Monday, 21 June 2021 22:38

The Tesla Autopilot Excuse: How EV Ignorance Created the Perfect Storm for a Misinformation Nightmare

Written by Simon Alvarez, Teslarati
A Tesla Model 3 that burned after a crash in April in Texas. A Tesla Model 3 that burned after a crash in April in Texas. NTSB


...make sense of the situation, which seemed to have red flags all over the place. Herman's statements seemed premature at best, and reports about the vehicle’s fire had been proven false by the fire chief. Couple this with Musk noting Autopilot was not involved, and it was no surprise the crash became a topic for analysis and conversations among Tesla supporters.


These efforts, however, were largely dismissed if not mocked, with media outlets such as VICE stating the behavior of the Tesla sleuths was akin to those who believe in conspiracy theories.


“Rather than waiting for the two different federal authorities investigating the crash to publish their findings, some Tesla owners are engaging in the classic behavior of conspiracy theorists and amateur internet sleuths in an apparent attempt to cast doubt on even the most basic facts surrounding the crash,” the publication noted. 


More cracks about the initial “Autopilot crash” narrative emerged during the company’s Q1 2021 earnings call. Lars Moravy, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, said the company had conducted tests with investigators, and they have determined Autosteer could not be engaged in the area.


He also said judging by the distance of the vehicle from the owner’s home to the crash site, the Model S would have only accelerated to 30 mph before covering the entire 550-foot distance using Adaptive Cruise Control. This is undoubtedly a clarification about the incident, but like many things in this story, this was also misunderstood. 


Not long after Tesla’s Q1 2021 earnings call, CBS published “At Least One Tesla Autopilot Feature Was Active During Texas Crash That Killed 2.” It’s definitely a catchy headline and one sure to draw a decent amount of eyes. There was only one problem: the whole premise of the article was false.


To add salt to the wound, Texas Rep. Kevin Brady shared the CBS piece on Twitter, noting “Despite early claims by (Tesla and Elon Musk), Autopilot WAS engaged in (the) tragic crash in The Woodlands. We need answers.” 


A Grassroots Movement


In a world where misinformation is prevalent from media outlets that may or may not be incentivized to publish reports that are not completely accurate, citizen journalism has the potential to become...