The Controversial Videos That Tesla Desperately Wants Taken Down

Dawn Project, a watchdog group, has angered Tesla with one of its videos. The company now wants the videos taken down.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

tesla autopilot

Not everyone is looking forward to the world of self-driving cars. One such group, the Dawn Project, is working overtime to advocate against autonomous vehicles. Now, they have Tesla in their crosshairs. News of a viral and controversial video they released made its way to Tesla executives, who demanded the video get taken down. Take a look at one of the videos in question below.

But who exactly is the Dawn Project? According to its website, its mission is to protect consumers from computer technology that is easily hackable. Their current focus is the safety of fully autonomous vehicles, so they have launched a targeted campaign against Tesla. The Dawn Project receives funding from a software developer named Dan O’Dowd. They are well-known for advocating against Tesla’s rapid advancements in autonomous vehicle production.

Recently, the Dawn Project released the aforementioned video showing a Tesla car running over a child-size mannequin. It is part of their pushback efforts against Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) software. In the video, the FSD-powered Tesla only traveled at 20 mph, the speed limit through most school zones.

News of this controversy comes on the heels of Tesla’s latest FSD announcement. Earlier this week, they released details about the AI technology behind their effort to develop fully autonomous vehicles. The AI is known as Dojo, which is currently undergoing a driver training program.

Tesla claims the video is “defamatory.” They had their lawyers quickly send a cease and desist letter. It demanded the removal of the video, the preservation of all records, and the issuance of a public retraction. In the letter, Tesla’s deputy general counsel stated that – “It has come to our attention that you, personally, and The Dawn Project have been disparaging Tesla’s commercial interests and disseminating defamatory information to the public regarding the capabilities of Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) (Beta) technology.”  But the letter may be too little, too late.

News of the video’s existence quickly spread online and received a significant amount of response videos. Tesla owners who are currently participating in the FSD beta trials decided to put their own vehicles to the test. Many conducted their own experiments to see if the autonomous vehicle could stop in time to avoid hitting a child.

Unfortunately, those videos used real children rather than the mannequins employed by the Dawn Project. The owners made the videos to defend Tesla and show that the FSD software would work as intended. YouTube ended up removing a number of the videos for violating their terms and conditions. But, in a curious turn, Tesla did not object to those. 

They only took issue with the original video published by the O’Dowd group. In the cease and desist letter, Tesla’s lawyers claimed that the Dawn Project video put real-life consumers at risk. It is unclear whether or not they will pursue similar actions against those using real people as test dummies.

As far as the Dawn Project and O’Dowd go, Tesla has threatened further legal action. Thus far, it does not appear the Dawn Project is ready to back down. So this battle may well move from the road to the courts.