Tesla issued a cease-and-desist order to Dawn Project, a group run by billionaire Dan O’Dowd. The advocacy group has launched a nationwide TV ad campaign claiming Teslas equipped with the beta version of its Full Self-Driving software “will indiscriminately mow down children.
Scrutiny of the “safety test” has many questioning the veracity of O’Dowd’s claims.
Our new safety test of @ElonMusk’s Full Self-Driving Teslas discovered that they will indiscriminately mow down children.— Dan O'Dowd (@RealDanODowd) August 9, 2022
Today @RealDawnProject launches a nationwide TV ad campaign demanding @NHTSAgov ban Full Self-Driving until @ElonMusk proves it won’t mow down children. pic.twitter.com/i5Jtb38GjH
The multimillion-dollar ad attack is part of O’Dowd’s single-issue campaign for California Senate, where “he vowed not to talk about anything except Tesla and more broadly how security of America’s power grids and water treatment plants are deeply vulnerable to cyber attacks,” according to Politico, which reports that formally running for office gives him a “higher degree of First Amendment protection for his loaded claims about Tesla.”
The commercials, and a full-page ad in The New York Times, spurred communities of Tesla fans to reenact the tests in the video with mannequins and their own children. In one video, Tad Park, CEO of a pro Tesla investment firm, said, “I would trust my ‘kids' lives with (FSD Beta).” The Tesla stops when it senses Park’s 5-year-old in the road, though the driver was able to stop manually at any time.
O’Dowd runs a company called Green Hills Software, and says he creates software that “never fails and can’t be hacked.” He works in a variety of industries and provides software to legacy car manufacturers that directly compete with Tesla’s FSD software.
An Electrek investigation of Dawn Project’s full test videos points out that the impact speeds reported in the released data do not match the speeds in the videos, and states “it’s clear that The Dawn Project is manipulating the result and footage of those tests.”
In the cease-and-desist letter, Tesla deputy general counsel Dinna Eskin wrote that “the purported tests misuse and misrepresent the capabilities of Tesla’s technology.” According to The Washington Post, “O’Dowd said he did not intend to take down the video commercial and instead pledged more money into the effort.”
Elon Musk and O’Dowd clashed on Twitter, as O’Dowd posted “Master Scammer Musk threatens to sue me over a tv ad. Turns out Mr. Free Speech Absolutist is just another crybaby hiding behind his lawyer’s skirt. Guess I hurt his wittle feewings.”
Musk responded by saying “Green Hills software is a pile of trash.”
Many express concerns about Tesla’s FSD software being rolled out to thousands of cars, while it is still in development. The National Law Review published many of its concerns including lack of self-driving regulations, cyber attacks, imperfect technology and more. The Washington Post analyzed footage of drivers using new Tesla software, and found that “as currently designed, FSD could be dangerous on public roadways.”