Tesla CEO allegedly feared Microsoft would make his cars 'racist' in video game


The Tesla Roadster eventually appeared in "Project Gotham Racing 4."

Microsoft's gaming division enters into numerous corporate partnerships to use real-world products in its video games, perhaps none more so than its racing games, where details are hashed out to license well-known cars. In one instance, however, a car company's chief executive had a unique rationale for not wanting his cars used.

Martin Eberhard, co-founder and former CEO of the Tesla Motors electric car company, allegedly didn't want Microsoft to use his company's vehicles in "Project Gotham Racing 4" because he feared the lack of control his company would have over its cars. Specifically, Eberhard feared Microsoft would make the electric cars slow on purpose and "racist." According to David Vespremi, a former spokesman for the car company, Eberhard went on a screaming rant in front of the company's employees for even having the idea brought to him.

In a portion of Vespremi's book "Reboot: The (Previously) Untold Story of Tesla's Electric Sports Car" provided to Jalopnik, the former Tesla spokesman writes that Eberhard wasn't happy with previous dealings with Microsoft, allegedly calling the company "evil."

Vespremi told the CEO that he had a positive relationship with Microsoft Game Studios in the past, noting that Microsoft offered to put the Tesla Roadster in the game for free even though some companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have their cars in video games. The former spokesman claims Eberhard eventually brought the conversation in front of the company's employees at its headquarters, screaming about having no control over how the car is represented.

"And what control do you think you would have over how the car performed in the game," Eberhard allegedly said. "What if they made it suck on purpose? Maybe it will be the slowest car in the game – maybe they’ll have Volkswagen Bugs that are faster!"

The rant eventually took a turn for the strange when Vespremi claims Eberhard feared Microsoft could make the car "racist."

"Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people," Eberhard said, according to Vespremi.

Eberhard changed his mind later in the day, however, and said he had "some deeply unpleasant dealings with Microsoft" at a previous company. The executive didn't clarify his bad experience, though he previously co-founded Network Computing Devices, a company that made thin clients for Windows computers, and NuvoMedia, an e-Book company. A CNN article from 1999 states NuvoMedia worked with Microsoft on standardization for e-Book files.

The partnership with Microsoft apparently pleased Tesla in the end, as Vespremi wrote a blog post on the company's website shortly before the game's release, saying it was "confident that the folks over at Microsoft Game Studios have a game engine capable of delivering the goods."

Source: Jalopnik | Image via Microsoft

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Video Games Live looks to Kickstarter for funding

Next Story

Microsoft expands Surface sales to more business and education markets

45 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

He has a point though. There's precedent. That racist, Henry Ford would allow people to have his Model T only if it was black. Maybe that was influencing him.

And, well, it is a race game.

CygnusOrion said,
Another person Microsoft screwed over came back to bite them in the a$$!

Well the Roadster is in the game... It's in a DLC and it sucks.

Most folk I know at Microsoft are in favor of the electronic vehicle revolution.

Being that they were going to put the car in for free, and not work out some goofy licensing scheme is rare.

He should have taken that as a nod in his company's direction, not as an insult or potential threat.

deadonthefloor said,
Most folk I know at Microsoft are in favor of the electronic vehicle revolution.

Being that they were going to put the car in for free, and not work out some goofy licensing scheme is rare.

He should have taken that as a nod in his company's direction, not as an insult or potential threat.

I see what you're saying here. While I don't agree with the fact that this former CEO may have let a past sour taste from M$ get the best of him and thus blindly affect his statements and sentiments towards them ( I personally believe in starting each day a new), I can see his concerns. Maybe he should revisit with some exec's at M$ and see exactly what they had in mind for the car in the game.

