By on April 15, 2021

In addition to Elon Musk’s title as CEO — sorry, Technoking — of Tesla, along with his role as boss of SpaceX, we need to add professional troll to his resume.

How else to explain his latest Twitter spat?

For those who didn’t see it, Ford chief Jim Farley tweeted out a video touting the brand’s new BlueCruise hands-free driving system that had what many interpreted as a subtle dig at Tesla.

Tesla, you see, has been accused, fairly in my view, of using its customers as unwitting guinea pigs in the testing of its so-called “Full-Self Driving” system.

We’ll pause here to note that there is no car on the market that offers true self-driving. A fully autonomous experience would be classified as level 5 autonomy, and no car is beyond level 2. Tesla’s system is level 2. Our friendly rivals at Jalopnik won’t even use Tesla’s terminology anymore because it’s misleading, and dangerously so, and as TTAC boss, I’ve been thinking of following suit. While we strive to be fair in our journalism, we also exist to report the truth, and the truth is that Tesla’s system isn’t full-self driving, no matter what it calls it. And Tesla’s marketing actually is dangerously misleading, since consumers might believe their cars can do more autonomous driving than they actually can, potentially leading to accidents.

So, Ford called Tesla out. And Musk clapped back with a clip from the 1995 comedy Tommy Boy, which starred Farley’s late cousin, Chris. The clip showed a scene from the movie in which the 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX driven by the characters portrayed by Farley and David Spade experiences a hood malfunction at speed because Tommy Callahan Jr. (Farley) didn’t remove the oil can after a fuel stop.

At least one automotive reporter called out Musk on Twitter for being mean. As we all know, Farley died young of a drug overdose, and it’s arguably pretty awful to tease someone by dredging up footage of their late cousin acting in a movie — one in which he plays a guy who can be, at times, a bit of idiot.

That aside, it bugs me on another level. There’s a discourse now that pervades our politics, our sports, and almost everything else in which someone gets called out for doing something that most people would say is wrong — in Tesla’s case, using a marketing term that is misleading and dangerously so — and instead of working to correct the issue, decides to lash out in an attempt to hurt the critic.

In other words, instead of tweeting back at Ford, Musk should be working on either making FSD actually a truly self-driving system, or more realistically, coming up with a better name for it that doesn’t imply that it does more than it actually is capable of. Say what you want about BlueCruise or GM’s SuperCruise, neither implies that they are level 5 systems that allow the car to completely drive itself. And last I checked, GM’s Super Bowl ad made it clear SuperCruise only works on certain roads.

This is nothing new for Musk. But it’s intellectually dishonest bullshit and I am tired of it. As a society, we’ve spent too long now — at least half a decade — allowing powerful people to act like this when they’re called out or criticized. It’s childish behavior and we’re enabling it.

Musk isn’t the only one guilty of this. A certain ex-president is a master of it, as are certain politicians from both sides of the aisle, at all levels. Give me five minutes and I could think up a whole ton of athletes and celebs and pundits and contrarian journalists who embrace this type of behavior, especially on Twitter.

But since Musk runs the most divisive car company of our era, he’s our focus for this post.

I don’t know if what he tweeted to Farley is truly mean or not. Or if it is or isn’t funny.

I do know that it’s a deflection from Tesla’s misleading marketing, and that’s the problem.

[Image: Tesla]

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32 Comments on “Professional Troll Elon Musk At It Again...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m good with calling out Tesla’s BS, but they shouldn’t be the only ones. Lots of manufacturers are playing loose with reality right now (H/K and GM are probably the largest offenders) and they shouldn’t get a pass.

    As far as this specific thing goes, I don’t think it is a big deal. If a competing CEO chirps at you then a response isn’t out of line.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Our friendly rivals at Jalopnik won’t even use Tesla’s terminology anymore because it’s misleading, and dangerously so, and as TTAC boss, I’ve been thinking of following suit.”

    Agreed – you should.

    I still think Tesla is ripe for a class-action lawsuit for fraud regarding “FSD”. Thousands of customers foolish enough to pay for this vaporware option are getting ripped off, as are the used car dealers who discover that FSD isn’t transferable to the next customer. It’s unethical – and to my non-lawyer mind – illegal.

    One nit: “the most divisive car company of our era” – Mr Musk is the divisive one, perhaps the most divisive CEO of our era. But the company does what he says, and is merely a reflection of his persona.

    There is nothing inherently divisive with Tesla, and I think they would be better off without him. Quality would go up, and heck, they might even reinstate their PR department. :)

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @SCE: I think the problem with the quality was a combination of pushing the lines too fast and the process of learning how to build cars. I’m hoping things settle with Austin and Germany coming online. It’ll still take a little while to work out the kinks in the new plants, but I think they will work things out.

