And Tesla owners are willing to risk their own children to disprove it.
You may remember a recent story where Tesla owners began to run safety tests of the company's Full Self-Driving software using their own children as test dummies. This dangerous video has since been removed from YouTube for violating the company's terms of service. We're still reeling from the knowledge that people would do this.
The bizarre incident was sparked by a commercial from Green Hills Software CEO Dan O'Dowd, which shows a Tesla Model 3 (running on FSD) plowing into a child-sized mannequin. Owners wanted to prove the video was inaccurate, which is why they volunteered their own children for the risky stunt.
As it turns out, it's not just private owners who were angered by the O'Dowd video - Tesla itself is furious. The Washington Post obtained a cease-and-desist aimed at the Dawn Project, an anti-FSD group started by O'Dowd.
The nationwide TV campaign urges Congress and the NHTSA to ban FSD from public roads until "Elon Musk proves it won't mow down children." Though FSD remains enabled, the advertisement has sparked criticism towards Tesla and may negatively impact the stock price. Tesla's fervent online community quickly struck back, claiming the test in the video must have been manipulated. As we mentioned earlier, some owners were so confident that FSD would function properly that they risked their own children's lives testing it on video.
To be clear, testing crash-avoidance technology on live human beings, particularly children, is not something we can lend our support to. However, the mannequin test is concerning and highlights the system's shortcomings. Instead of getting lawyers involved, perhaps Tesla ought to address the public and condemn the crash tests owners performed on their kids. At the same time, it should investigate why the mannequin test that O'Dowd is promoting failed.
The NHTSA has already warned Tesla owners not to perform potentially life-threatening tests on their own families. "No one should risk their own or anyone else's life to test the performance of vehicle technology," the agency said. "Consumers should never try to create their own test scenarios or use real people, especially children, to test a car."
Tesla issued the cease-and-desist because it believes the video demonstrates "unsafe and improper use" of the FSD software. "Your actions actually put consumers at risk," the company says in the document.
O'Dowd has refused to take down his video claiming, "this letter is so pathetic in terms of whining: Mr. Free Speech Absolutist, just a crybaby hiding behind his lawyers." O'Dowd has even dropped more funds into the ad campaign, and he's a billionaire too, so this spat could go on for ages.
Elon Musk has not made any public statements regarding the situation, other than a single tweet calling him, "Real Scam O'Dowd."
We're not sure how a test with a life-sized mannequin puts consumers at risk and claiming it does so seems totally unfounded, but O'Dowd's response is equally silly. The pair of you are adults and billionaires, and you ought to treat each other with some respect, not childish disdain. Name-calling achieves nothing.
If Tesla can prove that FSD never engaged during the video, it may have a case to have the campaign taken down in a lawsuit. However, if the test was accurate and FSD may potentially crash into children, it may warrant a deeper look from the NHTSA. O'Dowd isn't the only powerful individual lobbying against FSD; American activist Ralph Nader has also argued that Tesla's software is potentially dangerous.
All of this suggests that the time will soon come when the government is forced to address the issue in a resolute manner, but for now, anyone who has a spare $15,000 can add FSD to their new Tesla.