By on February 4, 2022

Tesla and its boss, Elon Musk, stepped in it again this week.

As we reported the other day, Tesla faced a recall of 54,000 vehicles because the company had programmed its Full-Self Driving software to allow rolling stops.

When the Associated Press’s Tom Krisher wrote a pretty straightforward news story describing the recall, Elon Musk called him a “lobbyist” while replying to a tweet.

We can debate all day long if Tesla should program rolling stops into its FSD software. I’m pretty sure the majority of human drivers roll stop signs regularly, but the practice is technically illegal and it’s also potentially dangerous. Whether cars with autonomous driving should be programmed to allow maneuvers that are illegal and dangerous but also commonly performed by human drivers is a thorny subject, worthy of serious discussions.

After all, do we want self-driving cars to never exceed the speed limit? Should we examine situations on a case-by-case basis (speeding and rolling stop signs are different scenarios, after all)? People smarter than you and I will be working this out as automakers work on higher levels of autonomous driving, or at least they should be.

What really ground my gears about this whole flap wasn’t that Tesla allowed the cars to roll stops. Again, it’s debatable whether it should have or not. I don’t think Tesla should’ve done it, to be clear, but I understand arguments for allowing FSD cars to roll stops, and I don’t subscribe to the moral panic I saw from some folks on Twitter. As our own Adam pointed out, we can set cruise control well above speed limits – why not allow cars to roll stop signs if the circumstances are safe?

I do take issue with allowing FSD to make the judgment of whether it’s safe or not, given the track record of Teslas hitting things when in autonomous mode. And I understand why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration isn’t going to allow an automaker to make design decisions – or in this case, program cars – to break the laws and/or create unsafe conditions.

Nah, what’s been boiling my blood for the past few days is how Musk, an adult male, has acted like a baby in response to the recall.

He called a reporter for the Associated Press – a nonpartisan, objective news outlet – a “lobbyist” without evidence (or without saying who and/or what the reporter was lobbying for) because he was upset about negative press.

Here’s a thought for Elon – instead of blaming someone for writing about the recall (in a fact-based news story, not an opinion piece, nonetheless), how about pointing the finger at your own company? You made a decision to allow the cars to roll stop signs. That decision pissed off regulators. If you think cars with FSD should be allowed to be programmed to roll stops, take it up with NHTSA or whatever other agencies are involved.

Here’s where I disclose that I once worked for the AP in college, covering sports, first on a freelance basis, and later, part-time. I should also disclose that this TTAC article I wrote drew the ire of the Tesla army on Twitter. Finally, I don’t know Krisher, as small as this industry is, but it’s possible we’ve met.

As for Musk, he and his legions of fans have engaged in this behavior before. Something is written about Tesla, be it a fact-based news article in which the facts are negative towards Tesla or an opinion piece critical of the company, and Musk and his army of Twitter followers go after the writer. There’s never any thought about engaging with the criticism in a reasonable manner, possibly conceding the criticism could be correct, or taking corrective action in light of facts that show the company is performing poorly. There’s no accountability.

Maybe it’s because Tesla ditched its PR department, but I think it goes beyond that. It’s a part of American culture now to blame the messenger instead of looking in the mirror. The 45th president of these United States is a master of it, but he’s far from the only person in the public eye who does this. In the sports world, there’s an executive who runs a sports-media company named after a piece of restaurant furniture who turns his loyal followers on anyone who attacks him or his company. Ask his media rivals, or an unfortunate NASCAR journalist, or the women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior.

It’s a way to dodge the issue. Call us out for cars that aren’t reliable? Attack. Point out production delays? Attack. Point out that our autonomous vehicles are bouncing off of objects? Attack. Write an article about a recall, one that just points out factual truths and doesn’t really take a pro- or anti-Tesla stance but does quote two experts sending relatively mild criticism the company’s way? The writer must be a “lobbyist.”

