Ralph Nader Pleads With NHTSA to Kill Tesla’s Misleading ‘Full-Self-Driving’ Mode

Whether you know his name or not, Ralph Nader is no stranger to battling major automotive manufacturers. His famous book, Unsafe at Any Speed, squared up with GM to address the major safety concerns with the Chevrolet Corvair and other models. Now, over 40 years later, Nader has his sights set on Tesla and the dangerous “Full-Self-Driving” (FSD) software. 

Ralph Nader begs NHTSA to do something about Tesla Full-Self-Driving software

black and white photo of Ralph Nader in Paris, 1976
Ralph Nader in Paris, 1976 | Francois LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

If the name Ralph Nader makes you scoff, remember that he is responsible for seat belts and anti-lock brakes. Nader has forced the hand of many major corporations to make safer products for consumers. Can you imagine standing up to GM and winning? This is Nader’s superpower. 

After dozens of fatal Tesla FSD crashes, the public is starting to take notice of the dangers of this new software. The NHTSA and other regulatory bodies are investigating this software, in which Tesla’s Autopilot feature—a pared-back driver assist that shares some sensors and nascent capabilities with parts of FSD—is a possible cause of the incidents. It’s important to note that FSD isn’t a finished product. This is beta testing with untrained Tesla owners with half-cocked software. 

According to MotorTrend, Nader recently released a statement regarding Tesla’s software: 

“Tesla’s major deployment of so-called Full Self-Driving (FSD) technology is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions by a car company in decades. Tesla should never have put this technology in its vehicles. Now over 100,000 Tesla owners are currently using technology that research shows malfunctions every eight minutes.”

Does Tesla ‘Full-Self-Drive’ mode really work? 

One of the major issues with the software (aside from the fact that it’s malfunctioning) is that the name is misleading. FSD cannot autonomously drive your Tesla for you. It is simply untrue. The software requires constant monitoring even within the bounds of what it can actually do, but there are still many limitations to the software, despite its name. 

The problem is that Tesla put this software out in the world on public roads with untrained testers who seem not to understand the system’s limitations. Can you blame them, though? If an oven mitt was marketed as fireproof, and I get burnt when I use it to handle a hot pan, who’s fault was that? 

There’s another aspect to all this that is the most shocking still. While over 100,000 people have chosen to not only use this software but pay for it as well, the other many, many millions of us not driving Tesla’s are now subject to the fanciful whims of Elon Musk, Tesla, and its guinea pigs. For a technology that has crashed into multiple parked emergency vehicles, it feels like other drivers should have a say in unfinished tech being tested on our roads. This is Nader’s point. 

What is Ralph Nader going to do? 

Elon Musk
Elon Musk | Getty

“I am calling on federal regulators to act immediately to prevent the growing deaths and injuries from Tesla manslaughtering crashes with this technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to act swiftly to prevent such disasters,” read the statement. “The NHTSA must use its safety recall authority to order that the FSD technology be removed in every Tesla.” 

The statement ends with Nader urging a message to “casually-minded regulators” that “Americans must not be test dummies for a powerful, high-profile corporation and its celebrity CEO. No one is above the laws of manslaughter.”

MotorTrend keenly points out that the NHTSA is already investigating Tesla, so Nader’s message is not likely to change much. However, it does go to show that the court of public opinion might be starting to change. Only time will tell.

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