Tesla's Self-Driving Safety Questioned at Super Bowl

Tesla’s Elon Musk & The Dawn Project’s Dan O'Dowd are in a car safety-showdown after Super Bowl advert highlights the danger of self-driving cars

The Kansas City Chiefs won the 2024 Super Bowl, thanks to a touchdown from Patrick Mahomes in a 25-22 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, watched by 110m people. As the most-viewed sporting event in the US, an advert played during the Super Bowl can have a higher cost than many feature films. This year, a 30-second advert cost US$7m. One such advert, came from The Dawn Project, which warned viewers about the dangers of Tesla’s self-driving cars.

The battle for safety on the road between EVs and drivers

Dan O'Dowd is the CEO at Green Hills Software and the Founder of The Dawn Project. He is on a personal mission to ‘make computers safe for humanity and ban Tesla Full Self-Driving’. O’Dowd paid money towards the cost of the Super Bowl advert and has called for a boycott of Tesla.

“The people would have it banned if they only knew the truth, if they only understood what it would do,” O’Dowd said. “Well, that’s our job. The politicians aren’t going to move until the public moves.”

In October 2023, a self-driving Tesla switched into the fast lane on the San Francisco Bay Bridge and then braked, causing an eight-car pile up and seriously injuring a child.

Yet every year, there are over 1m deaths on the world’s roads, although not all of these deaths are due to cars - weather, cyclists and conflict are contributing factors to road accidents.

But according to the World Health Organisation, human error is a major cause of road accidents - speeding, driving under the influence or while tired, driving without a seat belt or while being distracted - these are all causes of deaths on the road. Self driving cars would not be at risk of any of these factors, something strongly argued by Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. 

Tesla's safety mission and The Dawn Project's call for responsibility

After The Dawn Project aired a similar advert during the 2023 Super Bowl, Musk took to his platform X to post: “This will greatly increase public awareness that a Tesla can drive itself (supervised for now)”. 

Yet since 2012, Tesla has been forced to recall two million cars, almost all of which were sold in the US, due to problems with the self-driving features.

More recently, Tesla has recalled more vehicles due to warning lights being too small. Tesla argues that it has a ‘moral obligation’ to continue improving its safety systems. 

“We also believe it is morally indefensible not to make these systems available to a wider set of consumers, given the incontrovertible data that shows it is saving lives and preventing injury,” the company said in a statement. 

While the Tesla team looks forward to reducing as many deaths and injuries as possible from roads, The Dawn Project seeks to hold Tesla accountable. Together, they might reduce the number of car accidents and advance self-driving technology. 


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