Video Claims Tesla Autopilot Repeatedly Runs Over Child Mannequin In Simple Test

The conditions were much better than you'd find on the road.

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockAug 11 2022, 16:01 UTC
A Tesla mows down a mannequin of a child
Ideally the car would have stopped before this point. Image credit:

Editor’s Note: A subsequent investigation by Electrek claims that full self-driving (FSD) mode was never engaged during the test. It also noted that the founder of The Dawn Project, Dan O’Dowd, has invested in ad campaigns attacking Tesla’s FSD Beta program.

In results that are what's known in the industry as "less than ideal", a test conducted on Tesla's autopilot system appears to show it will mow down child mannequins in "a manner that would be fatal to an actual child".


Research from safety and security group The Dawn Project put a Tesla 2019 Model 3 to the testa on Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California. Placed in full self-driving mode once it hit 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour), the car was sent between a row of traffic cones 109 meters (120 yards) long, directly at a child-sized mannequin waiting at the end.

"To isolate the situation, all variables were removed from the situation except for the vehicle, the child, and the road itself," The Dawn Project wrote in their report

"This made the testing environment more favorable to FSD [full self drive], since a real-world scenario may include distracting elements such as other vehicles in motion, weather, signage, parked cars, shadows, etc."

Nevertheless, in all three tests, the vehicle failed to avoid the mannequin, striking at an average speed of 40 kph (25 mph), according to the Dawn Project.


“This is the worst commercial software I’ve ever seen," founder of The Dawn Project, Dan O'Dowd said in a statement, adding "We need regulations that prohibit self-driving cars from driving on our roads until the manufacturer proves they will not mow down children in crosswalks."

“Elon Musk says Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software is ‘amazing.’ It’s not. It’s a lethal threat to all Americans. Over 100,000 Tesla drivers are already using the car’s Full Self-Driving mode on public roads, putting children at great risk in communities across the country.”

According to the report, the vehicle performs worse than humans could be expected to at the same task. Musk has previously said that full self-driving models, without the need for input from a human driver, will be ready by May 2023.

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