Elon Musk Fought Long And Hard (And Unsuccessfully) To Ensure His Super-Quiet Tesla Cars Made Fart Noises

Ronan Farrow has a new, epic New Yorker piece on Elon Musk, and boy is it wild. Contained within are several new revelations, shocking even for arguably the world’s second most famous chaos agent (after You Know Who, of course). There are earth-quaking tidbits, like how he briefly interrupted Ukraine’s fight against Russia, or how he’s reportedly upped his Ketamine use. On a lighter note, there’s another bit about farting cars.

Early last year, Tesla cars boasted a strange function: Because their cars made almost no sounds, they were required by law to make humming noises. But instead of hums, they offered drivers the choice of farts, or goat bleats, or whatever sound they wanted. That did not go over well with government officials.

“We’re, like, ‘No, that’s not compliant with the regulations, don’t be stupid,’” said Steven Cliff, then the deputy administrator of the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

That did not go over well with Musk and other Tesla higher-ups. They fought with regulators for over a year. They finally relented. After recalling the function, Musk moaned on Twitter, “The fun police made us do it (sigh).”

The recall, as it happens, came a mere nine days after Tesla recalled a more dangerous function: their Full Self-Driving software allowed cars to roll through stop signs, up to six miles an hour:

This was clearly illegal. Cliff’s enforcement team contacted Tesla, and, in several meetings, a surprising conversation about safety and artificial intelligence played out. Representatives for Tesla seemed confused. Their response, as Cliff recalled, was “That’s what humans do all the time. Show us the data, why it’s unsafe.” N.H.T.S.A. officials told Tesla that, regardless of human compliance, “you should not be able to program a computer to break the law for you.”

Tesla eventually recalled the feature, but only after “a lot of back-and-forth,” as per Cliff. He didn’t exactly have a good time dealing with Tesla and their willingness to push buttons.

“It’s a little like Mom and Dad and children. Like, How far can I push Mom and Dad until they push back?” Cliff told The New Yorker. “And that’s not a recipe for a strong safety culture.”

(Via The New Yorker)