There’s never a dull moment in tech. Elon Musk and Ford CEO Jim Farley got into it on Twitter yesterday after a new Ford advertisement seemingly tossed shade at Tesla’s Autopilot.
Heads up: The real lead here is that Ford’s new BlueCruise kit, a driverless car system, will launch on certain Mustang and F-150 models. Can we all take a moment to recognize how awesome the idea of an autonomous Mustang in the future is?
But: Elon being Elon, there was no way the news was ever going to be about anything other than him.
BlueCruise! We tested it in the real world, so our customers don’t have to. pic.twitter.com/dgqVkWH31r
— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) April 14, 2021
Ford CEO Jim Farley apparently couldn’t resist trolling Tesla a bit when he tweeted that his company tested BlueCruise “in the real world, so our customers don’t have to.” This has been interpreted to be a jab at Tesla’s simulation-based training methods.
Musk responded (to a tweet featuring the quote) by invoking Farley’s cousin, the late Chris Farley. Yes, that Chris Farley:
I found some footage of the drive https://t.co/TXeLQO9Spr
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2021
Many on Twitter found the reply innocuous and good-natured, others saw it as over-the-top and disrespectful. It’s generally considered impolite to use a clip of someone’s deceased relative to troll them on social media.
Here’s the thing: It’s macabre for Musk and Farley to joke about training driverless cars. Autopilot failures have been a contributing factor in numerous accidents involving Tesla vehicles, some of which were fatal.
Tesla’s “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving” systems are not capable of auto-piloting or self-driving. Full stop.
This kind of rhetoric, two childish CEOs bantering about the abilities of their vehicles, gives consumers a bloated view of what these cars are capable of. Whether consumers think Ford’s built something that’s better than “Autopilot,” or that Tesla already has things figured out – it seems the reality of level two autonomy is getting lost in the hype.
The bottom line: The technology powering these vehicles is amazing but, at the end of the day it’s just glorified cruise control. Drivers are meant to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road at all times when operating any current production vehicle, whether its so-called self-driving features are engaged or not.
When these companies and their CEOs engage in back-and-forth on Twitter, they’re taking a calculated risk that consumers will buy into the rivalry and enjoy the capitalist competition as it plays out for their amusement.
They take the same kind of calculated risk when they continue marketing their products as “self-driving” features even after customers keep overestimating their abilities and dying.