears to be.
A mountain of debt, an unsettling corporate structure, mounting lawsuits, staff abandonment, and problems with suppliers all coalesce to paint a grim portrait of the company as it draws nearer to its important reveal at January’s Consumer Electronics Show.
However, the details of a recent media expose wouldn’t look out of place in a sitcom.
BuzzFeed News reported that China’s LeEco relied heavily on Faraday Future to design its self-driving car, the LeSee. LeEco’s CEO Jia Yueting is a personal investor in Faraday Future and may play a role in its leadership. There is a distinct, likely intentional, lack of transparency surrounding LeEco’s relationship with Faraday. However, numerous former FF employees have stated before that the EV startup essentially operates as a branch of LeEco. The two even share resources.
One thing LeEco did not share, however, was a paycheck with the Faraday Future employees forcibly pulled off their own projects to design a car for their Chinese backer. In December 2015, FF employees reportedly received a mandate directly from Jia saying they needed to design a prototype that LeEco could show off publicly the following spring in China.
Here’s what BuzzFeed says happened next:
And in April 2016, LeEco unveiled a sleek, electric sedan called LeSee. On stage, Jia, who has been outspoken about his plans to usurp Tesla, touted LeSee as a LeEco creation as the white sedan glided across the stage to park in a mock garage. The audience couldn’t see that the seemingly self-driving car was in fact being piloted from backstage via remote control.
Sources from Faraday said that several employees were upset. LeEco had not given them credit or offered payment in exchange for services, despite the LeeSee development serving as a major setback toward the progress of their own vehicle. Any delay could be detrimental to Faraday, too. After last year’s embarrassing absence of a realistic production vehicle, the company needs to have something concrete to show the world if it is to maintain any credibility whatsoever.
Although, considering the company’s money problems, the point may be moot. Future broke ground on a $1.3 billion car factory in North Las Vegas last April — helped by $219.5 million in tax incentives from the state of Nevada. The facility was anticipated to create 4,500 full-time positions. By October, work at that location had stopped when site contractor AECOM notified Faraday that the company was $21 million behind on its September payments and that it would owe an additional $37 million for October and November.
Jia then announced that LeEco had overexerted itself financially. Despite having raised $1.08 billion for the LeSee project in September, Jia admitted to financial hardships in a public memo to employees.
Much more recently, parts supplier Futuris issued a lawsuit against FF for breach of contract. Futuris, which constructs seats for Faraday, claims the company became delinquent on invoices it had received this summer. It now owes Futuris more than $10 million. Another lawsuit, this one filed by Beim Maple Properties, alleges the company is behind almost $105,000 in rent payments for a warehouse.
[Image: Faraday Future]
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