Tesla threatens to sue reviewer over ads showing car hitting mannequin

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 02: Elon Musk attends the 2022 Met Gala celebrating ‘In America: An Anthology of Fashion’ at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

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Tesla has threatened to sue Dan O’ Dowd, the CEO of Green Hills Software and The Dawn Project, after he created and paid for a national television ad campaign showing a Tesla vehicle mowing down a child-sized mannequin on a track. trial closed. The ad says the vehicle had engaged the automaker’s advanced driver assistance system, dubbed “Full Self-Driving.”

In a cease and desist letter, Tesla said the provocative ad amounted to “Tesla misinformation” that the “alleged tests” in the ad “abuse and misrepresent the capabilities of Tesla’s technology,” and that “O’Dowd’s tests are seriously misleading and probably fraudulent.”

The Dawn Project campaign went live on August 9, according to a tweet from O’Dowd.

O’Dowd narrates the announcement himself, saying, “One hundred thousand Tesla drivers are already using fully self-driving on public roads. My name is Dan O’Dowd. I’m a safety engineer. And fully self-driving is the worst commercial software I’ve ever seen – tell Congress to shut it down.”

A spokesperson for O’Dowd told CNBC he spent “seven figures” and the ad was “running on hundreds of television channels reaching more than 60% of homes in America.” O’Dowd told CNBC that The Dawn Project is a private technology security and safety education company.

In its cease and desist message, Tesla said: “It has come to our attention that you personally and The Dawn Project have disparaged Tesla’s business interests and disseminated defamatory information to the public regarding the capabilities of Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) (beta) technology.”

Tesla then demanded that The Dawn Project remove the “Test Track” videos, issue a public retraction, disclose funding for the tests and advertising created by the Dawn Project, and state whether any regulatory agencies approved the methodology or results. from The Dawn Project for testing. .

The Washington Post first reported on the cease and desist letter, which was also obtained by CNBC.

The Dawn Project advertisements have been widely criticized. You’re here critics said the videos failed to identify serious safety issues with the driver assistance systems, while Tesla fans said the test driver appeared to abuse the system to ensure he would collide with the child-sized dummy.

After the TV commercial aired, some Tesla fans and shareholders devised their own FSD Beta safety tests to prove the cars would avoid hitting children. They enlisted their own children for these protests and posted videos to YouTube, which later determined that the videos violated their “harmful content” policies, and removed them.

On Wednesday, Tesla CEO Musk said in a tweet“The first beta has many known issues. The reason we’re releasing it to a limited number of cars is to discover unknown issues.”

On Thursday, Musk tweeted that O’Dowd was “bats—crazy,” using emoji to convey the insult.

O’Dowd said in a call with CNBC on Thursday: “I don’t care what he calls me. When will he recognize and fix the bugs that are in their system? Those issues have been demonstrated What should he do now is disable FSD.”

Tesla markets its driver assistance systems in the United States in tiers.

Autopilot is the standard offering delivered in all new Tesla vehicles. Tesla sells a premium option called Full Self-Driving (or FSD) for $12,000 or $199 per month. The price of FSD is expected to rise to $15,000 in September.

The automaker is allowing select drivers access to a program called Full Self-Driving Beta if they score high on the company’s in-car test. None of these systems make Tesla cars self-driving, or safe to use without a driver behind the wheel, ready to brake and alert to the road at all times. Tesla owner’s manuals warn drivers that the systems do not make their cars self-driving.

The California DMV alleged that Tesla engaged in false advertising with respect to its driver assistance systems.

The federal vehicle safety regulatory agency, NHTSA, has several investigations underway to assess the safety of Tesla’s driver assistance systems, from Autopilot to FSD and FSD Beta.

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