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Elon Musk Attacking the Press Will Not Make Him Right About FSD

Ad-hominem is one of the most known and used fallacies worldwide. Instead of attacking the ideas, people target those expressing them. Just check how many are called racists, communists, or fascists just for saying something others do not agree with or want to hide. Elon Musk attacking the press is a sad and remarkable example of that.
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After Tom Krisher wrote about Tesla’s second FSD recall for Associated Press, one of Elon Musk’s most devoted fans said the journalist was a moron. His sin was writing for a renown media outlet about something everybody covered: autoevolution was one of the first outlets to break the news. Elon Musk reinforced the offenses stating that Krisher was “actually a lobbyist, not a journalist.”

The Tesla CEO amplified the attacks to the press as a whole. Musk said that “many who pose as the latter while behaving like the former,” accusing them of having “no integrity.” Due to Musk's fans attacks, Krisher set his Twitter account to private. Yet, Musk gave a clear example that he blamed the AP journalist and the press for something he failed to demonstrate in the same tweet.

Musk insisted that “there were no safety issues” involved with FSD performing rolling stops as if they were not illegal in multiple states in the U.S. If there were no safety issues involved with the software settings, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Agency) would not have demanded Tesla to change it and the company would not have complied with the request.

Integrity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality of being honest and fair.” It is not honest to deal with FSD’s latest recall as if “there were no safety issues” at the core of the measure. It is not fair to accuse journalists of being lobbyists without stating precisely and with strong evidence what these professionals would be lobbying for and what is the personal gain they extract from that.

Musk also expressed evident trouble with numbers, as Tesla had when it exaggerated its sales numbers in Australia. He said that “the car simply slowed to ~2 mph & continued forward if clear view with no cars or pedestrians.” Tesla itself contradicts its CEO.

On the Part 573 Safety Recall Report about the second FSD recall, the company said that “the vehicle must be traveling below 5.6mph” for the rolling stop functionality to work. A little further, it stated that, when all conditions were met, the vehicle would “travel through the all-way-stop intersection at a speed from 0.1 mph up to 5.6 mph without first coming to a complete stop.”

The first screenshots of the OTA (over-the-air) update that emerged show that Tesla referred to the same speed once more when it said that a “vehicle speed less than 5.6 mph” was a requirement for the rolling stop to work. In other words, it was not around 2 mph, as Musk stated.

Considering Musk’s willingness to make it sound as if the car was traveling at a slower pace, Tesla should have used the more favorable speed in its communication with NHTSA if it was true. It didn't. Regardless of these efforts, a lower speed would not make the functionality any less illegal: the law says the car must stop.

To make that look less severe, Tesla fans are now trying to qualify the recall as just an ordinary OTA update, which is a plain lie. They are also trying to make it seem less serious than it really is. According to Tesla itself, FSD is beta software that “may do the wrong thing at the worst time.” That includes not detecting a pedestrian or another car in an intersection. The fact that Tesla did not have any report of that happening does not mean it never will, especially considering how FSD truly drives.

Apart from attacking the press, Musk only speaks with those who accept not to ask him tough questions or who are notorious cheerleaders for him and his company. Meanwhile, more and more negative news emerges about the company not because journalists are looking for them. They just keep popping up. Tesla’s silence about all of them implies it is trying to hide something or counting that people will forget about it soon.

Elon Musk came to the extreme of saying that “now that the big automotive advertisers are making EVs, you will see far fewer articles about EVs catching on fire.” He seems to have forgotten the Chevy Bolt cases, which were widely covered by the press. The Hyundai Kona Electric fires also did not go unnoticed.

Was it not for the insistence of multiple journalists, these cases could have ended as a mere example of bad luck for these owners. If Chevy or Hyundai fans were like those supporting Tesla, the victims would probably be blamed for the fires. Despite the press telling their stories, some of them are still waiting for compensation. Nobody would have heard about them without due press coverage.

A Volkswagen ID.3 spontaneously caught fire in Groningen, and autoevolution went after this story. Luckily for the German brand, it seems no other blaze involving MEB products happened. We’re still waiting for the official results of the investigation Volkswagen is performing.

By bringing up the fire situation, Elon Musk brought unto himself how Tesla deals with fire concerns. After a spontaneous blaze in Shanghai in 2019, the company released an OTA update that capped the cell voltage in thousands of Model S units worldwide.

Tesla said it was a safety measure, but it never disclosed why it did that. When American customers sued the company for losing range and charging speed, Tesla rushed to cut a deal with them. That saved the company from exposing why it did the voltage cap in the first place.

We journalists do make mistakes, as any human being does. Yet, our mission is to tell stories that bring awareness about important issues, even if powerful people do not want to see them exposed. The best among us even risk their lives to make sure society knows what is happening. Unfortunately, society often just contemplates these stories while the world burns.

As the richest man on Earth, Elon Musk fits perfectly in the description of a powerful person badly in need that people believe he’ll finally deliver a “self-driving” car after promising that for nearly a decade. Most of his wealthiness – measured by the Tesla stock he owns – depends on that.

When bad news about that effort emerges, blaming the press for doing its job and attacking one journalist for his coverage on something everybody wrote about is a sign of desperation. Admitting that an illegal functionality on FSD was created on purpose is evidence of disregard for authorities and, in this case, traffic safety.

Fallacies are the resort of those who want to avoid an honest discussion. Remember: integrity is “the quality of being honest and fair.” Unless you are too obsessed with your investments or world views, it is pretty evident who is lacking honesty and fairness in this story.


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