By Russ Mitchell Staff Writer May 20, 2022 10 AM PT
If you own a Tesla, or a loved one does, or you’re thinking about buying one, or you share public roads with Tesla cars, you might want to watch the new documentary “Elon Musk’s Crash Course.”
Premiering Friday on FX and Hulu, the 75-minute fright show spotlights the persistent dangers of Tesla’s automated driving technologies, the company’s lax safety culture, Musk’s P.T. Barnum-style marketing hype and the weak-kneed safety regulators who seem not to care.
Solidly reported and dead-accurate (I’ve covered the company since 2016 and can attest to its veracity), the project, part of the ongoing “New York Times Presents” series, may well become a historic artifact of the what-the-hell-were-they-thinking variety.
The central through line is the story of Joshua Brown, a rabid Tesla fan and derring-do techno-geek beheaded when his Autopilot-engaged Tesla drove itself at full speed on a Florida highway underneath the trailer of a semi-truck in 2016.
Whatever lessons were learned at Tesla did not prevent an almost identical fatal crash, also in Florida, three years later. An unknown number of Autopilot-related crashes have occurred since — unknown to anyone but Tesla, which has the ability to track its cars through wireless connections — because the government’s decades-old process for collecting crash statistics is unfit for the digital age. The company is currently under investigation by federal safety regulators for an apparent tendency to crash into emergency vehicles parked by the side of the highway.
Here are four more key takeaways from “Elon Musk’s Crash Course.”
1. Tesla’s Autopilot feature did not receive adequate testing, ex-employees allege
2. Fully autonomous Teslas are more science-fiction than reality
3. Musk’s fans don’t hold back. Even on camera
4. Regulatory failures are part of the problem
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