The goal of a serious messaging campaign is to reach as far and wide as possible, and as deeply as possible. Whereas you’d typically expect a “Big Oil” campaign to reach conservatives, Fox News viewers, and moderates easily exposed to the messaging campaign, you wouldn’t expect progressives — especially noteworthy and boundary-pushing progressives — to be sucked into the messaging campaign and even repeating the talking points. Since when do progressives and Big Oil end up on the same side of an issue?
Unfortunately, in the case of clear campaigns against Tesla, progressives — even progressives strongly focused on solving our climate crisis — keep getting sucked into illogical anti-Tesla smear campaigns. It has happened with a handful of topics. The most recent example (that I’m aware of) concerns Autopilot. And I should be clear: I don’t know of any specific Big Oil campaigns focused specifically on that topic. However, there is no doubt that some forces routinely initiate, overhype, inflate, and obsessively push fears regarding Autopilot. These include short sellers and perhaps also players in Big Oil and Big Auto.
Autopilot is an easy topic to smear and try to limit or harm. The data are clear that Autopilot improves safety. From using it myself, I see it as a huge safety boon. No, I don’t abuse it and I am intent on remaining alert while using it — pretending I’m driving even though I’m not really. However, people are naturally fearful of cars driving themselves. Driving is no easy task! While there are countless accidents a day, if there is a single Autopilot-related accident in a year, it easily gets a ton of press and freaks people the freak out. DON’T GO AUTO-DRIVING THAT NEWFANGLED ROBOT CAR NEAR ME! Okay, even if most people don’t have that severe of a reaction, many do get concerned about the technology irrationally.
The latest news on this is the most disappointing yet for me:
This is the power of smear campaigns. Worth a story.
Markey is a superb Congressman and one of the greenest there are. He cares about citizens, but he's not a @CleanTechnica reader.
— Zachary Shahan (@zshahan3) November 21, 2019
Ed Markey is a freakin’ awesome senator. He has been a leading proponent of climate action in Congress, as well as other good legislation. He is a thoughtful, compassionate man. Nonetheless, someone somewhere somehow scared him about Autopilot. Shutting down Autopilot or weakening its features would lower the quality of life for many people, would make streets less safe, and would lead to more premature deaths due to auto accidents. Also, it would be counterproductive in the fight against climate catastrophe. It makes no sense.
As Johnna has already written, the problem at hand is that some people implement hacks to utilize Autopilot without being nagged to move the steering wheel from time to time. That’s no reason to turn off or limit a technology that is making people safer and cutting emissions, though. In fact, people implement hacks on many driver-assistance packages from other automakers, and in ways that are even less safe, but are there efforts to get those driver-assistance packages eliminated or weakened?
People need to be responsible and use technology the way it was intended to be used. If Senator Markey or others want to implement something to ensure that, perhaps push through penalties for people who are caught implementing homegrown defeat devices and cheating the system. Perhaps a comprehensive education campaign would be more effective. But please, oh please, don’t fall into the trap of pushing campaigns aimed to harm Tesla that originated with TSLA short sellers, Big Oil, Big Auto, or some other harmful and biased anti-Tesla, anti-progress group.
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