Home » Why It Feels Like Tesla And Elon Musk Get Away With Everything

Why It Feels Like Tesla And Elon Musk Get Away With Everything

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I wanted to spend the weekend digesting the news of the Tesla leak last week, which is part of a CiCi’s Pizza Buffet of news about the automaker this morning. Maybe I should have a graphic made up that says “WARNING TESLA CONTENT” as there’s a lot of it. Grab a slice of spinach alfredo and let’s dig in.

Also, sorry, TMD is running a little late this morning as I called Bill Caswell to ask one question and we’ve now been on the phone for 90 minutes. He’s been awake for 12 hours and he’s starting to get a little punchy. Ok, here we go, I hope you’re excited about some Tesla data leaks!

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Reported Tesla Leak Shows Thousands of ‘Full Self-Driving’ Issues

tesla infotainment can overheat when fast charging
Photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

As always, pieces about Tesla’s so-called “Full Self-Driving” have to start with a warning that, in fact, Tesla’s driver-assistance system is not a magical car butler that will drive you wherever you want to go. It’s fancy cruise control and if you don’t pay attention to the road, bad things might happen. [Editor’s Note: But at the same time, it’s an impressive bit of engineering. -DT]

It’s no surprise, then, that when “100 gigabytes” of Tesla internal data allegedly from Tesla’s IT system was apparently leaked to German business newspaper Handelsblatt it contained a lot of customers having issues with the car’s autopilot system.

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In fact, the article is titled: “My autopilot almost killed me”: Tesla files cast doubt on Elon Musk’s promises.” If you don’t have an account and you don’t read German, The Verge has a good roundup titled “Tesla leak reportedly shows thousands of Full Self-Driving safety complaints.” It covers the main issues:

The complaints, which were reported across the US, Europe, and Asia, span from 2015 to March 2022. During this period, Handelsblatt says Tesla customers reported over 2,400 self-acceleration issues and 1,500 braking problems, including 139 reports of “unintentional emergency braking” and 383 reports of “phantom stops” from false collision warnings.

Some of the incidents mentioned by Handelsblatt include descriptions of how cars “suddenly brake or accelerate abruptly.” While some drivers safely gained control of their vehicle, Handelsblatt says others “ended up in a ditch, hit walls or crashed into oncoming vehicles.”

The documents obtained by the outlet also outline Tesla’s policies when responding to the issues customers experience and suggest that Tesla likes to keep its vehicles’ data under wraps.

While this is bad, it’s not particularly surprising. Also not surprising is Tesla’s response, which was apparently to avoid answering any questions and then demand that all the data get erased. That’s not a confirmation that this data is real, but Handelsblatt has a good reputation and alleges multiple informants. Here’s the Google translated version from Handelsblatt:

Two weeks ago, our editorial team sent Tesla a comprehensive list of questions. That remained unanswered. Instead, the company demanded that the data be deleted and spoke of data theft.

I think my takeaway, ultimately, is that it doesn’t matter. Tesla and, to an ever greater extent, its CEO Elon Musk are not fond of rules and regulations. There’s a Silicon Valley pretension to the whole operation that assumes that regulators and legislators are so woefully behind the times (mostly true) that it’s worth getting slapped on the wrist to create a better future and make a lot of money (also mostly true).

This approach can be annoying and it’s difficult to keep track of, as Tesla will launch something new overnight, but it can take months (or years) for regulators to respond. It’s also upsetting to those of us who cover the industry and realize that people are, for instance, buying cars they think are self-driving and then they pilot these big, heavy missiles on the same roads I use to drive my daughter to school. It’s a beta test that the rest of us did not sign up for and there’s not a lot we can do about it.

This “move fast and break things” approach can lead to some terrible outcomes, but if it’s not outright fraud (Theranos) then the Silicon Valley folks have learned that the cost of being wrong is worth the humongous valuations you get when you’re right.