      The FSD issue is a problem common to all of the companies involved in vehicle autonomy. I think they genuinely think they can pull it off with the technology they are using. They won’t. There are some technical issues that will keep them from getting there. Different technology that is in its infancy can do it, but it’s years away. Actively under development, but years away. I’ve been working in AI and collision avoidance for 21 years now (co-designed aviation systems that are now in use) and was a participant in some DARPA challenges, so I’ve been at it for a while.

      • 0 avatar
        Imagefont

        I recall earlier posts from you that were rather optimistic about autonomous vehicles, so I assumed you’ve revised your opinion.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @imagefront: I’m very optimistic. I just realize how much work it’s going to be. It’s going to probably take years, like 10 or more. There are always breakthroughs that can reduce the time, but it’s going to take time. Lots of hard basic research being done now. The type of research corporations don’t like since you can’t give them an end date as to when they’ll have a product to sell. We spend a lot of time in zoom conferences discussing research papers published in journals.

          My idea is that a level 5 AV should have visual capability beyond any human, the ability to anticipate problems better than any human, and to react faster than any human. It can be done and that’s the standard we should expect.

          As far as the current technology goes, I’d trust it in stop-and-go traffic on a limited access highway. I think that’s one of the use-cases that it’s perfect for.

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    “one in which he plays a guy who can be, at times, a bit of idiot.”

    Let’s at least be fair in that footage of Chris Farley acting in anything where he does NOT play ‘a bit of an idiot’ is not a thing that exists. That was his schtick.

    That said, I thought Musk’s troll was legitimately pretty funny. Didn’t even occur to me that the Farley’s were related.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Some people will find it funny. I don’t think that’s problematic. What bugs me is the deflection away from Tesla’s misleading marketing.

      And yeah, I love Tommy Boy and Black Sheep and Matt Foley (which, according to Bob Odenkirk, is inspired by my hometown) so I am right there with you.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        We all know that ‘outrageous” is what matters in the Twitter sphere or what ever social media platform one frequents. Outrage either real or faux and clicks/hits likes etc. are all that matter. You don’t amass millions of followers with the truth.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Tesla isn’t selling FSD yet. All they are selling is a place on their waiting list for FSD whenever (if ever) they release it. They did the same with the Model 3. Even fanbois on YouTube are advising prospective buyers to wait for an actual release of FSD.

    A few copies of a Beta version have been released. Having seen YouTube videos of it, I’d call it an advanced development version rather than a Beta. The graphics show the system in operation. A true Beta would be a finished version with only the most subtle and rarely occurring bugs left.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Data is a year old, but as of a year ago next week, Tesla had logged something like 3,000,000,000 miles on some level of whatever-you-call-it:

    https://electrek.co/2020/04/22/tesla-autopilot-data-3-billion-miles/

    Ford boasting about 110,000 miles, from Musk’s perspective… well let’s say Musk pulled his punches.

    [0.0001 billion / 3 billion = relatively small number] (If Tesla has ‘driven’ cross-country, Ford’s ‘trip’ would constitute about 1.5 city blocks.) (If Ford’s mileage equated to a meandering cross-country trip, Tesla’s equivalent would reach the Sun.)

  • avatar
    aja8888

    Clearly Musk is exhibiting his level of professionalism with that Tweet. I’ll bet his kids have no respect for him either.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    There’s plenty to complain about here from both sides.

    First, Ford didn’t name Tesla in its ad or Tweet, so Musk didn’t need to respond at all.

    Tesla gathers customer performance data in order to improve its autonomous driving algorithms. You can call that “testing on your customers” if you want, but virtually all software is beta to some degree. We live in the world of the dreaded “software update.”

    Chumps who would pay $10K in advance for FSD vapor-ware from Tesla get what they deserve.

    I’ve been calling BS on self driving from day one. It may work 99.5% of the time, but it’s the 0.5% of driving situations that a computer will not, in the lifetime of anyone reading this, be able to handle reliably, absent dedicated roads where all cars are autonomous. That and the liability issues make FSD a pipe dream.

  • avatar

    “Tesla, you see, has been accused, fairly in my view, of using its customers as unwitting guinea pigs”

    As if Ford does not do the same (see Ford Focus scandal or Ford charger). At least what Tesla does helps to develop product. Ford just cancels it.

  • avatar

    “Tesla, you see, has been accused, fairly in my view, of using its customers as unwitting guinea pigs”

    As if Ford does not do the same (see Ford Focus scandal or Ford charger). At least what Tesla does helps to develop product. Ford just cancels it.