Musk and his followers are shifting the conversation by attempting to shut down criticism and factual truths that aren’t flattering.

Enough with this shit. It’s intellectually dishonest. What Musk should’ve done is issue a statement saying he and Tesla disagreed with NHTSA about whether rolling stops should be allowed, but it would honor the agency’s request for the time being while also working with NHTSA and/or lawmakers to see if there could be a compromise that would allow Tesla (and, eventually, other automakers) to program autonomous-driving systems to roll past stop signs without coming to a complete stop, at least when conditions were deemed safe, in the future.

That, however, would be too mature for a man who once called someone a ‘pedo guy’ because that person suggested Musk’s design for a submarine used to rescue people stuck in a cave wouldn’t work.

Tom Krisher and the AP will be fine. This will blow over, and eventually, Krisher will feel safe to check his Twitter mentions once again, if he isn’t there already. The news cycle moves fast (indeed, I’d have written this sooner had I not been traveling on TTAC business, more on that next week) and soon enough, Musk will turn his attention and followers on someone/something else.

Next time, though, he should try turning the attention on himself and his company. Not only would it save critics from unwarranted harassment and possibly actually reduce the negative coverage it gets, but it might also make for a better product from Tesla.

I’m not holding my breath.

[Image: Naresh111/Shutterstock]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

62 Comments on “Opinion: Tesla and Elon Musk Need to Hold Themselves Accountable...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    …how Musk, an adult male, has acted like a baby in response to the recall”

    That’s SOP for him. I’ll repeat that I think Tesla would do well to part ways with him. His tweet police seem to be MIA.

    Personal accountability is a lost character trait today; but then again, those who try it end up being cancelled, anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’ve recently come around to the view that Tesla is mature enough to move on from the “maverick founder” stage. (I’m aware of the technicalities.)

      Musk has accelerated his Howard Hughes-ish journey to crazy town. Tesla is well established and it can’t back away from being an EV leader now — so now it’s to let the professionals take over Tesla and do what they do best.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        @Luke,

        I don’t know if he’s gone to crazy town. I think he’s just playing the game just like everyone else.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          I think Musk is who he always was: a sociopathic grifter who had one good idea and built a business on that idea plus rich parents, a massive federal tax break for buyers of his product, and an essentially free factory.

          The evidentiary trail of his chronic abuse of everyone from workers to regulators to the local population to anyone in the path of his cars is ample enough that it needs no recounting here. It is neither new nor defensible.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Whatever you think of Biden, tweeting that the president is a damp sock puppet, or commenting about the Canadian truck protest convoy GoFundMe account, is just not necessary. These are self inflicted wounds and you’d think he would have better things to do. Maybe this behavior makes him popular with some of his cheerleaders but I think it just makes him look unstable. He just resolved a lawsuit after calling a diver in a foreign country a “Pedo guy”, what purpose did that serve?
      What he needs is someone to smack him upside the head every time he does or says something stupid, but if fear he would soon suffer irreparable brain damage.

  • avatar
    gasser

    The issue of responsibility for a crash while using FSD will be decided by the courts. Either Tesla, the vehicle operator, (or both) will be held responsible.
    For me, being of an age of slide rules, yellow sticky notes, and drum brakes, I would not trust FSD.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      I would trust FSD when it was explained to me exactly how it works, what it sees, how it detects everything in the path of the car and how it’s about to negotiate through traffic safely. As far as I can tell it sees “objects”, sometimes, without knowing anything about them (car, concrete pillar, plastic bag, bush, child, bicycle – they all look the same) and it just follows the painted lane markings on the road. Unsafe and useless.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    By default one can call out a journalist as being a partisan, shill, or agenda driver and be right much, much more often than wrong. I can certainly appreciate where he’s coming from even if he might be wrong in this instance. I have no idea if he is or not.