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It would not be accurate to say that Tesla gets away with everything. Tesla’s plants have been fined by the EPA for longstanding violations we all knew existed ($275,000). The SEC fined Musk and Tesla $40 million over tweets about the business, though Musk was cleared in a lawsuit over his “funding secured” tweets. Guess what? Tesla is still here. Elon Musk is still among the richest people on this planet. Google is still here. Facebook is still here.

Hell, Volkswagen was part of one of the biggest automotive frauds in history and had to pay billions of dollars over Dieselgate. People went to prison over it. Why does this feel different? Because Volkswagen apologized, took some accountability for its actions, and made some fundamental changes to its EV strategy.

So it seems like Tesla gets away with everything because, often it does and, even when it doesn’t, the penalties are proportionally very small. It’s the ultimate system hack. The bigger you are the easier it is to do bad things and the harder it is for anyone to make you face any real consequences. Is there a line that Tesla could cross that would cause it to be shut down or radically change its behavior? Yes. But our system of government and our economic system are designed for minimum accountability, not maximum accountability.

Tesla and Musk very cleverly wrap their actions in a desire to save the planet from various things (global warming, AI, depopulation, whatever), which means that the means will always be justifiable by the ends to them. 

And they aren’t always wrong! Global climate change is a real thing and Tesla’s eschewing of norms, dealership franchise laws, and everything else helped usher in a new era in the automobile industry. It’s a button that sometimes needs to be pushed, and with great risk comes great rewards, but it’s starting to feel weird that it’s just the same guy who gets to push it over and over again.

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Feds Close Investigation Into Tesla Video Game Mode

Tesla Video Games

In 2001, Tesla came out with a system called “Passenger Play” that allowed passengers to play certain, turn-based games while the car was in drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) immediately cried foul and Tesla quickly disabled the feature.

NHTSA confirmed this week that the investigation was closed and no action, including a recall, was being taken, though they left the door open for future action.

Per Reuters:

NHTSA said in closing the investigation without seeking a recall it was not indicating “a finding by NHTSA that no safety-related defect exists. Furthermore, it does not foreclose the agency from taking further action, if warranted.”

Tesla, which did not immediately respond to a request to comment, told NHTSA that no consumer complaints or collisions had been reported concerning the use of Passenger Play in the subject vehicles during a year of use.

Victory, I guess?

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Elon Musk Is In China Right Now Maybe Doing Diplomacy

The front three-quarter view of the Tesla Cybertruck
Photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

As of this writing, I haven’t seen any tweets from Elon Musk explaining what he’s doing in China (the platform is banned in China), though its assumed he will visit his Shanghai plant. The good (?) news is we have the Chinese government to tell us what the Tesla CEO told Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang earlier today in a meeting. Here’s what we know from a Reuters roundup on the talks:

Musk also told Qin in the meeting that he opposed a decoupling of the U.S. and Chinese economies, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

“The interests of the United States and China are intertwined, like conjoined twins, inseparable from each other,” he was quoted as saying.

And the reverse:

Qin told Musk China was committed to improving the business environment for investors, including Tesla, and used an elaborate driving metaphor to describe China-U.S. relations.

“We must step on the brake in time, avoid dangerous driving and be skillful at using the accelerator,” the ministry quoted Qin as saying

So, not autopilot then, maybe?

Josef Newgarden Wins The Indy 500

The whole of our racing coverage this weekend was telling you about the tire that flew off a race car and nailed a Chevy Cruze so I thought I’d let you know who actually won the race: Josef Newgarden.

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It was an exciting race and I was hoping that Newgarden would win (well, at least since Grosjean crashed out) as he’s a two-time IndyCar Champion and, until this weekend, a zero-time Indy 500 winner. Good stuff.

A fun fact, as well, the race was the fourth closest of all time, with a finish of just 0.974 seconds apart. You can watch it above.

The Big Question

Where’s the line? Where’s the line that Tesla would have to cross where it couldn’t come back? Is there such a line?

All photos from Tesla

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Michael Sharp
Michael Sharp
1 year ago

Excellent article! “The bigger you are the easier it is to do bad things and the harder it is for anyone to make you face any real consequences” pretty much sums it up.