  • avatar
    notsure

    I don’t see how a car can drive itself unless every car on the road is equipted with a transponder.Now if he’s planning on using a algorithem to tell the car what another car will do on the road, well then he hasn’t seen my wife drive

  • avatar
    notsure

    I don’t see how a car can drive itself unless every car on the road is equipted with a transponder.Now if he’s planning on using an algorithem to tell the car what another car will do on the road, well then he hasn’t seen my wife drive

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Imagine being so sensitive that you take issue with two CEOs having some good-natured fun.

    Farley took a jab at Musk and Musk raised the bar (as much as I hate Musk that was a good pull on his part). Laugh a little….

  • avatar
    SharkDiver

    Nice to know that the space VW was occupying rent free in Tim’s head is now occupied by Tesla. “Journalists” can dish it out but they sure don’t seem to be able to take it.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      You just have to adjust your expectations surrounding TTAC:
      • The Managing Editor writes, but doesn’t Manage or Edit
      • The Readers provide News items
      • The Readers provide Edits (which occasionally get “UPDATED”)
      • Some of the writers Comment (using time they saved by not providing functional links in the articles they wrote – which will also not be caught by the Editor)

      Peak 2021 TTAC is when a bot posts a light rewrite of a press release which doesn’t get edited and which is then commented on by masthead writers. Less like a professional website, more like a Slack discussion. Good news is it is all self-contained – this business model doesn’t even need readers, especially knowledgeable ones with an informed opinion and acceptable social skills.

      To quote from Tim Healey’s latest Cadillac review:
      • “…seem a bit thrown together”
      • “Unfortunately, the journey is long and incomplete.”
      • “every day I spent with it revealed more and more flaws”
      • “just not quite visually appealing” [that would be much of TTAC’s in-house ‘photography’]
      • “But as always, that’s not good enough.”

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “especially knowledgeable ones with an informed opinion and acceptable social skills.”

        Social media and the algorithms that run them encourage a decrease in knowledge and informed opinion. People search for validation not informed discourse. When one looses informed discourse then one’s social skills start to disappear.

        It obviously spills over to news blogs and other self-proclaimed media/news sites. We’ve seen that in politics. We also see it with brand loyal types.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          @Lou_BC,

          “not informed discourse”

          “one’s social skills start to disappear”

          Are you the same individual who insulted someone’s spouse yesterday on this same site?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            LOL…I do recall some collaboration on that front;)

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            “Are you the same individual who insulted someone’s spouse yesterday on this same site?”

            Not only that, he doesn’t know how to spell “loses”.

  • avatar
    Daveo

    He’s such an embarrassment to what is otherwise a great company. He’s a snake oil salesman, always has been. Nice to see people calling him out on his BS and his underdeveloped cars. Tired of all the sycophant fan bois praising everything he does.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Between Farley and Musk it’s hard to tell who you’re talking about.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        @EBFlex, your comments are getting better – well done, sir! (As soon as Tim Healey gets us the site improvements he promised X years ago, I will give you an upvote on this comment.)

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @ToolGuy – Well, we’re discussing a spat between two entities that mr.flex doesn’t like. He wouldn’t have made that comment if it was Elon/Farley versus Manley at Stellantis.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            @Lou_BC, I am well aware of EBFlex’s thoughts surrounding Ford Motor Company – and I am not agreeing or disagreeing here. But a well-placed, incisive and artfully-composed dig is to be commended.

            (On the other hand, the haughty third-person tone in your comment here could be improved. Fairly passive-aggressive. Tsk.)

            Cheer up – you live in the greatest country on earth:
            https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/overall-rankings

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @ToolGuy – as always, you are an intellectual breath of fresh air.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          “@EBFlex, your comments are getting better – well done, sir! (As soon as Tim Healey gets us the site improvements he promised X years ago, I will give you an upvote on this comment.)”

          My comments are always top-notch. The problem some people have is they don’t like to hear certain things and lash out at the person typing them rather than accepting the truth. It’s ok though when someone “looses” their temper, it is funny and entertaining.

          You are rather boring.

  • avatar
    Snooder

    I think the central problem is not that people get defensive and are mean to each other.

    That’s just how people are, have been, and always will be. I mean, Alexander Hamilton got clapped by Aaron Burr for talking mad shit.

    The problem is that we have, for some inexplicable reason, decided to treat random trolling on the internet (i.e. Twitter) like an actual source of journalism.

    Nobody should care what anyone says on Twitter. It’s Twitter. I don’t care if God himself descends from the heavens to post on twitter that “Buddha is ghey”. I refuse to care, and nobody else should either. Make them publish that nonsense in an actual publication where they have to think about it and someone has to edit it and well sift out 99% of the crap.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Musk is honestly the most compelling reason not to buy a Tesla.

    “Full Self-Driving” is straight-up consumer fraud.

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