Tesla accuses videos of self-driving cars driving over child mannequins of being ‘defamatory’

Dawn is a fundamentally anti-Tesla group led by software developer Dan O’Dowd. The workhorse of the latter is to ensure that the on-board FSD (Full Self Driving) autonomous driving software of Tesla cars is permanently banned.

Recently, The Dawn Project released a series of videos in which Tesla cars, FSD activated, can supposedly be seen rolling over and running over small mannequins, dressed in high visibility vests and placed on pedestrian crossings, all at around 30 km/h.

Dinna Eskin, director and assistant general counsel of Tesla wrote a letter of formal notice to Dan O’Dowd, as reported by the Washington Post.

“It has come to our attention that you, personally, and The Dawn Project have disparaged Tesla’s business interests and disseminated defamatory information to the public regarding the capabilities of Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) (Beta) technology […] We ask that you immediately cease and desist from spreading any defamatory material, issue a formal public retraction within 24 hours, and provide Tesla with the documentation requested below.”

A few days earlier, the YouTube platform had deleted this same kind of video published by Tesla drivers but carrying out their own safety tests with real children – their own. The latter indeed showed that the cars were stopping, but the Dawn group wanted to provide a counterpoint with the use of child-size mannequins.

Tesla accuses O’Dowd and his group of putting consumers “in danger” with a “dangerous and inappropriate use of beta FSD and active security features”. However, no complaint filed by Tesla against the drivers mentioned above, using real children for these “tests”, seems to have been spotted.

Heated exchanges on Twitter

This is not O’Dowd’s first action against Elon Musk’s technology. At the beginning of the year, he had bought an advertising insert in the New York Timespromising $10,000 to the person who could name “another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company [les 500 premières entreprises américaines, ndlr] which has a critical malfunction every 8 minutess.

Pro-Tesla supporters, for their part, had all the same highlighted the fact that O’Dowd is the boss of Green Hill Software, a software company that does business with General Motors, BMW and Ford, automotive competitors. Musk, on the other hand, simply referred to Green Hill Software on Twitter as “pile of shit”.

In response to Tesla’s letter of demand, O’Dowd wrote on his blog that Musk “crying baby hidden under the skirts of his lawyer” ironic on the qualifier of“free speech absolutist” that Elon Musk had assigned facing the war in Ukraine.

Autonomous driving under the radar

For now, Full Self Driving has remained in beta stage and is available to a chosen few, including pure “lovers”, for $15,000. On paper, it is not yet real “autonomous driving” but of one “driving assistance” advanced, requiring drivers to remain alert and in control of their vehicle. But among Tesla supporters, there is insistence that full vehicle autonomy would be safer than human driving.

Earlier this month, security advocate Ralph Nader called on the US government to federally ban the FSD, calling its deployment a “one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions by an automaker in decades”.

Currently, 16 crashes involving Teslas with driver assistance turned on and emergency vehicles stopped on the road are believed to be under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These accidents resulted in 15 injuries and one death.

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