‘Full Self-Driving’ Tesla Nearly Hits Biker Seconds After YouTuber Trumpets Beta Safety

Some feel compelled to defend the indefensible.

byFeb 8, 2022 8:57 PM
‘Full Self-Driving’ Tesla Nearly Hits Biker Seconds After YouTuber Trumpets Beta Safety
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It's no secret that fans of Tesla always stand at the ready to defend the company and its technology, regardless of the situation. A particularly painful video from Tesla pundits who almost hit a cyclist shows just how dangerous this attitude can be, as the driver lunges for the wheel to avoid a crash seconds after his passenger extolls the safety of of its "Full Self-Driving" beta software. 

"We're doing an FSD Beta drive in San Francisco where they say the software's the best," says Galileo Russell, posting the video this YouTube channel named Hyperchange. In the passenger seat sits Omar, also known as @WholeMarsBlog on Twitter, who runs an EV news channel of his own. As they drive through the city, the duo discuss the recent issue of Tesla's driving software engaging in illegal rolling stops, and gush over how well the system handles the busy streets downtown.

The pair are paying relatively close attention during the drive, given the point is to evaluate version 10.9 of Tesla's FSD Beta. What happens next goes down with the perfect timing of a well-written comedy sketch.

"With the software update, you can actually make thousands of people drive safer, just with a software update overnight." says Omar. Russell begins to respond, replying "Wow, that's actually, that's actually hell..." before lunging for the wheel as the car begins veering dangerously towards a cyclist riding along the road. 

The intervention comes quickly enough that Russell manages to miss the cyclist, followed by an exhortation of swear words and laughter. "Are we gonna have to cut that!?" asks Russell, quickly exclaiming "It wouldn't have hit him! It definitely wouldn't have hit him!" 

Continuing down the road, the duo try to rationalize, minimize, and explain away what happened. "I mean, that's what you're supposed to do.' says Omar, downplaying the incident. "Yeah, that was like, fine," Russel concurs, later adding "We didn't get that close." 

Omar's opinion is that such things are expected, stating that "It's shocking to people because it's new, that something like that would happen, but the system functioned exactly as designed... This is normal." Meanwhile, Russell points out that "You're constantly making your car avoid hitting a biker on human pilot... but then you're surprised that you're doing it for one second while on FSD Beta." It seems to ignore the fact that most human drivers don't usually find themselves suddenly aiming their vehicles directly at innocent cyclists.  

One suspects the Tesla fans doth protest too much. If the incident was indeed such a minor, normal occurrence, it would not have led to gasps, swearing, nor several minutes of effusive justification for what just happened.

With crashes piling up and federal regulators investigating, Tesla regularly faces allegations that it is putting motorists at risk with technology that isn't safe enough for public use. Recent studies suggest that Tesla may not be accurately representing the system's safety credentials, too. Videos like this one support that case; had the pair not been paying such close attention, this incident could easily have caused serious injuries.

Regardless, Tesla fans have proven time and again in the face of such evidence that they are willing to go to the mat for the company. Omar himself has form in this area, seemingly struggling with the basic laws of physics when he recently claimed that Tesla's software did not run stop signs while simultaneously admitting the car does not actually come to halt with a recent version of the FSD Beta. 2 mph is 1 mph is 0 mph if you're committed to the cause, it seems. 

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This post-truth ethos is becoming pervasive, where fans of the company will blindly argue against even the slightest criticism. It's a major problem, as it's impossible to deal with problems in a society that refuses to acknowledge they exist. The situation is only worsened when people take active measures to deny, obfuscate, or confuse the matter entirely.

Many automotive commentators will openly discuss the benefits of Tesla vehicles, from long ranges on a single charge to the devastating performance of the Model S Plaid. However, these journalists are routinely flamed and abused online as soon as they go as far as recognizing the company's struggles with quality control and mechanical issues.

The fact of the matter is that, like any automaker, Tesla has good points and bad. In some regards, it has more bad than some of its competitors, and it's self-driving technology raises very real concerns with much of the driving public. Acknowledging this isn't a political standpoint or proof of some kind of playground beef. It's simply reporting on what's going on in the world.

When personal and political identity determines what we believe, rather than the observations we make of the world around us, dialogue is fruitless and progress is out of the question.  It's a lesson that's handy to keep in mind when reading any news story.