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Tesla sends cease and desist to billionaire running smear campaign

Tesla has sent a cease and desist to billionaire Dan O’Dowd’s Dawn Project, which is currently running a smear campaign against Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta.

Earlier this year, we reported on Dan O’Dowd, a self-described billionaire and founder of Green Hills Software, a privately-owned company that makes operating systems and programming tools.

O’Dowd had launched a Senate campaign in his home state of California, but the tech executive made it quite clear that he is making it a single-issue campaign, and that issue is Tesla’s Full Self-Driving program.

Under the protection of political ads, he invested several million dollars in an ad campaign to attack Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta program with the goal of having it banned from public roads in the US.

Even though O’Dowd has lost his senate effort, the campaign continues under the name “The Dawn Project” and continues to attack Tesla.

Earlier this month, the campaign launched a new ad called “The Dangers of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Software,” in which they showed footage of an in-house test showing a Tesla Model 3 on FSD Beta hitting a child dummy.

The next day, Electrek posted a report that poked major holes in the ad, and the report that the Dawn Project released at the same time supposedly includes the methodology of the tests behind the ad.

We highlighted the fact that the actual ad never showed them activating FSD Beta and instead, it shows the driver attempting to activate it and failing.

There’s also a warning alert that appears on the screen of the Tesla throughout the ad and on additional footage released by The Dawn Project. The resolution of the video is conveniently too low to read, and The Dawn Project refused to explain the alert after a request for comment.

We also pointed out inconsistencies between the test results and the additional footage that The Dawn Project release of its tests where we can see that FSD Beta was activated, but that footage somehow didn’t make the ad.

The Dawn Project and O’Dowd personally refused to answer our questions about those significant inconsistencies. Instead, O’Dowd took to Twitter to claim that I “fabricated” my story that pointed inconsistencies in their own tests:

He even called me or anyone questioning his test a “moron”:

Now we learn that Tesla sent a cease and desist letter to The Dawn Project and O’Dowd personally.

In the letter, Dinna Eskin, Esq., Sr. Director and Deputy General Counsel at Tesla, eviscerates O’Dowd for “disseminating defamatory information to the public regarding the capabilities of Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) (Beta) technology.”

She asks him to take down the video and pull the ads based on it, which are running nationally, along with a few other things:

  1. Immediately cease and desist the dissemination of all defamatory advertisements;
  2. Immediately remove the videos under the caption “Test Track” from The Dawn Project
    website and any website where you or The Dawn Project disseminated a copy;
  3. Issue a public retraction of all defamatory and false claims within 24 hours of receipt of this
  4. Disclose all sources of funding for the purported “tests” in the commercial, including whether
    any campaign funds were used or whether you were funded by Tesla’s competitors;
  5. Disclose all recognized regulatory agencies that endorsed your testing methodology and/or

The letter includes vague threats of legal actions if he chooses not to comply. O’Dowd already confirmed he doesn’t plan to comply.

In the letter, Tesla references our report on the ad:

In contrast, your testing and methodology have already received swift and public rebukes from multiple sources. For example, the commercial you released claims that the tests shown were performed with Tesla’s FSD Beta engaged. But Electrek reported that your our own videos clearly show that FSD Beta was not engaged at times. Similarly, Electrek reports that The Dawn Project manipulated its video after being confronted with the defamatory nature of its advertisement. Despite your clear knowledge of the misleading nature of the advertisements, you continue to promote and disseminate these advertisements on multiple mediums.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk also retweeted our article even though he still technically blocks both myself and the Electrek account on Twitter:

O’Dowd called Musk a “coward” for sending his lawyers after him.

Musk has recently announced that Tesla is building a “hardcore litigation department” with the goal of fighting back against people attacking the company.

You can read the full cease and desist letter that Tesla sent to O’Dowd here.

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Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

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