The recent Super Bowl in the USA saw a controversial advertisement targeting Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” technology, alleging it’s dangerous and puts lives at risk.
Paid for by The Dawn Project, a privately-funded initiative led by technology entrepreneur Dan O’Dowd, the ad spot cost $US598,000 USD ($A858,000) according to a spokesperson for the Dawn Project, and was broadcast to an estimated 100 million people in the United States.
This campaign was designed to highlight the alleged risks and shortcomings of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technology, and pressure lawmakers to ensure greater road safety.
Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technology, which it labels “Full Self-Driving,” has been at the centre of debates and controversies over the past few years.
While the company claims this technology can help reduce road accidents and fatalities, critics and experts have pointed out it’s far from perfect, and can lead to accidents if not used appropriately.
The ad by The Dawn Project was an attempt to raise awareness about these alleged dangers, and to call for greater scrutiny and regulation of Tesla’s driving technology.
Full Self-Driving is a suite of features allowing Tesla vehicles to accelerate, steer, make turns, and navigate through city and residential streets without human input. While it is included in Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance package, accessing the full range of features requires an additional payment of $15,000.
The 30-second commercial was accompanied by alarming footage claiming “Tesla ‘Full Self-Driving’ will run down a child in a school crosswalk, swerve into oncoming traffic, hit a baby in a stroller, go straight past stopped school buses, ignore ‘do not enter’ signs, and even drive on the wrong side of the road.”
The ad also highlighted the risks of relying too much on Tesla’s driving technology, arguing “no car is capable of driving itself safely. We cannot afford to be complacent”.
Dan O’Dowd has been a vocal critic of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technology for years. His privately-funded initiative aims to promote “safety-critical software” and has targeted Tesla with advertisements that showed the technology failing to recognise child-sized mannequins.
Tesla supporters, on the other hand, have conducted their own tests using real children and have disputed the claims made by The Dawn Project.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has yet to respond to a request for comment regarding criticisms made by Dan O’Dowd, a vocal critic of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving technology.
In the past, Musk has referred to O’Dowd as “crazy,” and some of Musk’s supporters have accused O’Dowd of having a conflict of interest due to his company, Green Hills Software, selling to Mobileye, a company owned by Intel that produces computer chips for driver-assist software.
However, O’Dowd claims his only motivation is concern for the safety of Tesla’s technology, and Mobileye is only one of many customers for his company.
The Super Bowl ad was not the first time Tesla has faced criticism over its driving technology.
The company has been the subject of several investigations and lawsuits over the past few years, with some experts claiming its technology is not advanced enough to ensure safe autonomous driving.
Despite these criticisms, Tesla has continued to develop and market its “Full Self-Driving” technology, which is currently available as an add-on to its electric cars.