Santa Barbara, CA – Public Safety Advocacy Group The Dawn Project has released footage showing that a Full Self-Driving Tesla can easily be turned into a driverless robotaxi with just a few household items. These everyday objects easily circumvent the vehicle’s driver monitoring system, which Tesla was forced to install in its vehicles to ensure that the driver is always actively supervising the self-driving software after a fatal 2016 crash.

The Dawn Project’s latest safety tests show that Tesla’s driver monitoring system fails to register that no-one is in the driver’s seat and that the self-driving software functions as an autonomous robotaxi.

The video shows how a broom, a 2lb dumbbell and small 30lb kettlebell can be used to circumvent Tesla’s driver monitoring system and drive autonomously, without any driver input or attention. The household equipment totals only $99 and turns Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software, which Tesla states must be supervised by a fully attentive driver, into a fully driverless system. The Dawn Project’s video shows the driver sitting in the passenger’s seat while the Tesla drives itself down a quiet road in Santa Barbara, CA.

A full list of the safety defects admitted by Tesla can be read here, these include Tesla warning that its self-driving software:

“May do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road”.

“Suddenly swerve even when driving conditions appear normal and straight-forward”.

“May quickly and suddenly make unexpected mistakes that require immediate driver intervention”.

Elon Musk has made numerous public comments about robotaxis being a core element of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software. In 2019 at Tesla’s “AI Day” event, Musk said: “Next year, for sure, we will have over 1 million robotaxis on the road. At that event, Musk also stated that a Tesla owner could earn $30,000 a year by renting out their car as a robotaxi when not in use.

Regulators have only allowed this defective software to be sold to millions of ordinary consumers with the requirement that there is a driver in the car who is paying attention to the road, has both hands on the steering wheel, and is ready to take over immediately.

Research has also shown that the only way to ensure a driver is paying attention is to implement an effective driver monitoring system using cameras. This footage clearly shows that Tesla’s driver monitoring system is unable to determine if the driver is paying attention.

Tesla deceived The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the California DMV into regulating Full Self-Driving as a Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance System, while simultaneously marketing it as a fully autonomous car.

The Dawn Project’s recent tests prove that Tesla’s driver monitoring system fails to register that no one is in the driver’s seat, despite requiring a fully attentive driver to monitor the software.

Joshua Brown’s fatal self-driving collision with a tractor-trailer in June 2016 was attributed to driver inattention by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB said the truck should have been visible to Brown for at least seven seconds before impact. Brown “took no braking, steering or other actions to avoid the collision”, the NTSB report said. As a result, NHTSA required Tesla to add a driver monitoring system to ensure that there is a person in the driver’s seat who is ready to takeover at any second.

These tests follow recent videos released by The Dawn Project showing that Tesla’s driver monitoring system will fail to detect when a driver texts, reads, watches movies or even falls asleep at the wheel. The car also does not recognise when a teddy bear, or nothing at all is in the driver’s seat.

Dan O’Dowd, Founder of The Dawn Project, commented: “Elon Musk promised Tesla’s investors that the company would have autonomous robotaxis on the roads, and that a Tesla owner could earn $30,000 per year from their car operating as a robotaxi. Time has shown these statements to be false. The irony is that Tesla’s driver monitoring system is so defective that Full Self-Driving will operate without a human at the wheel.

“NHTSA has been cheated by Elon Musk, and has allowed 400,000 of Tesla’s unfinished Full Self-Driving (Beta) engineering prototypes on public roads, even though it actively initiates unpredictable and potentially fatal steering and acceleration actions.

“Tesla’s driver monitoring system is a sham. It can’t even tell if there is someone in the driver’s seat. This defective software is not safe and must be taken off public roads immediately. NHTSA forced Tesla to introduce a driver monitoring system to ensure the driver is paying attention to the road. In order to avoid the stringent regulatory approval process applied to Level 4 autonomous vehicles, Tesla duped NHTSA and the DMV into regulating Autopilot and Full Self-Driving as Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.

“Our videos show that Teslas will drive autonomously with no one sitting in the driver’s seat and the steering wheel moving back and forth, just like in a Waymo or Cruise Level 4 autonomous robotaxi. Teslas are Level 4 autonomous vehicles just like the names “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” promise, as had always been Tesla’s intention. Elon Musk recently boasted that people “only fully understand when they’re in [the] driver’s seat, but aren’t driving at all.

“This sham driver monitoring system has already resulted in the lives of over twenty people being squandered. Tesla deceived the regulators and put everyone at unnecessary risk, just to pile up a few billion more dollars.

“A number of the deaths were gruesome crashes that occurred when a self-driving Tesla failed to recognise a large tractor trailer crossing the highway in front of the vehicle, shearing off the Tesla’s roof and killing the driver.

“This raises the question, why didn’t the driver brake? A tractor trailer is usually a very easy thing for a person to see. However, in many of the accidents, it appears that the driver took no action whatsoever to avoid the fatal collision. The only reason the driver would not brake before hitting such a large object is because they were not paying attention.

“If the driver wasn’t paying attention, why weren’t they warned by Tesla’s driver monitoring system, and why didn’t the system disengage self-driving mode as it is supposed to? As our latest videos conclusively demonstrate, the answer is that Tesla’s driver monitoring system is a sham, simply paying lip service to hapless regulators that are asleep at the wheel.”

“Clearly the Full Self-Driving Teslas have the ability to be fully autonomous vehicles. We didn’t modify any of the vehicle’s software.

“However, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to access a secret mode within the Tesla, that some call “Elon Mode”, that deactivates the driver monitoring software and allows the car to operate autonomously, without any reminders to touch the steering wheel. With the flip of a switch the car can be turned into an autonomous vehicle, just as Elon promised consumers, and denied to the regulators.

“Omar Qazi, a prominent Tesla fan and YouTuber, may use this mode in order to record zero intervention drives with no apparent wheel weight. He does not touch the wheel for over thirty minutes and does not receive any alerts or intervention from Tesla’s driver monitoring system.”