Our colleagues from Electrek spotted a particularly aggressive campaign clip against Tesla and the Autopilot driver assistance system. Dan O’Dowd, who is running for a senator’s seat, describes himself as a billionaire and founder of Green Hills Software, a publisher of operating systems and programming tools.
His campaign is nevertheless quite special, since he decided to focus it on one and the same subject: the dangers of the Tesla Fully Autonomous Driving system. He has thus invested several million dollars in vitriolic clips against the manufacturer. But the last clip that the aspiring city councilor has just put online, seems to cross a red line all the same.
Does Tesla’s Autopilot ignore children? Not so fast…
Indeed, we discover a test in which a Tesla hits mannequins the size of children without stopping. The video explains that the vehicle is equipped with the latest beta version of the Fully Autonomous Driving software (10.12.2) – and that the Autopilot system was engaged.
In particular, we can read in the description: “Our safety test of the ability of Tesla Fully Autonomous Driving technology to avoid dummies imitating small children demonstrated conclusively that Tesla Fully Autonomous Driving software does not avoid children, and does not even slow down not when a child-sized mannequin is straight ahead”.
For the rest, this video (which, we remind you, is a campaign clip) does not hesitate to go from extreme to extreme to better shoot red balls against the manufacturer. Until the somewhat simplistic narration of these 30 seconds: “Elon Musk says Tesla’s Fully Autonomous Driving software is ‘awesome’ and will really surprise you, but does it really work?
Before showing three clashes with the famous models. And to remember that more than 100,000 Tesla drivers are already using the beta feature in the United States. The candidate for the Senate concludes, not hesitating in passing to invent a new specialty: “I’m Dan O’Dowd, I’m a safety engineer, and the Fully Autonomous Driving software is the worst commercial software I’ve ever seen.”
And to drive the point home: “say STOP to Congress” accompanied by the telephone number of his permanence. However, a detail escaped the production of this clip. Yet clues cast doubt on the very fact that the Fully Autonomous Driving system was indeed engaged each time the car hit a dummy.
Figures, images… there are a lot of inconsistencies
As the campaign site Electrek reports, in each test the Tesla accelerated to 65 km/h before the Fully Autonomous Driving system was engaged – about 100 meters from the dummy. In the results, however, we can see that the speed during the impact was still around 40 km/h.
Electrek believes the only plausible explanation for these results is that the driver did not actually activate the system and that the car, contrary to what the senator says in the video, decelerated in the last 100 meters before impact. But that’s not all: in the clip itself, we briefly see the console of the Tesla while the vehicle is engaged between the cones, in the area where the system should be engaged.
But we can clearly see the system is not working, since the direction prediction remains gray (and not blue) and the Autopilot icon does not appear in the upper left corner. According to Elektrek, it would even have been abnormal if the system could be activated at the test location, without technical intervention.
The system, in beta, is indeed still based on mapping data and the test was carried out on a closed race track – which is not included in the areas where the activation of the feature is possible. Our colleagues therefore asked the campaign team for an explanation – and received an answer that left far too much room for interpretation on the supposed activation of the assistance system.
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Later another campaign video was uploaded in which the feature is seen activating on screen (with the same images of models being rammed). Electrek underlines despite everything that the figures of The Dawn Project remain inconsistent compared to the images and the rather violent affirmations of the candidate.