Why The Dawn Project is Calling for a Boycott of Tesla

This Sunday, The Dawn Project will broadcast two Super Bowl commercials highlighting the dangers of Tesla’s self-driving software.

The ads will draw attention to a series of serious and fatal crashes involving Tesla’s self-driving software on roads where Tesla says its self-driving software isn’t safe.

Crucially, these public safety messages will call on the public to boycott Tesla. 

The Dawn Project has been campaigning for the past two years to ban Tesla’s defective and dangerous self-driving software, focusing on regulatory and political action to protect the public from Tesla’s self-driving cars.

So why are we now calling for the public to boycott Tesla?

We first informed Tesla of the defects we had identified in its self-driving software by publishing a full-page ad in The New York Times in January 2022, calling for the software to be removed from public roads until the defects we had identified had been fixed. 

Since we launched our campaign we have continuously informed Tesla about the defects in its self-driving software. We have launched multiple nationwide television advertising campaigns, further New York Times ads addressing Tesla directly, and have told the world’s media about these issues. Despite our demands that the public should not be crash test dummies for Tesla’s self-driving experiment, Tesla does nothing to fix the critical safety defects.

We have told Congress, meeting with policymakers and regulators to educate them about these potentially fatal defects, and still the software remains on public roads.

This is why we are now calling upon the American public to act. 

We are urging the American public to stand up and say that this disregard for public safety is intolerable and that Tesla must be boycotted. The American people must be made aware of Tesla’s reckless deployment of defective self-driving software on public roads.

Our 2024 Super Bowl Public Safety Announcements

Tesla, regulators and politicians have failed to act, which is why we are urging you to stand up to this egregious public safety concern with two Super Bowl commercials:

This year’s ads highlight how Tesla has endangered road users by allowing Tesla’s self-driving software to activate on roads where Tesla knows it could not operate safely, resulting in multiple fatalities. 

The Dawn Project’s public safety message follows an investigation by The Washington Post revealing the shocking death toll of Tesla Autopilot outside of the Operational Design Domain (a term describing the context in which a software can be considered safe to use) of the software, resulting in “at least eight fatal or serious wrecks involving Tesla Autopilot on roads where the driver assistance software could not reliably operate” according to The Post.

We demand that Tesla is held to account over these deaths, and restricts Autopilot to the controlled-access highways it was designed for.

Tesla misleads the public about the safety of their self-driving software with misleading statistics

We have demonstrated that Tesla misleads the public about the safety of its self-driving software, by misrepresenting its crash statistics. 

Tesla’s statistics on Full Self-Driving’s mileage show that customers are only using the software 14.6% of the time. In Tesla’s latest Q4 2023 earnings call, Elon Musk said that 400,000 customers were using Full Self-Driving. This is the same number that Tesla reported a year ago in its Q4 2022 update.

Tesla faked a demonstration of its self-driving software in 2016 and claimed it was real, misleading customers and investors

In October 2016, Elon Musk ordered his self-driving team to develop a slick demo video of a self-driving car driving a typical employee commute to Tesla headquarters.  In an email, Musk said, “Just want to be absolutely clear that everyone’s top priority is achieving an amazing Autopilot demo drive”. “Since this is a demo, it is fine to hardcode some of it, since we will backfill with production code later.”  After viewing a version of the video Elon Musk said that there were still too many jump cuts, and that the demo footage “needs to feel like one continuous take.”

Musk told his team, “I will be telling the world that this is what the car *will* be able to do, not that it can do this upon receipt.” During a deposition in June 2022, Ashok Elluswamy, the current director of Autopilot software, was asked whether the video accurately reflected the capabilities of Autopilot at the time of its release.

He responded, “The intent of the video was not to accurately portray what was available for customers in 2016, it was to portray what was possible.”

Elluswamy also admitted that when Tesla were filming the video, Autopilot crashed “into a fence in our parking lot.”

But Elon Musk had other plans for the video. According to internal emails, when the video was finally up to Elon Musk’s standards, he dictated that the following opening text be added to the video: The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.

Issued an endless series of false promises about the progress of Tesla’s self-driving software

For ten years, Elon Musk and Tesla have issued a series of false promises about the progress of their self-driving software, constantly claiming that fully autonomous Teslas are just around the corner. 

Allegedly mistreated workers and received accusations of racism from factory workers

Tesla has faced multiple lawsuits from Tesla workers, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over racial abuse and suffering at its factories. 

Quotes from the lawsuits show the horrific abuse suffered by Black Tesla workers. “Swastikas, “KKK,” the n-word, and other racist writing are etched onto walls of restrooms, restroom stalls, lunch tables, and even factory machinery.” 

“One Black worker recalled seeing death threats in the bathroom during breaks, explaining, I saw KKK epithets, a swastika, and the N-Word all over the bathroom. It was so gross and racist I don’t want to discuss it. It would say ‘kill black people,’ ‘kill NWords,’‘hang black people,’ ‘hang N-Words.’”

A copy of the lawsuit filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, an agency of the State of California, may be found here.