Tesla was also cited for union busting, lost a racism lawsuit, and just lost their year-long fight to stop a systemic racial discrimination lawsuit from proceeding. Autopilot doesn’t work as advertised, SpaceX exploded just after launching and they called it a success, Elon reinstated neo-Nazis on Twitter, where hate speech has greatly increased, and Elon seems to spend a lot of time tweeting childish insults, but hey, he sure makes the libs cry, doesn’t he?

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
1 year ago

I think the submarine was the line. I liked the flamethrowers (I know, not really Tesla), and I don’t mind including fart sounds in a car, outside speakers, or glass roofs. My father-in-law just got a Model Y, and I am sorely tempted as now my wife sees the appeal of an electric car. I don’t want to get a Tesla, especially not without LiFePO4 batteries, but damnit they are so much nicer or better bargain than other companies offerings at the price point. Maybe I can convince her to on a Bolt, or perhaps a 330e.

(Also, Tesla was making cars in 2001????)

Last edited 1 year ago by Jalop Gold
JDE
JDE
1 year ago

Elon passed the line long ago when he started thinking he was everyone’s savior. But his sycophants prop him up as a brilliant egomaniac and damn the people that have to live with his crap.

SYKO Simmons
SYKO Simmons
1 year ago

I wouldn’t doubt that most complaints come from people who couldn’t box their way out of a soap bubble room. I watch countless times people hit shit with cars that have 360 views…drivers aids and fucking mirrors to keep from fucking up, but yet…they still manage to raise their premiums….all the whole saying…I was looking at the screen! The world today is full of such fake news and other bullshit, I see stories like this and I’m like ” meh IDGAF” …well just enough to respond to it. Only ray of sunshine I see in this is maybe there’s an EV collective A.I. emerging, one that will self drive all these ugly ass cars into a singularity and disappear.

Raise hell! Praise Dale!

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago

Breaking news: Leaked internal documents suggest that Tesla FSD drives like my ex-wife

Tom Trutna
Tom Trutna
1 year ago

At the end of the day, the reason I wouldn’t buy a Tesla is Elon Musk.
Fine cars otherwise.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/05/28/elon-musk-texas-spacex-boring-bastrop/

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom Trutna
Tom Trutna
Tom Trutna
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Trutna

Good critters don’t shit where they sleep

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago

Mixed feelings. Autopilot has flaws…. but it’s also safer than some Karen texting and driving. Per mile driven, it is safer than the average of most miles driven by humans.

So like…. idk how to feel about it. There are certain situations where it would be a godsend, I would love to be able to pull onto I80 in Nebraska, check the weather and make sure it’s a nice day, and then enable autopilot and go into the back of my van to pass out or watch a movie or something. On so many LONG STRAIGHT BORING highways, it seems like it would run relatively flawlessly. In cities, with pedestrians, bikes, intersections, cross traffic, buses, etc, it just seems like a human would do an infinitely better job.

I think AP needs to be geofenced to freeway travel only, no backroads, no urban areas, etc.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

on long stretches of interstates in the US, something akin to a third rail to both power the electric cars while also controlling speed and lane location as well as reaction from anyone not on the rail would be a good idea, especially Semi Truck Drivers.

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Musk saying it’s safer doesn’t make it so. I’ve read articles that estimate it’s actually much more accident prone than a decent human driver. None of Tesla’s numbers can be trusted.

Timohb
Timohb
1 year ago

Make Elon stay in China.

GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago

After reading that article, I was expecting “paid for by Elon Musk and the Tesla corporation” fine print at the bottom.

You might as well try to justify Pinto-era Ford while you’re at it.

As piggish and entitled as the American consumers have become, they still deserve better than to be treated like Guinea Pigs with a credit score.

Loudog
Loudog
1 year ago
Reply to  GhosnInABox

In what area are American (or world) consumers not treated this way? How much beta software are you running right now? How many people do you see glancing at entertainments systems or glommed onto their phones while driving? How programmed is the news that you’re consuming?

