- Tesla issued a cease and desist letter to a tech CEO who launched an ad criticizing FSD.
- The viral ad appeared to show Tesla FSD crashing into a child-sized mannequin.
- Dan O'Dowd has said he does not plan to back down, despite Tesla's legal threat.
Tesla threatened to take legal action against a tech CEO who launched a viral ad campaign criticizing the carmaker's Full Self-Driving (FSD) software.
The carmaker has accused Dan O'Dowd and his advocacy group, The Dawn Project, of a defaming Tesla and misrepresenting its software in an ad campaign that appeared to show the software failing to recognize a child-sized mannequin and crashing into it at about 25 miles per hour.
A Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.
In a cease and desist letter dated August 11, Tesla demands that O'Dowd, the CEO of Green Hills Software, take the video down, issue a public retraction, and send all material from the video to Tesla within 24 hours of receiving the letter.
"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," the letter reads. "In fact, unsolicited scrutiny of the methodology behind The Dawn Project's tests has already (and within hours of you publicly making defamatory allegations) shown that the testing is seriously deceptive and likely fraudulent."
When the video was released several Tesla fans and blogs questioned whether the car was really under the influence of FSD or if the test was tampered with, sparking copycat tests, including some attempts to test the software with real children.
The Dawn Project has said the test was performed by a professional test driver under affidavit. But, it was not conducted with the oversight of a US regulator — meaning it was not subject to any testing standards.
In a lengthy response to the cease and desist letter, O'Dowd said he is not backing down.
"I dare you to come out and defend this technology," O'Dowd said in response to Tesla's letter. "Tesla Full Self-Driving software has no future. It is the most incompetently designed, implemented, and tested commercial software I have ever seen."
The Tech CEO — who provides embedded safety and security systems to several automakers, including Ford — also mocked Elon Musk on Twitter.
—Dan O'Dowd (@RealDanODowd) August 25, 2022
O'Dowd has been outspoken in his criticism of FSD in the past and his latest ad is one of several that The Dawn Project has posted, criticizing the service. He launched The Dawn Project last year to ban what he describes as unsafe software from safety systems. Since then, the organization has been actively testing Tesla's software.
The latest campaign, which is funded by O'Dowd, is calling for Congress to shut the Tesla program down. The CEO previously attempted to run for Senate on a platform based solely on banning Tesla FSD.
Tesla's FSD has sparked controversy in the past. Last month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles filed a complaint against the electric-car maker, alleging it has used "untrue or misleading" statement in advertising its driver assistance programs.
Though FSD claims to be fully self-driving, in reality it operates as an optional add-on that enables Teslas to automatically change lanes, enter and exit highways, recognize stop signs and traffic lights, and park. The software is still in a beta testing mode and requires a licensed driver to monitor it at all times.