Screenshot from Whole Mars Catalog YouTube Channel
Last week, Twitter user and prominent Elon Musk supporter Omar Qazi, who runs the blog Whole Mars Catalog, tweeted: “Is there anyone in the Bay Area with a child who can run in front of my car on Full Self-Driving Beta to make a point?” Qazi's goal was to debunk a viral safety PSA showing a Tesla in FSD mode running over a child-shaped mannequin. He stuck to his word and on Sunday he posted a YouTube video titled, “Does Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta Really Run Over Kids?” featuring an actual child.
The video starts out with someone driving a Tesla and saying: “Let’s go hit this kid,” and then it quickly cuts to an image of The Dawn Project founder and U.S. Senate candidate Dan O’Dowd—who created the video to be debunked—photoshopped to look like a clown. Qazi narrates the motive of his video: to debunk O’Dowd’s PSA that showcased a Tesla in FSD mode repeatedly mowing down a child-sized mannequin. Whereas O’Dowd insists that Tesla’s FSD mode should be banned completely and that it is a “demonstrable danger to human life,” Qazi believes that Tesla’s FSD “appears to be quite good at detecting pedestrians including elederly people and kids.” On Twitter and throughout the video, Qazi claims that O’Dowd’s anti-Tesla stance was self-motivated, to benefit his company Green Hills Software. Qazi also speculated that in the PSA, the driver pressed the accelerator pedal to override FSD as it neared the mannequin, and that the cones placed on the sides of the track prevented the car from changing lanes in order to swerve around the mannequin.
In Qazi’s video, he starts off with three tests that put a dressed-up, child mannequin similar to what was used in O’Dowd’s PSA, in the middle of the street. In these tests, the car is parked a short distance from the mannequin, then, after FSD is engaged, it either slowly approaches the mannequin and stops, or swerves around it. Next, Qazi uses an adult man, having him both stand in the middle of the street and then walk across the street. The car is parked the same short distance away from the man, and then after FSD is turned on, the car refuses to continue until the man steps to the side of the street. And finally, the video showcases the long-awaited test promised by Qazi: a father using FSD to drive the Tesla toward his own kids. The driver, Tad, introduces himself and says: “I trust the system enough that I’ve tried FSD Beta before that I would trust my kids’ lives with them, so I’m very confident that it’s going to detect my kids and I'm also in control of the wheel so I can brake at anytime.” In these tests, the Tesla is parked a short distance away from the kids, and then engages FSD mode from a stop. "It sees you, it sees you," Tad calls out, before engaging FSD mode. "So what's happening—the car refuses to move," Qazi says, before the car begins to move slowly toward the child. "It's moving a little bit," Tad says, before the car eventually stops and the child moves out of the way, prompting it to move forward again.The final test Qazi conducted shows the Tesla FSD speed set to 40 miles per hour—like the car in O'Dowd's PSA—and puts the first toddler mannequin in the middle of the road. The car successfully navigates around the mannequin. In response to the YouTube video, O’Dowd posted his own video of a new test he conducted. In this video, he makes sure to include the accelerator pedal in the shot to show that it is never pressed. This time, the mannequin is placed on a crosswalk outside of a school in Santa Barbara, California and dressed in a bright safety vest to make it as visible as possible. There are no safety cones.The car is parked farther a distance away from the mannequin than in Qazi’s tests, but the mannequin is still visible from the dashboard. After FSD is turned on, the video shows the car mowing down the mannequin on the crosswalk, and unlike in Qazi’s video, the mannequin is not detected on the car’s touchscreen map. With these both being individual examples, it’s hard to make a conducive statement about Tesla’s FSD mode. As far as what we can say, Qazi’s video does show the Tesla at a much closer distance to the pedestrians and the car does still attempt to move forward slowly, while O’Dowd’s video seems closer to a real life scenario, as the car is farther and faster and the mannequin is on a designated crosswalk. I think it’s also fair to say that fans of Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk trust him with their children’s lives. Neither O'Dowd nor Qazi immediately responded to a request for comment. Tesla has no media department to field requests.