In this case nothing bad will happen on AP if you’re well… paying attention. Seriously. Which is true for all other forms of potential distractions. So the onus is on you, dear consumer.

GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago
Reply to  Loudog

I didn’t realise a company misrepresenting a feature and actively promoting distracted driving (video games in a car, WTF?!) was my fault.

It does make my life as a responsible driver (driving a respectable, compact union-built sedan no less) as dangerous as Mad Max at Thunder Dome. I don’t even have Tina Turner to back me up now. So I guess I got what I deserve.

I guess I’m also to blame for the unstoppable fires and shoddy build quality as well.

Last edited 1 year ago by GhosnInABox
Hoonicus
Hoonicus
1 year ago

Anyone that truly enjoys driving understands that it requires undivided attention, and abhors systems that pretend to know better. Traction control, and anti-lock brakes are proven enhancements that still rely on and can’t counterman driver input. They can also be disabled. Many fine points have already been stated in these comments, so I’ll just end with an excellent Non-Sequitur link from 5/21

https://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2023/05/21

Jblues
Jblues
1 year ago

Just here to say that my wife’s CRV and my Hyundai have at least one case of “unintentional emergency braking” or “phantom stops from false collision warnings” per week. There’s a bridge at our local shopping center that triggers a collision warning every single time we try to cross it in her CRV.

Bruce McDougall
Bruce McDougall
1 year ago
Reply to  Jblues

Then these clearly unsafe features should be turned off, even if you have to do it every time and it’s a hassle. No way would I drive a car that does that kind of crap.

Michael Hess
Michael Hess
1 year ago

Not unsafe, cautious. Big difference. I’m always amazed when my model y “phantom” brakes. Watching the video playback or keeping an eye on the detection imaging, it’s amazing how much it catches that “alert” humans just don’t see. Yeah it’s mildly irritating but in NO way unsafe.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
1 year ago

The whole of our racing coverage this weekend was telling you about the tire that flew off a race car and nailed a Chevy Cruze so I thought I’d let you know who actually won the race: Josef Newgarden.

And let us not the best damn victory celebration ever. Over the fence? Up the fence? No, through the fence, so he could go party with the fans. Newgarden is one of those guys who is so wholesome, it hurts. (No, srsly.) About the most controversial thing he’s done was race Pagenaud hard when they were teammates. And if anybody deserved that win, it was him.

Strangek
Strangek
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Absolutely well deserved win for Newgarden. Multiple championships and a 500 puts you in the conversation as one of the greats.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Hell yeah. That slip through the fence is how it’s done.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
1 year ago

As is already stated here, American corporations and the 1% can’t be held accountable. It’s by design. We live in an end stage capitalist oligarchy. If you have enough capital you can do whatever you want…and if you can’t yet you just pour billions into lobbying (aka legal corruption) congresspeople until you can.

While Democrats deserve a lot of the blame too (also dear god almighty Joe at least make the Republicans wine and dine you before you let them do what they just did you on your laughably impotent debt ceiling compromise), it has been the Republican Party’s mission to create and maintain this situation since Reagan and even before. They (and probably 3/4s of Dems too) exist to funnel money to the 1% and implement policies that shield them and their companies from consequences.

It’s why corporations are legally people. It’s why we can’t tax capital gains like we can income. It’s why both sides of the aisle are cool with gutting the IRS. It’s why companies like Tesla can just litigate all of their problems away in courts that have been intentionally packed to the brim with favorable judges.

We’re moving towards some of the worst wealth inequality in this country we’ve seen since the 19th century and it’s only going to get worse…and if these lizard people can’t be held accountable what’s their impetus to change? I mean this country elected a failson conman with no experience to be president…he then did illegal things the entire time, he’s still not being held accountable, and he’s the front runner for the Republican Party’s nomination in a year….mainly because nearly half of our country has nothing they care about beyond “the others are BAD!” and “wealth and excess are GOOD!”.

