Faraday Future-designed 'Self-Driving' Car Was Piloted by Remote Control

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Dave W Dave W on Dec 16, 2016

    I would think that with the tech turmoil, self driving and green pushes, and with a wealthy class so wealthy that it has no need to spend/invest it's wealth for strictly productive purposes, the market would be ripe for a couple new car companies to get off the ground. So far it seems that Tesla has made real progress, but probably needs to break out of it's high end niche to really become profitable, as well as the game changer Elon says hes aiming for. Elio is at least alive and grinding ahead,but unless the OPEC/Russian cooperation sticks to raise oil prices, Elio (and possibly Tesla) are sunk. If Kaiser/Frazer couldn't make it as a well capitalized firm with real designers and production know how, in a postwar market starved for new cars I'm not sure who today has a real shot.

    • See 1 previous
    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Dec 16, 2016

      "So far it seems that Tesla has made real progress, but probably needs to break out of its high end niche to really become profitable" Well, if Tesla loses money on the Model 3, they won't make it up in volume.

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Dec 16, 2016

    I think Faraday Future exists merely to make Tesla look healthy and normal.

  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.
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