    I can see why the 45th President feels the same way too.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Knowing what I know about AP, I suspect Elon is more likely to be wrong in this case than not. Certainly the AP piece was pretty straightforward and neutral. There were two quotes that were critical of Tesla, but fair, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The 45th president’s overuse of insulting journalists and calls of “fake news” means that anything that sounds even remotely similar just sounds like a grown man having tantrum.

      Without supporting evidence, insulting journalists is just sour grapes.

      Musk’s recent tantrums have has knocked my esteem for the guy down a couple of notches. I’m an EV fan, and a Tesla fan — but it’s time to move on from Musk, just like we moved on from 45.

  • avatar
    Fred

    If I got a ticket in my Tesla (if I had one) because it rolled thru a stop sign, who has to pay? Can I sue Tesla for my ticket?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Nope. Tesla’s driving aids are still SAE Level 2, which requires an attentive driver.

      We’re a very long way from truly autonomous driving. Firetrucks, stop signs, lane dividers, and especially snowstorms are kryptonite for Tesla’s driving aids.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        They’ve fixed some of those. I’ve even seen videos of a Tesla pulling to the side of the road to let an emergency vehicle by. They’ve moved on to other problems like phantom braking. They’ll probably fix that and then on to another issue. That’s the problem, It’s going to be fix one problem, then find another for quite a while. Then probably more random phantom braking issues.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “They’ve moved on to other problems like phantom braking.”

          Phantom braking? Nothing to see here. Move along.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Here’s one of the scarier FSD videos (recent):

            https://twitter.com/i/status/1488555256162172928

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Awesome…I’ve always wanted to be a crash test dummy.

            The Tesla FSD beta test reminds me of the ’50s nuke tests where they would light off an atomic bomb and then order soldiers to rush the mushroom cloud. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

        • 0 avatar
          285exp

          Until they have dedicated autonomous vehicle lanes and a way for the vehicles to communicate with each other, they’ll never run out of issues to fix. As soon as they give the go ahead for fully autonomous driving, any errors the vehicles make are going to be the fault of the manufacturer, and the lawyers will have a field day.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I’ve got mixed emotions on this one.
    While it’s probably good to ban unintended rolling stops, what’s to keep them from mandating not allowing speeds in excess of the posted limits?

    • 0 avatar
      285exp

      If they’re going to allow autonomous driving, the vehicles should be programmed to obey all traffic laws, including speed limits. No reason they should be allowed to choose which laws they want to obey.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Question from a non-Tesla guy: when you operate in “full self driving” mode does it just go by the speed limit signs?

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The problem is that obeying all traffic laws is nearly impossible, and that enforcement of those laws is selective.

        We need rule-following AIs in order to avoid what XKCD calls “killbot hellscape”. Following the law is a generalized version of Asmiov’s 2nd Law of Robotics.

        We may have to fix some of our traffic laws in order to have rule-following AI’s.

  • avatar
    probert

    They issued an update a couple of days ago. They also deeply regret the seat-belt chime fiasco. Stick a fork in it. Musk is emotionally an 8 year old. News at 11 ….

  • avatar
    probert

    They issued an update a couple of days ago. They also deeply regret the seat-belt chime fiasco. Stick a fork in it, its over. Musk is emotionally an 8 year old. News at 11 ….

  • avatar
    jkross22

    “Musk and his followers are shifting the conversation by attempting to shut down criticism and factual truths that aren’t flattering.”

    Yep. The Musk Minions believe what they are told to believe. It’s absolutely a cult. Or an occult if you prefer.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Occult means hidden. Musk and his Musk’eteers’ are overtly aggressive. It’s unfortunate offshoot of social media. The world has tribalized into knee jerk azzholes. The planet revolves based on “likes” and “dislikes”. It’s a very sad way to interact with our fellow human beings.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        I conducted a brief experiment yesterday to test your theory. Twisted minds think alike!

        I got on Twitter to explore how people were responding to Jon Stewart’s take on the recent Joe Rogan/Spotify news. If you haven’t seen Stewart’s take on this, it’s well worth a view.

