Tesla model 3
YouTube has removed two videos from its platform showing Tesla drivers conducting amateur vehicle safety tests using their own children instead of mannequins on the street or in the driveway.
The tests were designed to determine whether a slow-moving Tesla equipped with the company’s latest driver-assistance systems would automatically avoid collisions with pedestrians — in this case, children — walking or stopping in the street.
After CNBC came forward, a YouTube spokeswoman, Elena Hernandez, wrote in an email Friday night:
“YouTube does not allow content that depicts minors engaging in dangerous activities or encourages minors to engage in dangerous activities. Upon review, we determined that the videos submitted to us by CNBC violated our policies on harmful and dangerous content, and as a result we removed the content.”
The specific policy YouTube cites relates to harmful and dangerous content. The Company will remove videos that promote dangerous or illegal activities that risk serious bodily harm or death if it is aware of it. The spokesperson said: “Specifically, we do not allow content that depicts or encourages minors in harmful situations that may result in injury, including dangerous stunts, dares or pranks.”
Tesla markets its driver-assistance systems in the US as a standard package called Autopilot and a premium option called Full Self-Driving (or FSD) that costs $12,000 upfront or $199 per month. It also gives some drivers access to an experimental program called Full Self-Driving Beta if they score high in the company’s in-vehicle safety tests.
None of these systems make Tesla cars self-driving or safe without a driver behind the wheel, alert to the road, and able to steer, brake, or accelerate at short notice. Tesla owner’s manuals advise drivers that the systems will not make their cars autonomous.
Driver: “I was always ready to take over”
In video released Sunday, Aug. 14, a Tesla owner and investor in Elon Musk-led company Tad Park drove a Model 3 vehicle at eight miles per hour into one of his on a San Francisco Bay Area road children too. The video had tens of thousands of views before YouTube, a division of Google of Alphabet removed it.
Park is CEO of Volt Equity and portfolio manager of an ETF focused on autonomous driving technology called VCAR. “I’ve experienced the product myself and I believe in my investments,” Park told CNBC. “We have taken extensive safety precautions so that children were never in danger. First we tried on a mannequin, then we tried on a tall basketball player, then finally one kid got up and my other kid crossed the street.”
In a follow-up email, Park wrote, “First we tried on a mannequin, then we tried on a tall basketball player, then finally a kid stood up and my other kid crossed the street.”
He said the car never went more than 13 km/h and explained: “We made sure that the car recognized the child. Even if the system failed completely, I was always ready to take over. I had a sense of when.” I had to brake if the car didn’t slow down enough.”
Park ran the tests in part to counter a nationwide advertising campaign by the founder of a software company Dan O’Dowd Criticism of Tesla’s driver assistance features.
The video, now removed, was posted on a YouTube channel called Whole Mars Catalog, run by Omar Qazi, a Tesla shareholder and main social media promoter. Tesla CEO Elon Musk frequently interacts with the blog and Qazi on Twitter.
In addition to YouTube, CNBC reached out to California’s DMV and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ask if such videos are safe or legal.
NHTSA said on August 16, “NHTSA is warning the public that it could be highly dangerous for anyone to self-test vehicle technology. No one should risk their life or the lives of others to test a vehicle’s performance.”
The agency also noted, “As NHTSA has consistently stated, no vehicle available for purchase today can drive itself. The most advanced vehicle technologies available for purchase today provide driver assistance and require a fully alert human driver to perform the driving task and monitor the environment at all times.”
California’s DMV told CNBC via email, “As advanced vehicle technologies become more widely available, DMV shares the same concerns as other road safety stakeholders about the potential for driver misunderstanding or misuse of these features. DMV has previously advised Tesla and continues to emphasize the importance of providing customers, buyers and the general public with clear and effective communication about the capabilities, limitations and intended use of each vehicle technology.
California’s DMV recently claimed that Tesla engages in misleading marketing or false advertising when it comes to its driver assistance systems. It’s also in the midst of a lengthy security-related review of Tesla’s technology, including FSD Beta.
Police in the city where Park conducted the test drive did not respond to the release in a timely manner. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.