In an attention-grabbing ad slot during Sunday's Super Bowl, Tesla's self-driving technology was subjected to a stark critique. A campaign by The Dawn Project urged viewers to boycott the electric vehicle maker, citing safety concerns and labeling the technology as defective, as reported by The Hill.
The ads from The Dawn Project, which echoed sentiments from a previous Super Bowl campaign, depicted a Tesla on Autopilot cruising through a parking lot and hitting child-sized dummies. The group's website blasts Tesla's tech, saying, "Here's what Elon Musk doesn't want you to know: He sells defective self-driving software by telling consumers it is many times safer than a human driver, when in fact it drives like a drunk teenager." This extreme demonstration was part of an ongoing effort to highlight what the organization sees as the dangers inherent in Tesla's hands-free tech.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also scrutinized Tesla's Autopilot. In December, the agency attributed crashes to incorrect use of the software, which led to the recall of about two million Tesla vehicles. The recall necessary for Autopilot updates was grudgingly accepted by Tesla, who disagreed with the NHTSA's conclusions but proceeded with updates, as The Hill detailed.
Despite Tesla's stance, the Autopilot feature, capable of changing lanes, and automating acceleration and braking, cannot be considered fully self-driving. Notably, the software has been lambasted for allowing drivers to disengage, to the point where a driver might not even be seated behind the wheel while the car is in motion. Additionally, the California attorney general started a separate investigation into the safety of Tesla's Autopilot and vehicles this past July, adding more layers to the company's legal and regulatory challenges.
Elon Musk's company has faced its fair share of NHTSA recalls and safety investigations, with previous recalls specifically targeting the self-driving software. The recent 'Boycott Tesla' Super Bowl ads represent yet another public relations hurdle for the iconic electric car manufacturer.