As always, the Super Bowl attracted its share of car companies; but there was one company which did not advertise, but still got its 30 seconds. That was almost inevitably Tesla, and the ad was from Dan O’Dowd’s Dawn Project.
The ad, as you can see, slams Tesla’s self-driving feature. The company has for years charged buyers thousands of dollars up front for self-driving “when it’s ready.” Until recently, when it went into beta, self-driving was not ready despite CEO Elon Musk’s posting of a video of his wife “driving” while blindfolded. This was countered by some fine print warnings in the owner’s manual.
One of the issues with Tesla’s implementation of self-driving goes beyond irresponsible marketing; Elon Musk has insisted that cars should be able to guide themselves using only cameras, and recent software updates stopped using radar information for guidance. Conventional automakers such as Chrysler and GM use both radar and video to avoid false alerts and avoid faux pas like striking trucks painted the same color as the sky or background, or running into stopped fire engines, or getting fatally confused when the sun is in the wrong place.
Whether the ad stops people from buying Teslas, or under the “all publicity is good publicity” rule actually increases their sales, is a question that may never be answered. The Department of Justice and NHTSA are finally looking into “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving,” but Musk has escaped any real penalties related to behaviors such as telling stockholders that he was going to take Tesla private at $420 per share. So far there’s no word from the FTC on whether it will investigate the charges for a technology which for years was promised “in a few months.”
Some reviewers who have compared “self-driving” systems have put GM’s Super Cruise at the top of the list.