It took a while, but Tesla finally seems to be putting some effort into curbing an aggressive and controversial anti-FSD ad that claims that the company’s advanced driver assist system is unsafe and will “indiscriminately mow down children.” A cease-and-desist letter from the electric vehicle maker has reportedly been sent to The Dawn Project, an advocacy group from Dan O’Dowd, the CEO of Green Hills Software, a company that is also developing self-driving software.
The Anti-FSD Ad
Earlier this month, O’Dowd, through The Dawn Project, started pushing an anti-FSD ad that supposedly showed a Model 3 hitting a child-sized mannequin while FSD was engaged. The video and O’Dowd’s succeeding Twitter commentary were salacious, so it was no surprise that the ad’s allegations were echoed by numerous news outlets. The campaign attracted attention and criticism from Tesla supporters, however, some of whom proceeded to point out discrepancies in the anti-FSD ad.
A number of FSD Beta testers, who have been using Tesla’s advanced driver-assist system for years, proceeded to conduct tests of their own, showing that FSD Beta does stop for people. Others observed that the driver of the Model 3 in O’Dowd’s test intentionally ignored safety warnings from the vehicle. Even EV fan blog Electrek pointed out a number of inconsistencies with O’Dowd’s supposed FSD test results and data, including a sequence in the ad when the advanced driver-assist system was not engaged at all.
In its cease-and-desist letter, which was retrieved by The Washington Post, Tesla objected to the anti-FSD ad. The company alleged that the footage being pushed by O’Dowd was defamatory and misrepresented the capabilities of its advanced driver-assist system. Tesla demanded that the anti-FSD campaign be immediately halted and the videos be removed.
“The purported tests misuse and misrepresent the capabilities of Tesla’s technology, and disregard widely recognized testing performed by independent agencies as well as the experiences shared by our customers,” Tesla deputy general counsel Dinna Eskin wrote. Tesla also accused O’Dowd’s team of “unsafe and improper use” of FSD Beta. “Your actions actually put consumers at risk,” the EV maker added.
O’Dowd has reacted strongly to the letter. In a post on Twitter, O’Dowd noted that Musk was threatening to sue him. The Green Hills CEO included an incendiary illustration captioned with “Elon Musk’s Idea of Free Speech” on his post, which depicted Musk naked on his plane with a bound woman sandwiched between two male lawyers. The image seems designed to bait Musk, though Tesla itself has not issued a statement about its cease-and-desist letter.
“This letter is so pathetic in terms of whining: Mr. Free Speech Absolutist, just a crybaby hiding behind his lawyers,” O’Dowd told the Post. He also stated that he does not intend to take down his anti-FSD campaign. Instead, O’Dowd has pledged to put even more money into his anti-FSD efforts.
Not the First Time
This is not the first time that Dan O’Dowd has put Tesla in his crosshairs. Earlier this year, O’Dowd ran for California Senate with the sole purpose of stopping Tesla’s driver-assist systems, which he claims are the worst he has seen. For context, O’Dowd has stated that his software never fails and is unhackable, a claim that has been challenged by cyber security advocates.
Interestingly enough, Politico reported that O’Dowd actually did not plan to win a seat in the CA Senate at all — he was simply in the race because running for office entitled him to the lowest available ad rate in the run-up to the election. It also granted a higher degree of first amendment protection for his loaded claims against Tesla. Ultimately, O’Dowd ended up spending $3.8 million during his campaign — one of the most out of CA Senate candidates— but it resulted in him only getting 1.1% of the votes.
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