Tesla’s Biggest Hater Airs Super Bowl Ad Against FSD • TechCrunch

Photo credit: The Dawn Project

Safety group The Dawn Project is taking its campaign to ban Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) system to the Super Bowl.

The 30-second advertisement, which will be broadcast to millions of football fans in Washington DC and state capitals including Austin, Tallahassee, Albany, Atlanta and Sacramento, outlines several alleged critical safety deficiencies of Tesla FSD, the automaker’s advanced driver assistance system (ADAS). .

FSD isn’t truly fully self-driving, although it can perform some automated driving tasks like maneuvering through city streets and freeways without driver input. The $15,000 system isn’t perfect, however, and drivers must remain vigilant to take over in case the system fails or encounters something it can’t handle. There have been several reports of accidents occurring while Autopilot, Tesla’s ancillary ADAS, was engaged. As a result, Tesla has been criticized, investigated and sued for mismarketing the capabilities of its automated driving systems.

This latest criticism comes as Tesla recently released its latest version of FSD to around 400,000 drivers in North America, renewed concerns about the system’s safety. Last month, a Tesla engineer testified that a 2016 demo in which the company claimed its car drove itself was actually staged.

The Super Bowl commercial features a collection of incriminating videos of Teslas behaving erratically, while a voiceover claims FSD will “run over a kid at a school crosswalk, swerve into oncoming traffic, hit a baby in a stroller, drive straight past stopped school buses, ignore the “do not enter” signs and even drive on the wrong side of the road.”

The Dawn Project claims that Tesla’s “deceptive marketing” and “woefully inept engineering” endanger the public, and is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Department of Motor Vehicles to shut down FSD until all safety deficiencies are addressed.

The founder of the Dawn Project, Dan O’Dowd, is also the CEO of Green Hill Software, a company that develops operating systems for embedded safety and security systems, as well as its own automated driving systems. This fact gives immediate credibility to the organization’s potential expertise and makes it clear that Green Hill is in competition with Tesla’s FSD. Last year, The Dawn Project ran a full-page ad in the New York Times claiming that Tesla’s FSD had “a critical malfunction every eight minutes.”

O’Dowd, who ran for and lost a US Senate seat last November, says he’s investing in the new ad campaign because he wants to pressure politicians to prioritize driver assistance system safety. Some politicians like Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) have called for more oversight of Tesla’s technology, but the issue hasn’t exactly gone mainstream.

After The Dawn Project aired a commercial last summer in which a Tesla Model 3 crashed into four different child-size mannequins while driving at a test track in California, Tesla sent the organization a cease and desist letter. The letter refuted all of the campaign’s claims, redoubled Tesla’s commitment to safety, and called for the Dawn Project’s methodology to be questioned.

“The alleged tests abuse and misrepresent the capabilities of Tesla technology and ignore generally accepted tests conducted by independent agencies and the experiences shared by our customers,” Dinna Eskin, a Tesla attorney, wrote in last year’s cease and desist letter . “Indeed, an unsolicited investigation into the methodology behind The Dawn Project’s tests has already shown (and within hours after they publicly made defamatory allegations) that the tests are seriously misleading and likely fraudulent.”

Tesla supporters also rushed to defend the technology, including an investor who tested the FSD beta with his own child. O’Dowd offered to personally conduct the test with Musk and other critics to prove the accuracy and methodology of his tests.

“Tesla remains focused on features and marketing gimmicks rather than addressing critical security flaws,” O’Dowd said in a statement. “Elon even stated that Tesla’s priorities were Smart Summon, Autopark and Optimus, not ensuring that FSD does not shut down children. It’s clear Tesla’s priorities are wrong and it’s time for the regulator to step in and shut down the software until all the issues we’ve identified are fixed.”

Tesla hasn’t publicly responded to the Super Bowl ad, but CEO Elon Musk has answered to a tweet showing the ad with the laughing emoji rolling on the floor. Tesla dissolved its PR department in 2020, leaving TechCrunch unable to comment.

In addition to the Super Bowl ads, The Dawn Project is also running a series of full-page ads in Politico and running additional television ads in Washington, D.C. “where the regulators are located” urging FSD to be disabled until critical safety deficiencies are addressed.

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