As we have discussed in previous modules, terminology (or buzz words) have a tendency to blackbox new technologies that would otherwise be comprehensible. Occasionally, syntax can do far worse than complicate technological concepts. A recent fatal Tesla vehicle crash resulted in two deaths, and the car was believed to be driverless by authorities. (Wong, 2021) Tesla, and in particular, Elon musk, has faced multiple controversies since Tesla’s rise to prominence as an EV producer. The problematic term, “autopilot” in Tesla vehicles, raises issues associated with syntax in marketing, and the detriments of uninformed consumers. (Leggett, 2021)
Tesla dissolved its PR department, and seemingly uses only Musk’s tweets to push out information. (Morris, 2020) This is problematic in the sense that it removes a human interaction element in the sale of its cars, (which is also dealer-free). This begs the question, are consumers uninformed about the autonomous capability in Tesla vehicles? Is the labeling of the driver assistance feature as “autopilot” problematic? The sensationalism of Tesla may likely lead to overzealous use of their products, and can be damaging to the further development of autonomous vehicles. It is difficult to argue Elon Musk is savvy in regards to marketing, but marketing is not necessarily synonymous with public relations.
The United States is falling behind in regards to regulation in multiple fields concerning technology and science, the CDA (Communications Decency Act) section 230 is an example of this. Whereas, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) protects European citizens, yet has not prevented social media companies like Facebook and Instagram from operating there. (Gdpr Archives, 2021) Regulation does not need to carry the negative stigma of stifling innovation or economic growth. Several countries in Europe, to include Germany and the UK, have already made regulations concerning the use of the term “autopilot” in relation to Tesla vehicles. So why is this sort of overstep in the use of misleading syntax overlooked by US policy makers when multiple incidents have occurred? (Shepardson, 2021) A question which has persisted for me throughout the course is, are policy makers out of touch with rapidly evolving technology? What is considered too much regulation, and when is there not enough?
Gdpr archives. (n.d.). GDPR.Eu. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://gdpr.eu/tag/gdpr/
Leggett, T. (2021, April 19). Two men killed in Tesla car crash “without driver” in seat. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56799749
Morris, J. (2020, October 10). Has tesla really fired its pr department? And does it matter? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmorris/2020/10/10/has-tesla-really-fired-its-pr-department-and-does-it-matter/
Shepardson, D. (2021, March 18). U.S. safety agency reviewing 23 Tesla crashes, three from recent weeks. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-crash-idUSKBN2BA2ML
Wong, W. (2021, April 19). 2 dead in Tesla crash after car “no one was driving” hits tree, authorities say. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/2-dead-tesla-crash-after-car-no-one-was-driving-n1264470