Tesla wants videos showing its vehicles running over child-sized mannequins taken down, claiming the videos are “defamatory.”
Per The Washington Post and The Verge, Tesla sent a letter to an advocacy group alleging the videos misrepresent the capabilities of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software. This comes after the advocacy group, called the ‘Dawn Project,’ published videos of testing it did with Tesla’s FSD software. The group claimed FSD failed to detect child mannequins and routinely struck them in its tests, as shown in the videos.
However, the videos immediately generated significant controversy, with many leaping to Tesla and CEO Elon Musk’s defence. Some fans went so far as to seek out actual children to stand in front of their cars to prove that FSD could, in fact, detect and stop for children and that the tests didn’t work because testers used mannequins.
Alongside the deranged response from Musk fans, other critical observers noted potential flaws in the testing, such as one video clip that appeared to show that FSD wasn’t activated properly during the test. The Dawn Project released additional footage that showed FSD was activated, but there are still inconsistencies.
Others have raised concerns over Dawn Project founder Dan O’Dowd’s motives. O’Dowd launched a Senate campaign in California that was explicitly focused on Tesla’s FSD, and O’Dowd also runs Green Hill Software, which does business with Tesla competitors like General Motors, BMW, and Ford, according to The Verge. The videos released by the Dawn Project were part of an advertising campaign intended to sway the U.S. Congress to ban Tesla’s FSD.
Interestingly, The Verge noted that Tesla doesn’t appear to have filed objections to fan videos using real children to test FSD, although the letter comes days after YouTube removed several such videos. However, Tesla described the Dawn Project videos as portraying “unsafe and improper use of FSD Beta and active safety features” in the letter.
In response to the letter, O’Dowd called “Master Scammer Musk” a “crybaby.”
Regardless of your thoughts on O’Dowd and the Dawn Project, the concerns raised about FSD are legitimate. Critics have taken issue with Tesla allowing regular people to test beta software on public roads, and there have been calls for regulators to step in. Others have accused Tesla of being misleading with the name and marketing of FSD. Musk has repeatedly promised FSD would become fully autonomous, but as of now, the system still requires the driver to stay engaged and ready to stop or correct the vehicle. Tesla also fired an employee over videos they uploaded showing issues with FSD.