        The response to Stewart was disappointment at best and furious anger and betrayal at worst. It was so over the top that you would have thought Stewart broke into people’s homes and cooked their dogs, Fatal Attraction style.

        I get that Twitter attracts and rewards peak absurdity, but holy crap, what a train wreck.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        Musk is arrogant and sees himself as smarter than anyone else and maybe he is in that he has suckered the Tesla loyalists to believe everything that Tesla does is better than any other manufacturer. If Elon told his followers that it is normal for Teslas to drive off of a bridge they would feel that they would have to pay extra for that. The Cyber truck is a case in point. Teslas have poor fit and finish and poor overall quality.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          That’s the thing…Musk probably IS smarter than anyone. Unfortunately, it’s not tempered with humility. That makes him a great inventor but a lousy business executive.

          Kind of reminds me of Henry Ford.

          • 0 avatar
            tsarcasm

            You do know that Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, founded Tesla not Elon Musk. And hundreds of engineers actually do the work. Musk is just like Edison. A loudmouthed hack who takes credit for others ideas.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff S

            Doesn’t matter who started Tesla or who engineers Tesla Elon Musk is the face of Tesla and for the most part calls the shots. Tesla is no longer Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning’s company and they are not the spokespersons for Tesla.

  • avatar
    carguy949

    Thank you for writing this, Tim. I have a Tesla now and my next one is on order, so I’m a fan of the cars. I also think that Musk is at times brilliant and a visionary. And at the same time, his behavior in other ways is, shall we say, unappetizing. And you’ve hit the nail on the head in pointing out the broader issue of how this sort of behavior permeates the culture. I don’t think it’s just American culture, but it is discouraging the see so many people at the top refusing to accept personal responsibility, blaming the messenger, gaslighting, etc.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “because that person suggested Musk’s design for a submarine used to rescue people stuck in a cave wouldn’t work.”

    I’m not going to defend Elon’s response but the man in question hardly gave a polite “suggestion” in this case.

    I feel similarly about the Portnoy/Utter thing. Portnoy’s response wasn’t *good* but if you want to be considered a respectible sports journalist then why throw an unrelated snark Tweet at a competing publication in the first place?

  • avatar
    Matt Posky

    The Associated Press has not acted in a nonpartisan matter, nor has Musk. Nobody seems to be anymore. Everyone is attacking writers while writers attack each other and everyone else. Everybody is a baby in 2022 because we’re all living in divergent realities and most people have an agenda but not a particularly thick skin.

    Like it or not, Elon went from being a media darling to a pariah at roughly the same time he told California to suck an egg, began criticizing establishment politicians, and his company started outperforming legacy automakers. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so.

    But I agree that FSD is an absolute joke and Tesla should be chided endlessly for pushing in onto people. Still, the industry and media response has been to single out the biggest upstart who succeeded with EVs where they have all failed while ignoring similarly disgusting practices taking place among legacy automakers.

    • 0 avatar
      islander800

      I’ve long wondered why the NHTSA hasn’t issued a cease and desist order to Tesla to STOP calling their software “Self Driving”, let alone “Full Self Driving” since, regardless of his covering statements that drivers are supposed to pay attention and be ready to take over within a fraction of a second if things go wrong, Musk’s fan boys BELVIEVE it’s self driving because their god says so – and people are getting killed as a result. Now I think I understand why the NHTSA hasn’t acted: it was just reported that, after years without, a full-time head of the NHTSA has just been appointed. So I guess the agency had been running on “Full Auto Pilot” for years, since without real guidance from the top, how would one expect it to take serious proactive moves against such powerful interests as Sir Elon? Maybe now with a real boss in charge, we’ll see some real action to rein in cowboys with a god complex like Musk…

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Posky

        There are absolutely cultish Tesla fans engaging in moronic behavior and Tesla absolutely should have had the SEC all over it for naming products things they very obviously are not. I’ve written dozens of articles on the subject and I don’t know why it didn’t see stricter penalties. But I don’t feel like that falls under the NHTSA’s purview and am inclined to believe the current nominee for administrator has lost sight of its original mission and what’s realistically possible for a safety regulator to accomplish. Dude’s opening statement to Congress was basically him demanding that Transportation Department get more funding so it can expand its role. I also worry he doesn’t see consumer data harvesting as a problem, but something that can be leveraged into controlling what drivers can do.