These are profoundly terrible times economically and there’s no end in sight. Until government agencies are given the teeth they need to hold the 1% and their institutions accountable nothing is going to change…and both Republicans and Democrats are disarming said agencies further, together. Because at the end of the day their fat lobbying checks, private island getaways, flights on Epstein’s plane, et cetera all come from the same place.

Anyway at least we’ve still got cars…although corporations are currently in the process of making them unobtainable for the middle class as we speak. It sure would be a nice time for some good old fashioned regulation but us 99%ers will get nothing and like it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
1 year ago

Two excellent books to read on this topic:
Survival of the Richest by Douglas Rushkoff
The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Kline

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 year ago

What’s frustrating to me is that while Republicans attack everything important, destroying unions, widening the income gap, etc, etc, the Democrats are whittling away at the little things that I enjoy (like importing a kei car or souping up my existing car or makingg me stop telling dirty jokes or by installing speed cameras in inappropriate locations). I feel like no one is even pretending to be on my side.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 year ago

It’s why corporations are legally people.

No, corporations are legally people because the legal definition of a “person” is “any entity with legal rights and responsibilities,” and has existed in various forms since ancient Rome. There is a term that does apply only to human beings, and that is “natural person”

GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago

Calling out the reptilians. Love it!

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
1 year ago

If Biden has done nothing why is Meta whining about the FTC?

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 year ago

I’ve assumed for years that Musk will end up ina secret volcano lair with a white cat on his lap. He won’t stop, he won’t be held accountable; he’ll just start keeping a lower profile.

TurboCruiser
TurboCruiser
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

It’s hard to say what Musk will to with Tesla in the future, but rest assured, he will not do this:

he’ll just start keeping a lower profile.

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

I’m not sure if his desperate, try-hard, narcissistic “like me” instincts will allow for that.

StayPutReachJump
StayPutReachJump
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Elon secretly wishes he could have a white cat on his lap whilst in his volcano lair. Unfortunately, he’s badly allergic to cats. He considers this an affront from all cats to him and it chews at him. He’s taken their indifference to him personally and he’s torn between trying dangerously experimental anti-allergy regimens and going on an unhinged anti-cat terror campaign. All of his efforts to date have been to gain the respect and deference of cats, and he’s just more and more bothered by the fact that they seemingly just don’t seem to care about him at all.

(I don’t know if he’s actually allergic to cats, but it would be fun to start a rumor that he is.)

(My cats don’t care if he’s allergic to them or not. They don’t care about Elon at all. They do love me though…)

SarlaccRoadster
SarlaccRoadster
1 year ago

I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter. Maybe make it into a graphic novel that would eventually get turned into an anime 🙂

SAABstory
SAABstory
1 year ago

At this point seeing a headline about how a Tesla running on “FSD” mowed down a daycare outing with puppies wouldn’t change anything.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
1 year ago

Maybe I should have a graphic made up that says “WARNING TESLA CONTENT” as there’s a lot of it.

I’m not a fanboi, nor am I a h8r, and I am more likely to buy a Tesla than any other EV today because Teslas seem to be the least-risky choice. That said, I want to see more ink spent on Rivian — is it through production hell yet? — and VW seems to be making noise with Scout. What about VinFast’s response to its buggy software everything.

Is there a Rubicon a company should never cross?

History suggests the answer is no. I’m not being cynical. Child labor in the US? Ask Hyundai. Hiring undocumented labor? US meat packing is based on it. Repeated labor law violations and union busting? Rampant, as are EPA air and water violations.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

Sorry, can’t even read past your van-life spelling of Fanboi or H8R.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 year ago

Where’s the line? Where’s the line that Tesla would have to cross where it couldn’t come back? Is there such a line?

The line only exists for regular people. There is no line for the 1%.

GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago

The fact that the big three still exists proves there’s no really consequence for endangering American lives with inferior products.

That said, if you live by the market, you can die by the market. If other automakers play their cards right, they can dwindle Tesla’s market share down to Fiat 500e levels within 15 years.