Not sure how much this matters but, does anyone else know about states banning the sale of Tesla cars due to "unfair competition"? I can see what this former CEO is concerned with. Here is a company that has a product that shatters the conventional ways of thinking about automobiles. Big Oil is scared, swindling car dealerships are scared. In walks Microsoft, the 800lb gorilla, and wants to put this car in the game up against how ever many other gasoline based cars... don't you think the average gamer who doesn't know the world for what it really is will use the car and say "yo dis car sucks yo, it don't go as fast as da otha cars B, electric?! what is dis a car for hippies? LOL, where's the Ferrari yo?!" Think about the big picture here. Granted the "racist" remarks were out of touch, but I feel as though it was just a reactionary comment to demonstrate just how far M$ will be able to take it. If I was passionate about my company's product and what it means on the grand scheme of things, I too may let emotion get the best of me when a company as deceitful as M$ offers to put my product in theirs for "free"... Look at the bigger picture, please. They're taking the quote out of context.

Have a great day, all!

What a paranoid delusional sack of grap he is. Its a racing game. Show me a racing game with slow cars. What does he mean by slow? The Tesla Roadster is fast, but it isnt as fast as many gas guzzling cars. He made assumptions without asking questions. What a frikkin loser.

Seeing your car in a game could have likely lead to even more sales as an adult driving in a game would wonder how the real car feels and maybe do a test drive which could lead to a sale. What a dumbass!

TechieXP said,
What a paranoid delusional sack of grap he is. Its a racing game. Show me a racing game with slow cars. What does he mean by slow? The Tesla Roadster is fast, but it isnt as fast as many gas guzzling cars. He made assumptions without asking questions. What a frikkin loser.

Seeing your car in a game could have likely lead to even more sales as an adult driving in a game would wonder how the real car feels and maybe do a test drive which could lead to a sale. What a dumbass!


Forza and GTA has tons of slow cars.

AWilliams87 said,

Forza and GTA has tons of slow cars.
I play Forza. However I don't expect some car like a Honda for example to be able to compete with a Porsche. As this guy who USE ti be the CEO at Tesla. He can't expect them to take a car that is slow and expect it to be on even par with Exotic that cost $250,000...so yes it is suppose to be slow because on that comparison.

LMAO!!!! this guy is nuts! it's funny how his own team told him it's a smart move since Microsoft would have put it for free. He obviously doesn't know anything and he's probably racist himself for using the word incorrectly like that and that stupid example lol.

If he had faith in his own product, then maybe he wouldn't cry like a baby girl when a company wanted to feature it in one of their games.

It was actually a pretty good car.
They did a good job with it. It had the high torque an electric motor gives and then thing would accelerate to its top speed in no time. Shame its top speed was quite low, so it was only suited on the more shorter technical tracks.

Racist Tesla does sound like a good title for a sitcom though

Apart from the 'racist' statement, I can see his concern.

The whole world of presenting motor cars to the public (and therefore potential customers) is totally skewed by enormous marketing budgets and vested interests, and Tesla are such a left-field and modestly funded company, how would they compete?

I don't know the game at all, but does it bring real-world issues such as fuel-costs and city-center access in to play? I doubt it, how would Tesla's product demonstrate their USPs?

Mugwump00 said,
Apart from the 'racist' statement, I can see his concern.

The whole world of presenting motor cars to the public (and therefore potential customers) is totally skewed by enormous marketing budgets and vested interests, and Tesla are such a left-field and modestly funded company, how would they compete?

I don't know the game at all, but does it bring real-world issues such as fuel-costs and city-center access in to play? I doubt it, how would Tesla's product demonstrate their USPs?


If anything, it would give them an advantage being that there is no fuel in Forza. Both GTA and Forza try hard to match real world performance, so his concern really is illegitimate.

I don't know if you're deliberately ignoring the point (in a US dominated internet forum, what do I assume?), but Tesla were never setting out to produce the fastest sports car for the money, and will get slaughtered in any simulation that focuses raw performance, whether real-world calibrated or tweaked to the benefit of the big marketeers. What does it have on the cover - lemme guess, Lambo and/or Porsche?

