News that Tesla had instituted a non-disclosure agreement as part of its “Full Self-Driving” Beta came as something of a surprise back in September. Not because NDAs are rare in the tech realm — they’re not at all — but more because it was clear from the outset that nobody was really following it. Videos of FSD working well and not aren’t hard to find by any means, and haven’t been taken down from YouTube by the manufacturer.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a Code Conference interview shortly after Motherboard’s story revealing the NDA that he wasn’t sure why it was in place to begin with. To his credit, on Monday morning he seemed to cheekily confirm on Twitter that the stipulation had been removed from the latest version of the beta, 10.2.
Some owners have posted screenshots of the email notifying them that their vehicle will soon receive the update, noting the lack of an NDA mentioned anywhere.
I’ll give it to Tesla. Ever-cautious corporations love NDAs to manage the message around far more trivial things than assisted driving technology. FSD could conceivably injure or kill someone if it does “the wrong thing at the worst time,” as the email puts it. Most automakers wouldn’t hesitate to place a gag order on anyone sharing content of technology still in testing that may impugn their integrity, and Tesla’s done away with its own.
That’s a show of faith. If the company has the confidence to let the FSD Beta loose on roads, its should also have the confidence not to hide footage of it from the public by those who want to share it.
On the other hand, Tesla is also currently enjoying the support of a very vocal, very loyal fanbase that takes issue with any coverage of incidents that highlight failures of its technology. Whatever accidents Teslas may have been involved in over the last year or two, those accidents haven’t dissuaded people from buying them; Tesla sold twice as many cars in the second quarter of 2021 as it did in that same period last year, and accounted for 79 percent of new EV registrations in 2020, according to Experian via Automotive News.
To be absolutely clear, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t buy Teslas, because I suspect that’s going to be the way some readers interpret the last paragraph. Rather, I mention it because Tesla’s success demonstrates it doesn’t have the same need for NDAs that other car companies do — just like it doesn’t need the public relations departments they do.