Dr. Missy Cummings was a recent election of the Biden administration to a senior adviser position at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). She is also a clear Tesla Autopilot skeptic and has said some extreme and alarming things about the case. Although she said this in 2020, and the video is a few years old, it is making waves on Twitter, and what she said is seriously disturbing – even as a joke.
Dr. Missy Cummings: Tesla should put an electric cattle prod in the autopilot to make sure drivers are alert pic.twitter.com/wi6fpxZHcl
– Whole Mars (@WholeMarsBlog) January 12, 2022
The video panel discussion she participated in was published in 2020, but news of that panel is floating around on Twitter, and I’m honestly disgusted. In the virtual panel with Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE), Cummings said:
“Unfortunately, the Milgram studies prevent us from putting an electric cattle plug into the car seats, which is what I would vote for.”
The Milgram studies or experiment were a series of social psychological experiments in 1961 that measured the willingness of participants (men aged 20-50) to obey an authority figure who told them to perform actions that were in conflict with their conscience. In the study, participants were told that they were helping with another, unrelated experiment in which they were to give electric shocks to a student. Although the shocks were false, participants did not know this and were told that the shocks were gradually increased to levels that would have been fatal if they had been genuine.
In response to this comment, Edward Neidermeyer giggled. Neidermeyer has been critical of Tesla and Elon Musk for at least 14 years when he ran a “Tesla Death Watch” blog series. The idea back then (in 2008) was that it was only a matter of days before Tesla went bankrupt.
Together with Niedermeyer and Dr. Cummings was Dr. Michael Nees and Dr. Michael Clamann also on the panel.
Summary: this video documents that Dr. Cummings has a friendly conversation with the infamous and infamous Ed Niedermayer:
❌ who ran the “Tesla Death Watch” blog,
And who was accused by Tesla of a campaign with fraudulent NHTSA complaints against Tesla … pic.twitter.com/T40IRo8raq
– Tesla Facts (@truth_tesla) January 12, 2022
I have also been subjected to such harassment, but mine pales in comparison to how my friend Omar Qazi has been treated.
As someone who has been a pedestrian all my life, I have witnessed many accidents (and have even been in near-accidents myself) – mostly from motorists who were not paying attention.
Dr. Cummings, who has previously stated that she owns a Tesla, has been an outspoken critic of Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technology and has even gone so far as to support a group of critics on Twitter who call themselves “TSLAQ” – but eventually she deleted her account after she was called up for her bias.
Many Tesla owners and supporters had several problems with her bias, including the fact that at the time she was on the board of a direct competitor to Tesla in the autonomous driving area, as well as her support for the cult-like anti-Tesla groups that have targeted several Tesla owners and supporters for years. (Disclosure: I’ve even been targeted several times by that group.)
“Tavi” shared a thread on Twitter with his thoughts on the matter. He pointed out that she mocked engineers and that her view of autonomy stands in direct contrast to Tesla’s approach.
Listening to this panel discussion from July 2020 – before the first beta version of FSD was released – it would be reasonable to expect that the implementation of such software would lead to countless accidents due to driver distraction.
And yet … zero reported accidents! 🤷🏻♂️
– Tavi (@tavi_chocochip) January 12, 2022
Tavi also pointed out that Dr. Cummings is likely to never support any non-Level 5 adaptive driver assistance system, but is not concerned about how Level 5 will be achieved or how many traffic accidents will occur until Level 5 vehicles become widely available.
To conclude, note that Dr. Cummings never really answered Neidermeyer’s questions about how she would propose keeping drivers focused on driving when using high-level driver assistance systems. Neidermeyer first laughed at her joke, then waited for a genuine answer, but got nothing and had to climb with yet another statement of her own. It seems to indicate that she has no solution in mind other than what Tesla is already doing (various audio and visual warnings to pay attention and the internal camera that sees where the driver is looking and potentially removes their FSD software access) ). Or she was not joking.
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