But that’s a big if.

Loudog
Loudog
1 year ago
Reply to  GhosnInABox

That “if” would require them to divest themselves of the dealer model. Not happening.

RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
1 year ago

I think Tesla crossed that line long ago. That line is selling cars with hardware that isn’t capable of performing FSD but advertising and selling FSD like it is or soon will be capable. I expect Tesla will eventually lose a class action lawsuit over FSD.

I have FSD preview enabled in my Model 3. That shows me how the car sees things around it, like trash cans, street signs, stop lights, etc. It’s a lot more detail than when it isn’t enabled. My wife and I both agree that it’s not seeing enough of the world correctly to trust FSD. Objects blip in and out of existence, things move chaotically when they are actually stationary or moving in a straight line. It perceives potential threats incorrectly while missing others. We will not pay for FSD or even enhanced autopilot until what we see on the screen matches real life.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

That’s pretty cool: I didn’t know you could see what the car(‘s cameras) can see. Now I have to check yt to see if anyone has posted a video of both views in real time. Thanks for posting-and I appreciate & applaud your caution.

D.B. Platypus
D.B. Platypus
1 year ago

If Dieselgate is the example, then we have to conclude that even if a company intentionally defrauds every government on Earth by installing special government-defrauding software on millions of products worldwide, even if some executives do get prison time and a significant shift in corporate strategy is imposed, the company as a whole will be fine in the long run, provided it is big enough.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  D.B. Platypus

Yeah, regulators don’t bring down companies. Fines are an acceptable risk/cost of doing business for large companies.

Dave Garland
Dave Garland
1 year ago
Reply to  D.B. Platypus

We need to apply prison time to corporations. (Freeze their bank accounts, padlock their facilities.) Stockholders would start paying attention. Give them a discount on time, though, say instead of a year they’re only imprisoned for a month. Yeah, it would hurt some innocent parties, criminals do that all the time.

SarlaccRoadster
SarlaccRoadster
1 year ago
Reply to  D.B. Platypus

I don’t think you can equate what VW was made to pay for dieselgate with what Tesla has.

VW has paid billions in fines and billions buying back the cars from customers, had multiple execs thrown in prison, all the while Tesla paid a quarter million $ EPA fine and has suffered no consequences for the continuous stream of deaths due to “AutoPilot”.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

There is no line. Tobacco, alcohol, and oil corporations have literally killed billions of people for profit and lied, obscured and bribed their way to obscene levels of power and prosperity. They have so much wealth, no government would seriously consider shutting them down, much less be able to do it. Tesla is just a pee in the ocean compared with that record. Musk could go to jail for something egregious, but Tesla would be just fine. Even that’s unlikely unless he committed the cardinal sin of costing investors and shareholders a lot of money.

Last edited 1 year ago by Canopysaurus
My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
1 year ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

This is shockingly true.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago

Tesla sucks, Newgarden rocks. So nothing changed over the weekend? 🙂

Dsa Lkjh
Dsa Lkjh
1 year ago

I’m pretty sure that even if it turned out that “full self driving” was running on stolen human brains in every car Tesla would still be basically fine.

As long as they weren’t the brains of anyone famous and popular.

Even then “David Bowie found still sort of alive and helping steer a model S”, would probably push the market value up, now I think about it.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
1 year ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

That just brings us to the inevitable Cars future.

Loudog
Loudog
1 year ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

Who’s going to drive you home, tonight?

GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

See the film “Sorry to bother you”.

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
1 year ago

Maybe it seems like Tesla gets away with everything because the sheer quantity of clickbait written about them far exceeds even their numerous faults ability to generate actionable discrepancies.

This article is Exhibit A of that tendency. Over a 7-year period, they had 3900 complaints about Autopilot driving, apparently across their entire fleet. In the absence of any other data from any other company, that seems like an entirely unremarkable number to me. While my car doesn’t have a fancy autopilot, it does have lane keeping and adaptive cruise control and it’s got a couple of weird quirks I would submit as complaints if I could be bothered. Also, I’ve rented a lot of cars and a couple really stand out as shit, including a Honda Accord who’s lane keeping was so bad it was actively dangerous.

