tesla key implant vpx 2 car
Tesla owner has his car key implanted in his hand
01:40 - Source: CNN
Washington, DC CNN  — 

This month, Tesla fans rushed to defend the automaker after a prominent critic released a video showing one of the company’s cars with the feature it calls “full self-driving” plowing into child-size mannequins. Some fans built or bought mannequins and child-size dummies to use in their own tests. Others asked their kids to stand in front of a Tesla to prove the cars are safe near children.

Some of the videos have drawn scrutiny from YouTube and Tesla. YouTube has taken down several test videos involving actual children, citing safety risks. (Children were not harmed or injured in the published videos.) Now, Tesla wants the video that started it all taken down, too.

The automaker sent a cease-and-desist letter claiming defamation on Aug. 11 to Dan O’Dowd, a software company CEO and outspoken critic of “full self-driving,” demanding that he remove critical videos. O’Dowd had also published an additional video showing similar results on a public street following criticism of his methodology by Tesla supporters.

Tesla deputy general counsel Dinna Eskin warned of legal action if O’Dowd did not comply with the automaker’s demands. The cease-and-desist letter was surfaced Thursday by The Washington Post.

O’Dowd responded to the cease-and-desist with a 1,736-word post in which he pushed back at the suggestion his posts were defamatory, defended his tests and returned barbs from Musk and some Tesla supporters.

“I can afford not to be intimidated by these threats,” O’Dowd said. Elizabeth Markowitz, a spokesperson for the O’Dowd-led Dawn Project, which he calls an effort to make computers safe for humanity, said O’Dowd was also responding to the letter with an extra $2 million devoted to the video’s promotion.

The ongoing clashes online between Tesla’s fans and detractors highlight both the strong reactions elicited by the car company and the ripple effects of it deploying a test version of a disruptive technology to the public. The driver-assistance feature Tesla calls “full self-driving” is designed to navigate local roads with steering, acceleration and braking, but requires an attentive human driver prepared to take control as the system “may do the wrong thing at the worst time,” Tesla warns drivers.

O’Dowd has said he believes the software controlling self-driving cars should be the best ever written. He ran unsuccessfully for US Senate in California earlier this year, with a campaign focused solely on his critique of “full self-driving.” O’Dowd is the founder and CEO of Green Hills Software.

Tesla fan backlash

Tesla fans who felt O’Dowd’s video was unfair took to YouTube to share footage from their own tests.