The National Transportation Safety Board, a U.S. government agency that investigates crashes, has ordered the Dawn Project organization to stop using its seal after it appeared in a Super Bowl ad that called for consumers to boycott Tesla.
The NTSB said in a letter that its seal must be immediately removed from the Dawn Project's website and YouTube page, as well as any further airings of the commercial. NTSB said in a news release that it did not authorize the use of its seal and does not endorse the work of the Dawn Project.
"We used the NTSB’s seal in our second Super Bowl LVIII commercial whilst we were referring to Tesla refusing to implement the NTSB’s prudent safety recommendations, recommendations with which The Dawn Project fully agrees," an emailed statement from a Dawn Project spokesperson. "Unlike Tesla, we have great respect for the NTSB."
The Dawn Project, a safety advocacy group funded by tech CEO Dan O'Dowd, aired two ads during Super Bowl LVIII in Washington, DC, Dover, Delaware, Santa Barbara, California and Traverse City, Michigan -- the city where U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg lives. The cost of airing the ads in those markets was $552,000.
The ads criticize Tesla Full Self-Driving, advanced driver assistance software that O'Dowd has alleged has critical safety defects. FSD is not self-driving. Instead, the upgraded $12,000 system performs some automated driving tasks and requires a human driver to be ready to take control at any time.
The Dawn Project has campaigned against the use of Tesla FSD for years now, including airing an ad in last year's Super Bowl. This year, the group used the NTSB seal in its ad, which got the attention of the agency. NTSB General Counsel William McMurry Jr. called the use unlawful and noted the commercial has also been posted to the group's webpage and YouTube page.
The agency also included a screenshot of the ad, which is shown below.
Image Credits: NTSB
"Due to the nature of our work and the need to be unambiguously independent from commercial interests, we strive to protect the international reputation of the NTSB by preventing unapproved use of our seal," the letter reads. "Contrary to Federal law, you did not obtain, and the NTSB did not grant, permission to use the NTSB Seal in your Super Bowl LVIII commercial or on any other materials. Moreover, your unauthorized use of the NTSB’s seal spuriously implies endorsement of your company and/or message by the NTSB."