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Ralph Nader: Tesla 'Full Self-Driving' Responsible for 'Manslaughtering Crashes'

The politician and longtime consumer safety advocate held nothing back in his critique of Tesla's misnamed "Full Self Driving" technology.

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Ralph Nader waits to speak at a luncheon at the National Press Club September 4, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Ralph Nader waits to speak at a luncheon at the National Press Club September 4, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Ralph Nader urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take action against Tesla for its “dangerous and irresponsible” so-called Full Self-Driving mode in a statement released Thursday.

Nader made a name for himself as a consumer rights advocate as the author of the 1965 book Unsafe At Any Speed. This indictment of the lawless American auto industry inspired the U.S. government to create federal regulatory organizations like NHTSA. Nader later went on to found the Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy organization that pushes for improved vehicle safety equipment and regulation. The full statement was posted to Nader’s personal website:

Tesla’s major deployment of so-called Full Self-Driving (FSD) technology is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions by a car company in decades. Tesla should never have put this technology in its vehicles. Now over 100,000 Tesla owners are currently using technology that research shows malfunctions every eight minutes.

I am calling on federal regulators to act immediately to prevent the growing deaths and injuries from Tesla manslaughtering crashes with this technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to act swiftly to prevent such disasters. NHTSA has been investigating Tesla and its Full Self-Driving technology for several years. NHTSA must use its safety recall authority to order that the FSD technology be removed in every Tesla.

This nation should not allow this malfunctioning software which Tesla itself warns may do the “wrong thing at the worst time” on the same streets where children walk to school. Together we need to send an urgent message to the casualty-minded regulators that Americans must not be test dummies for a powerful, high-profile corporation and its celebrity CEO. No one is above the laws of manslaughter.


Tesla’s so-called “Self-Driving Mode” is more accurately described as simply a Level 2 driver-assist system. It’s been a source of controversy for some time. Musk has promised “full FSD” for nearly a decade, but the software remains firmly in beta testing.

Nader should be pleased to know NHTSA is already investigating the automaker at least 11 crashes where a car with FSD activated crashed into stationary vehicles at first responder scenes. Such crashes led to 17 injuries and at least one death. It doesn’t help that the vehicle can actually be set to ignore traffic laws, for example, rolling through stop signs.


NHTSA recently upgraded its investigation to an “Engineering Analysis,” which is the final step before a recall. NHTSA also put together a list of Special Crash Investigations focusing on driver-assistant systems. From The Verge:

As of July 26th, there are 48 [Tesla] crashes on the agency’s SCI list, 39 of which involved Tesla vehicles using Autopilot. Nineteen people, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, other drivers, and motorcyclists, were killed in those Tesla crashes.

But even with crashes (and fatalities) piling up, NHTSA can still be frustratingly slow to act as we’ve seen time and time again. Nader is calling for an immediate recall of Teslas with this software installed. Owners pay the princely sum of $12,000 to beta test so-called “Full Self Driving” for their beloved company. This arrangement turns all of us — Tesla owners as well as every other driver on the road — into test subjects for a company valued at $858.58 a share at the time of this writing. And while Tesla owners signed up to put their lives in a half-programed computer’s hands, the rest of us did not.

Tesla has already been hit several times for the false advertising inherent in calling a Level 2 driver-assist system “Full Self Driving.” A court in Germany ruled the company was selling its customers a bill of false goods, and California, the largest EV market in the U.S. by far, filed a complaint against Tesla. The state says Tesla made “untrue and misleading” statements on its website by claiming vehicles were equipped with advanced driver assistance system features.