My feeling is that their USP would be very hard to convey in a 'simulator' that ignores real-world matters such as fuel-costs, congestion charging, ICE-restricted city areas, good gearless town-driving experience, environmental conscience, the novelty of futurism etc. etc.

Mugwump00 said,
I don't know if you're deliberately ignoring the point (in a US dominated internet forum, what do I assume?), but Tesla were never setting out to produce the fastest sports car for the money, and will get slaughtered in any simulation that focuses raw performance, whether real-world calibrated or tweaked to the benefit of the big marketeers. What does it have on the cover - lemme guess, Lambo and/or Porsche?

My feeling is that their USP would be very hard to convey in a 'simulator' that ignores real-world matters such as fuel-costs, congestion charging, ICE-restricted city areas, good gearless town-driving experience, environmental conscience, the novelty of futurism etc. etc.


Actually, one of the "USP" of the Roadster and Model S was to show that electric cars can keep pace with gasoline/diesel based ones in terms of performance, which they do; the Model S at least. But in Forza, cars are broken up into classes, so the Roadster doesn't compete with high end performance vehicles.

Nonetheless, the Roadster isn't the only electric car available to drive being that Forza is a game for car enthusiast as well as racing fans. Many other cars in game have many different "USP's" which may be hard to replicate as well, so this "concern" isn't unique to Tesla.

By the way, I don't know what "congestion charging" is, but Tesla doesn't have that. Same applies to "ICE-restricted" cities.

When the article said "racist", I expected it to be a play on words, like "racist" as in slow, prejudiced against an electric car in a racing game. I was definitely NOT expecting that ridiculous "running over black people" example. Jesus, what was he thinking?

A realistic simulations won't have it be the slowest but certainly will have it on the side of the road pretty quickly. You only get the claimed range if you drive like a grandma.

"Maybe it will be the slowest car in the game - maybe they'll have Volkswagen Bugs that are faster!"

Maybe that's actually true in real life. (Just kidding.)

68k said,
"Maybe it will be the slowest car in the game - maybe they'll have Volkswagen Bugs that are faster!"

Maybe that's actually true in real life. (Just kidding.)

Was this the same guy who was ****ed at the reporter that reported the car wasn't performing that great when they test drove it? I can't remember, thought it was someone there at Tesla

neufuse said,

Was this the same guy who was ****ed at the reporter that reported the car wasn't performing that great when they test drove it? I can't remember, thought it was someone there at Tesla

That was Elon Musk, the co-founder of Tesla.

this guy is kinda outa touch... usually in racing games they try to match real car performance to the representation of it in the game.... and what, does he think this is GTA? Run over black people?!

neufuse said,
this guy is kinda outa touch... usually in racing games they try to match real car performance to the representation of it in the game.... and what, does he think this is GTA? Run over black people?!

Yeah normally I wouldn't feel the need to defend people like this, but not everyone plays video games. They understand what they see on the news and not much else.

"Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people," Eberhard said, according to Vespremi.

LOL!

well the whole racist car thing was really just an exaggerated example of loss of control, this is easy to deduce form the quote. He didn't really mean that he thought they would make it racist, just that the loss of control means anything is possible and then gave an example of how bad it could be.

"Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people,"

What a very confused, and yet confusing man.

Another nonse who doesn't understand the word "Racist" and is trying to use the word to put fear into people.

I hope in longer races the battery dies, and rather than going into the pits to re-fuel you just have to retire. It'll be life like then

What a silly little man

"Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people." That's why he is saying they could make the car racist, not because it's slow.

Gaffney said,
"Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people." That's why he is saying they could make the car racist, not because it's slow.

I think he is confusing Forza with GTA. And yes, sad comments from a former CEO.

Gaffney said,
"Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people." That's why he is saying they could make the car racist, not because it's slow.

They have "Black" people in Project Gotham?

Also doesn't the gamer control what the car runs over in Project Gotham?

Gaffney said,
"Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people." That's why he is saying they could make the car racist, not because it's slow.

Doesn't matter, the tires are black too so it's just black on black violence.