Many people — media and talking heads, especially — are grasping at straws with the most recent so-called “recall.” Headlines such as “Tesla recalls 54,000 vehicles that may disobey stop signs” and claims that Tesla is programming vehicles to perform illegal activities are an incredible stretch. This is one reason why what Elon Musk recently said about the media is still true. They’ve been writing misleading articles about him and his companies for years.
They’ve been writing bogus articles about Tesla (and me) for years. In the end, it is their own credibility that suffers.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 31, 2022
In the tweet above, the Associated Press wanted to interview my friend and blogger, Gail Alfar, regarding her recent interactions with Elon Musk about a petition by an anonymous person. The petition, which has been signed by over 42,000 people, is requesting that President Biden acknowledge Tesla’s EV leadership.
Gail and the AP writer had a public conversation, but he wanted to message her privately. She explained that she wanted to keep all communications public for transparency and then he later published this article about the petition while painting her and the others who signed as “Tesla loyalists.”
If you look at the meaning of the world loyalist, it describes a person who wants to “remain loyal to the established ruler or government especially in the face of a revolt.” Why was this particular term used to describe people who support a company that makes cars and solar panels? Does this writer see us as the enemy? Are we at war? Or was he trying to insult Gail for wanting to keep the conversation open for transparency?
Many journalists tend to care about the drama and making a quick buck from sensationalistic headlines. The money may be good, but is it worth it?
NHTSA issuing a safety recall on all Tesla FSD beta cars as they can perform a rolling stop. This is going to become a really tricky topic. Yes, rolling stops are illegal. So is speeding. But maybe matching human behavior is better than legal exactitude. https://t.co/oCmJBvDQBM
— QuinnNelson.egg (@SnazzyQ) February 1, 2022
The core issue is that Tesla’s artificial intelligence is evolving so well that it’s beginning to mimic human behavior — and unfortunately humans don’t follow the letter of the law precisely. Quinn Nelson pointed this out and it should serve as a reminder to anyone reporting on this topic that we need to be fair in covering these topics.
As someone said yesterday, if an OTA update is a recall then every iPhone security update is too. Get with the times @NHTSAgov: if the cars don’t need hands-on service, it’s an update, not a recall.
— Scott Wainner (@scottwww) February 2, 2022
Yes, it’s illegal to perform a rolling stop. Yes, Tesla’s FSD started doing this in one of its driver settings (“assertive”) since there are places where everyone drives like this. Yes, Tesla dropped the feature with an over-the-air update. As it stands, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration wants Tesla to call these kinds of updates “recalls” instead of simply announcing them as software updates. And this is why the mainstream media jumps onto this like a shark would an injured person in the ocean.
Eventually, the public may get so tired of hearing the word “recall” over minor software updates that they may assume something is just another over-the-air update when there’s an actual recall (where the vehicle needs to be taken into service to fix a safety issue), and that could be dangerous. The NHTSA is becoming the child who cries wolf every time Tesla issues an over-the-air update to fix a potential problem.
I agree with Quinn’s take. This is going to be a tricky topic, and as Tesla continues to make progress on its way to Level 4 and 5 FSD (Full Self Driving), we will begin to see the AI become more human-like. This shouldn’t necessarily scare you, though. The AI won’t think “Well, I’m in a rush and no one will notice.” and then do something haphazardly. It won’t be caught up in texting to the point where it would miss a pedestrian crossing in front of it. And it won’t be emotionally connected to any scenario. It will still be sure to check fully that the coast is clear before moving forward.
I really believe that those who cover Tesla with the intent of not telling the actual story but instead painting negatively toned narratives in order to make money are grasping at straws with this whole “recall” thing.
Editor’s note: I might normally think this is more of a non-story than anything else, but in the past few days 1) I had another Tesla owner ask me if I had to do the recall, not realizing it was just a software update (and she was seemingly a bit concerned that it was more than it was); and 2) I heard a segment on a morning radio talkshow in which the host was emphatically railing against Tesla FSD for apparently flying through stop signs (it was not clear if he knew the feature just offered slow rolling stops like I’m sure he and everyone listening perform every day). His few minutes on this topic also talked about phantom braking, and overall made Teslas sound super scary. Interestingly, while he emphatically doesn’t want a Tesla at all and is not into broader autonomous driving development (he also railed against a GM Super Cruise commercial), his 81-year-old father has a new Tesla Model S.
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