        His assertion that the government will someday eliminate all auto-related deaths seems silly. And it was silly when Congress used it to made the bipartisan decision to allow automakers to basically test autonomous vehicles on the public while Trump was still in office. They even just met to revisit the issue on Wednesday and everyone basically just shrugged their shoulders or bickered. AV START isn’t going to pass, especially now that everyone seems to feel differently about who should be in charge of AVs. Dems now want the government to have strict rules and deep involvement. Reps want companies to have maximum control and legal leeway. Nobody seems interested in what the consumer wants or needs. My point is that everyone (from industry executives to legislators and government regulators) seems totally lost on what’s to be done with/about new technologies and are now just fighting for cash and control.

        Don’t mistake my willingness to criticize all manufacturers and assumption that there may be other factors at play with my supporting bad behavior. I want a real solution to FSD and feel like there should have been on already. But it doesn’t change the fact that the industry’s “mobility” plot has been a sham from the start and that the sudden pushback on Elon seems somewhat artificial.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “I’ve long wondered why the NHTSA hasn’t issued a cease and desist order to Tesla to STOP calling their software “Self Driving””

        It’s really an FTC thing. Still, it’s surprising that people are buying it and not getting upset they’ll probably never get to use it while they own the car. Advanced AutoSteer and AutoSteer would be better names.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      Matt,

      I used to get MOST of my news from Reuters or the AP up until Trump. Then they started doing the same as all the other outlets like NYT and Wapo.

      It had been released that the AP, from it’s own editors, were telling it’s people not to use certain words when full up riots were going on, to make sure they were called “protests” instead. The AP went full hard left.

      I *actually* read the article and felt it was fine, but the AP headline was just aweful as I poseted earlier.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Posky

        I’ve long been skeptical that any outlet could maintain total objectivism but the last five years really has made just about everything political. You can’t escape it anymore and the pressure just keeps coming from every angle. I’ve been highly disappointed with most mainstream media outlets and feel like citizen journalists have begun picking up the slack with far fewer resources. But that doesn’t mean AP (or even WaPo) is incapable of covering things fairly or Musk doesn’t have things to answer for. My criticisms of the press likewise leave room for exceptions; it’s just hard not to address what’s been going on in terms of overarching narratives and who is trying to decide them.

        Corporate influence has gradually tainted legacy media and government influence has become totally unacceptable now that it has a direct line to social media and big tech. These days it all looks to be one in the same. I never cover any topic where I haven’t cross examined narratives and read the take from rival outlets. It feels like the easiest way to get to something approaching the truth and I urge everyone else (left, right, or center) to give it a try.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Could not agree more, Tim. Smart and correct piece.

    My last car purchase decision came down to Bolt vs. Model 3. The Bolt won for several reasons, but one of those reasons was that I didn’t especially want to do business with a company headed by Elon Musk. I don’t think he is trustworthy or responsible.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I’m just checking in to see if TTAC is still dead, and it is.

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    Musk embodies the Silicon Valley mindset — which is “we’re all way smarter than you so if you don’t agree with us then you’re a moron.”

    You saw it when Uber realized its fleets onto streets without regulatory approval from local municipalities. Facebook when it lied repeatedly about what it did with consumer data. Google’s getting exposed for numerous shens.

    A lot of those guys need a crisp punch in the chops.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    We’re gonna be waiting a long, long, long time for Elon Musk to hold himself accountable, folks. In his mind, he shouldn’t be.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    guess those bumper stickers are right. autism speaks :)

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Maybe Elon is just a pathological lying Pedo Guy with a massive ego, just like 45!

