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Dan O’Dowd, chief executive of a firm that provides software to automakers, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times warning people not to be “crash test dummies” in Tesla vehicles equipped with Full Self-Driving (FSD) software.
The advert, paid for by Mr O’Dowd’s Dawn Project initiative, accused FSD of being the “worst software ever sold by a Fortune 500 company”.
Mr O’Dowd also appeared on various high-profile news networks in the US to make allegations against Tesla’s software, calling for a ban on cars using FSD on public roads.
As part of the publicity stunt, he offered a $10,000 reward “to the first person who can name another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company that has a critical malfunction every eight minutes”.
The ad, which appeared in Sunday’s edition of the NYT, stated: “Don’t be a Tesla crash test dummy,
“We did not sign up our families to be crash test dummies for thousands of Tesla cars being driven on the public roads by the worst software ever sold by a Fortune 500 company.”
After people on social media pointed out Mr O’Dowd’s involvement with a rival automotive software company, Mr Musk called the competitor’s operating system “a pile of trash”.
In a separate Twitter thread, the Tesla CEO called the allegations a “tragic case of ego/ ability”.
The spat comes amid a landmark court case involving a Tesla that ran a red light and crashed into another car, killing two people.
Kevin George Aziz Riad, the 27-year-old driver of the Tesla, became the first person this week to be charged over a fatal crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot system – the company’s partially automated self-driving system.
Around 75,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with Autopilot technology, though only a few hundred have access to FSD as part of a beta test programme.
A preliminary hearing into the case is set for 23 February.