So is this leak a big deal? I don’t know- it needs context to be worth anything, but my initial guess is much ado about nothing, and they’ll get away with it because there’s no “it” in the first place.

I did also have to laugh at the line about Musk not being fond of regulations, as if Mary Barra and Jim Farley aren’t loading the ol’ K-Street Kannon with a few hundred million to get their own special exemptions into the next round of laws. No CEO likes regulation, and the ones who say they do are just the ones who had lobbyist-assisted had in drafting them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wuffles Cookie
JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
1 year ago
Reply to  Wuffles Cookie

Let the regulators come and investigate. It can only make things better. If there are widespread problems, then they will be corrected.

Last edited 1 year ago by JaredTheGeek
Michael Hess
Michael Hess
1 year ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

Yes just like the government has helped keep car dealers from becoming “the bad man”. Only the wealthy control the politicians, and thus the government agencies that “investigate” these things.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

Unarguable counterpoint:
Mercedes-Benz was forced to recall over 1 million of their most popular cars, most pushing 16 to 18 years old, due to brake booster corrosion which might cause increased stopping distance. The NHTSA forced the recall in the US of over a quarter million of them based on (checks notes) exactly zero accident or injury reports.
“Oh but this was the-” This was in 2022.
Followed by an involuntary recall of half a million 20+ year old cars for detaching and leaking sunroofs, something else Tesla is known for. On the basis of (checks notes) exactly zero injury reports. Plus a recall for fuel pumps that might quit while driving, which had 773 reports of fuel pump failure. Not 773 accidents. 773 fuel pumps that failed.

https://www.theautopian.com/mercedes-is-recalling-447659-vehicles-and-some-are-over-20-years-old/

So no. There is no possibility of ‘number of complaints v. number of miles driven’ even remotely covering it.

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Counter-counterpoint: corrosion in the brake lines, leaking sunroofs, and failed fuel pumps are all actionable discrepancies. They can be measured and documented against drawings and standards and judged against the applicable section of the US Code.

Customer complaints about unexpected behavior of a really shittily marketed driving-assist package are not actionable discrepancies. “Oh it did something I didn’t expect” is as any mechanic knows usually the start of a user-induced headache, all the more likely when the users in question are a population with a well-documented history of paying zero attention to the road if their cars will let them.

Now if you can show that even in just a handful of those incidences was the car behaving in a defective manner, or in a manner that would violate the applicable laws then you have a case, but there’s nothing in the linked article that shows that yet.

Peter d
Peter d
1 year ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

And remember, this is reported incidents – which is likely a very small percentage of actual incidents. And also remember Tesla does not want to hear about incidents, wasn’t there a story a week or two ago about Telsa refusing to look at a Spontaneous Tesla Car-B-Que? I am not sure the reporting requirements of the auto industry are regulated like the medical device/pharma where the companies are required to record and address ALL consumer/customer complaints – Rootwyrm maybe you know the requirements.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter d

It is an infinitesimally small percentage of incidents which are known as fact to Tesla. (They literally upload everything from your car to their servers, including the camera inputs, even when it’s parked in the garage.) It’s what systems engineers call greppable; five minutes of grepping logs would give you real numbers. So the only possible reason to NOT have those numbers is to willfully and deliberately hide them.

I’m not an expert on all reporting requirements, but there’s a fair number of mandatory ones. Any foreign recall is a mandatory reporting item, as well as any fatal or injury accident they are made aware of. (Even if the driver was drunk.) They are ALSO required to report aggregate warranty claims, property damage claims, and field reports (i.e. if they send someone out to a dealer to investigate a comeback kid or a high warranty rate, that’s a field report item.) Consumer complaints must also be reported without exception. Those along with warranty must be submitted as aggregate quarterlies. I’ve never had to file an NHTSA report or become all that familiar with them.

