Tesla has broken its uncharacteristic silence around the whole “running over kids” debacle. Tesla is now demanding that certain videos showing its EVs using its “Full Self-Driving” and still running over child dummies be taken down. Not because the videos are at best inane and at worst dangerous, but because they “misrepresent the capabilities of Tesla’s technology.”
Tesla sent a Cease and Desist letter dated August 11 to safety advocacy group Dawn Project threatening further legal action if the group doesn’t stop showing the videos, according to Reuters. The Tesla letter says that Dawn Project and its founder Dan O’Dowd are “disparaging Tesla’s commercial interests and disseminating defamatory information to the public.”
Dawn Project originally aired the video in question as part of a TV campaign warning against the shortcomings of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving and Autopilot features. The videos show an FSD-enabled Tesla EV failing to stop when a child mannequin crosses its path, and the Tesla proceeds to run over the kid dummy.
Tesla argues the tests in the video are “likely fraudulent,” and it wasn’t long before Tesla’s and Elon Musk’s fans came to the defense of Autopilot and FSD. The Dawn Project videos inspired users to record and post their own tests.
And the back-and-forth between those remarking that Tesla’s ADAS features are, indeed, dangerous and those saying the features work as advertised by Tesla came to a head when Tesla supporters suggested tests should be run on actual children and adults.
It was bad enough that NHTSA had to warn people to refrain from risking human lives, especially those of children, to test the performance of a fucking vehicle feature. My words, not NHTSA’s — although if you read between the lines, I bet you’ll find something similar.
As Reuters mentions, Project Dawn is run by a critic of Tesla and a software entrepreneur seeking public office in California. Meaning O’Dowd has an axe to grind, and is not a completely disinterested party. But O’Dowd is hardly the first to question the abilities of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving and Autopilot features.
Tesla insists on referring to these in ways that are misleading, and the EV company continues to face legal challenges — both in the U.S. and abroad — to its advertising of Level-2 ADAS systems in ways that, uh, well “misrepresent the capabilities of Tesla’s technology,” to borrow a phrase from Tesla itself.