Tesla threatens to sue critic over ads showing cars mowing down kid-sized mannequins

Green Hills Software CEO paid for an ad campaign showing Tesla vehicles mowing down child-sized mannequins, and Tesla is having none of it.


Tesla is threatening legal action against The Dawn Project and Green Hills Software CEO, Dan O’Dowd, following a recent TV ad campaign that he paid for which paints the company’s vehicles in a negative light.

In the ad, which went live on August 9, a Tesla vehicle can be seen on a closed test track mowing down a child-sized mannequin. To make matters worse for Tesla, the ad pokes at signature vehicle features, suggesting that it had “engaged Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system” otherwise known as Full Self-Driving (FSD).

O’Dowd also narrates the ad himself saying, “A hundred thousand Tesla drivers are already using Full Self-Driving on public roads. I’m Dan O’Dowd. I’m a safety engineer. And Tesla Full Self-Driving is the worst commercial software I’ve ever seen — tell Congress to shut it down.”

O’Dowd reportedly spent a whopping “seven figures” on these ads according to CNBC, with the ads “airing on hundreds of TV stations reaching over 60 percent of households in America.” And, as reported by CNBC, Tesla is noted as having sent a cease and desist letter citing the ad contains “misinformation about Tesla” and that it misuses and misrepresents “the capabilities of Tesla’s technology” among other issues.

“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,” Tesla’s cease and desist letter reads.

It goes on to demand The Dawn Project remove these ads, issue a public retraction, disclose funding for the tests and ads, and disclose whether any regulatory agencies endorsed The Dawn Project’s methodology or test results. Essentially, Tesla is having none of The Dawn Project’s advertisement shenanigans.

Neither are Tesla supporters, with some doing their own FSD Beta tests at home and getting their own children to participate. YouTube has subsequently been taking these videos down and flagging them as “harmful content.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also taken to social media to let off some steam, tweeting with the help of emojis to convey that he thinks O’Dowd is crazy.

While O’Dowd’s ad is a major dig at Tesla, it’s not the first to take aim at the vehicle’s FSD. Back at the beginning of August, California’s DMV accused Tesla of false advertisement in regards to how it promoted both its Autopilot and FSD.

With these developments, it’ll be interesting not only to see how the feud between Tesla’s Elon Musk and The Dawn Project’s Dan O’Dowd plays out, but also how Tesla will handle more formal accusations from the CA DMV and whether it’ll change the way it promotes these features.

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

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