  • avatar

    Elon Musk is smarter than all losers who criticize him combined.

  • avatar
    NigelShiftright

    I really want to unreservedly admire Musk. There is nothing that SpaceX and Starlink are doing which I can’t cheer for 100 percent.

    He is making comments as a major business leader which fail to parrot the D.C./Media Approved Narrative on, well, almost everything and I cheer for that too.

    And I don’t have anything against Teslas -as cars- although there are a couple of reasons why I would never personally purchase one.

    If he could just stop marketing and advocating distracted driving I’d put his photo on my office wall.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @NigelShiftRight: Yeah, I hear ya. I’m the same way. There’s good and bad with both Musk and his cars. It’s complicated. I think that happens with a lot of industry and government leaders that are actually good. There’s usually some bad in there too. It’s complicated. We’re in a world where people try to define everything in black and white when there are a lot of shades of gray.

      Like Tesla cars. I admire the engineering and their new manufacturing technology, but not sure I’d buy one because of what I’m hearing about post-purchase customer service. Even FSD, while I could write white papers all day on issues I have with their underlying technology and have been a critic for years, at the same time, I’m amazed at what they’ve done with it. No, I don’t think they’ll get to where it’s safe enough for the general public for years, but I still think they’ve accomplished a lot. I think it would be great moving stock around a large factory or other controlled environments, but they’ve really underestimated the effort to get it to work in complex environments like the streets of Boston. That doesn’t mean it’s not a really great bit of engineering. Just not something that’s ready for primetime.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “…the Associated Press – a nonpartisan, objective news outlet…”

    LOL

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “Who said that nonsense?”

    It’s easier to understand the comments if you read the post.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Lol. So NOW we are supposed to take people on twitter seriously? I always hear “Twitter isn’t real life”. Well, is it or isn’t it?

    The only thing I would care about is an “official” presser from Tesla.

    Considering much worse has been said on twitter about Elon without “evidence”, I’m not sure I have 2 s***ts to give here.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    And after reading the headline, it is so click baity. Let’s somehow tell the truth but over-exagerate as much as possible.

    Would a headline “Tesla Recall: ‘Tesla Full Self Driving” runs through stopsigns” be more truthful or “Tesla Recall: ‘Tesla Full Self Driving’ can slow roll through stop signs”.

    The first headline indicates to me as if the Tesla is blowing through stop signs at full speed, while the second headline tells me that Tesla is California rolling, like most drivers where I live, stop signs.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Never mind the moral aspects of a car that can be set to roll through stop signs. The problem is more basic than that: Musk lied that the car spots obstacles or slows down. A recent test drive of the mode required repeated, frequent interventions just to keep it from crashing. And Musk’s tweeted claim that “there were no safety issues. The car simply slowed to ~2 mph & continued forward if clear view with no cars or pedestrians” is refuted by this video snippet:
    https://twitter.com/awalkerinLA/status/1488678190251798531?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&fbclid=IwAR0k9Q6-mbvIqhIcXmMcL7uELszaCO0Vi9IXDKkx-LiKwK_0udddcBEDm4g

  • avatar
    fendertweed

    Musk is a congenital as$hole. He’s an irredeemable twatwaffle who can’t get over himself as he builds mediocrity (according to those I trust best who have dug deepest IRL into Tesla “quality”).

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • akear: There is some truth to that. However, going from first to sixth place is pretty pathetic. I never thought I...
  • Veeg: Sorry we didn’t grow up on third base and act like we hit a homer like the olds. Grew up in the easiest time in...
  • Jeff S: Go ahead and take another shot just make sure it is bourbon and not whiskey. Bottoms up.
  • Jeff S: Lou you might be right about polished slime (also turds) but the older I get the less I trust people and the...
  • EBFlex: https://edition.cnn.com/2022/0 6/21/business/gas-tax-holiday- biden/index.html

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber