Tesla has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Dawn Project, an advocacy group attempting to discredit the automaker’s advanced driver assistance systems. It alleges that the footage shown in a video produced by the group is defamatory and misrepresents its technologies.
In a letter seen by The Washington Post, Tesla objects to the video, which shows one of its vehicles purportedly in “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) mode, running over child-size mannequins at speeds of up to 20 mph (32 km/h).
The footage has been shared online and used in TV commercials, and the test was funded by Dan O’Dowd, a billionaire and the founder of Green Hills Software. That company makes operating systems for airplanes and automobiles and could, therefore, be seen as a Tesla competitor, as critics of the Dawn Project (which O’Dowd is also behind) have pointed out.
One such critic, Electrek’s Fred Lambert, may be helping fuel Tesla’s legal position. Its cease-and-desist letter leaned heavily on an Electrek report that questioned whether or not FSD was actually engaged, citing the video’s in-vehicle footage of the mannequin test. Indeed, Dinna Eskin, Tesla’s deputy general counsel, dated the letter August 11, one day after the report was published.
“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,” wrote Eskin.
Aspects of Electrek’s report have come into question, though. The Dawn Project pointed to raw data and other information that indicated that the Tesla vehicle in the test was, in fact, in FSD mode during some demonstrations in the video.
Regardless, the letter demands that the Dawn Project immediately remove videos of the test, and accused the group of “unsafe and improper use” of FSD Beta. “Your actions actually put consumers at risk,” the automaker alleged.
Indeed, one Tesla customer upset by the footage from the mannequin demonstration actually went so far as to attempt to rerun the test with a real child. Although FSD did work in that scenario, video of the test has been taken down by YouTube.
O’Dowd, meanwhile, is unmoved by the cease-and-desist letter, saying in an interview that “this letter is so pathetic in terms of whining.” On Twitter, meanwhile, he said that Elon Musk, whom he called “Mr Free Speech Absolutist” was “hiding behind his lawyers.”
So far the video remains up and O’Dowd said he has no intention of taking it down, pledging instead to put more money into his efforts to discredit the automaker.
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.
— Dan O’Dowd (@RealDanODowd) August 25, 2022