I do know that SAE Level 2 ADAS and up (that is everything from ultrasonic cruise control distance keeping to overhyped and falsely labeled ‘autonomous’ systems) are subject to an extremely strict standing general order which requires manufacturers to report any and all incidents, in full detail, along with full details including but not limited to accidents, near-misses, software defect incidents, including all data, and they must do so immediately.
https://www.nhtsa.gov/laws-regulations/standing-general-order-crash-reporting

Erik Hancock
Erik Hancock
1 year ago
Reply to  Wuffles Cookie

You make a number of really good points. However, let’s not forget that “clickbait” is not just some nasty side-effect of innovation for Elon and Tesla – it is the heart of the game. Sure, other companies are doing the same things in quiet and not-so-quiet ways, but none of those CEOs make it such a core part of their image to respond in such direct and outrageous ways to any criticism of their product. Musk so clearly loves “getting away” with violating convention, or laws, or any sort of expectations. Whereas most other executives have an entire PR and legal team helping craft their public statements, Elon lets it fly. What reporter isn’t going to pounce when some new outrage comes to light? It’s a symbiotic relationship, and we as readers contribute as well. People don’t generally know the name of the CEO of Honda Corporation, so if there was a leak of data about the dangers of its lane-keep… sorry, I fell asleep halfway through that sentence. But, how will Elon respond to the leaked data about thousands of Tesla driver complaints – especially, when Tesla “stans” are normally so unwaveringly positive about their cars??!? NOM NOM NOM, tell me more!

Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
1 year ago
Reply to  Erik Hancock

I guess it’s just my futile raging against the media cycle. When everything is hype, nothing is important, and everyone loses the ability to make proper value judgements.

This is 3900 customer complaints. I strongly suspect it will turn out to mean nothing- but people will think it’s 3900 actual defects, which would be a huge fucking deal, and probably justification for recalling every Tesla ever.

Jb996
Jb996
1 year ago
Reply to  Wuffles Cookie

I feel like people call an article “clickbait” only when they don’t like what it says.
Tesla literally NEEDS click worthy headline news. Without ads or PR, their ONLY communication is through Musk and the crazy sh!¥ he says. Musk has used the media to intentionally feed this cycle.
Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Musk could literally farm babies for resources, and would get away with it.

Patrick A Dehertogh
Patrick A Dehertogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Wuffles Cookie

Need auto pilot for walkers first. Then maybe the automobile. The human race is getting lazier fatter more prone to disease. In 100 years we will look with bewilderment on how to cross the street and just drool on are feet. That’s if you have earned the privilege to leave the hamster cage.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago

For Tesla to cross a line from which there’s no coming back would take a regulatory agency with the teeth to really punish a company, and that’s just not how things work in the US.

The things that can crash a company that size are big mistakes that directly cost money. Perhaps if they need to cover a massive number of warranty repairs or have to refund a ton of money to customers (say, because they admit that the hardware they’ve been pitching as self-driving ready isn’t). Maybe if they spend too much money on projects that don’t go anywhere and people start pulling their deposits. But those risks do not come from regulators. And they seem really unlikely, given the Tesla fanbase.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

The complaints outlined in the leak are all software so it would not be like Chevrolet having to replace Bolt batteries or Kia/Hyundai with the engines. The problems would have to be so egregious that it would stop people from buying them. Which with more BEV competition that may naturally happen anyway.

Last edited 1 year ago by JaredTheGeek
Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  JaredTheGeek

I’m not saying Tesla is likely to need to do a massive hardware recall, just answering the question of what could take them down. Regulators in the US aren’t bringing down any companies. Fines are an accepted cost for most large businesses.

As to the comparisons of the big players having to do big recalls, the difference is in product lines. If the Model 3/Y needed a big hardware recall, it would affect the majority of vehicles Tesla has ever built, which would be a massive hit to any company. If, perhaps, you only needed to do hardware updates for those who added the FSD package it would hurt, but it would likely be manageable.

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