Consumer Reports Has “Jumped the Shark”

There’s a new article on consumerreports.org entitled, “CR Engineers Show a Tesla Will Drive With No One in the Driver’s Seat,” with the subtitle, “After a fatal crash in Texas, we demonstrated how easy it is to defeat Autopilot’s driver monitoring.”

At first glance, you are supposed to jump to the conclusion that anyone driving a Tesla can easily defeat the driver monitoring system, thereby putting themselves and others at risk. After reading the article, I have reached a different conclusion: Consumer Reports has “jumped the shark.”

Let me save you some time. The article says you need to sit on a buckled seat belt when you start the autopilot, then bring the car to a full stop using the controls on the steering wheel, then tie a weight to the steering wheel to trick the sensor, then (without opening the doors) slide over the center console into the passenger seat (or crawl into the back seat), then reach over and use the control on the steering wheel to put the car in motion. This, Consumer Reports asserts, is “easy.”

While AVs and Tesla may be the subject of this article, it’s really about how far from its mission Consumer Reports has to go to get anyone to pay attention to it. What’s more likely to drive revenue: specifications verified by a writer on a website or 50,000 likes on social media? The answer is clear. What’s not clear is why an organization like CR would inflict this much damage on its own brand for a few extra pageviews.

CR proudly puts its brand promise at the top of every article: “Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by consumers.” I should have read it more carefully. It doesn’t say, “We research products using the scientific method to provide you with information that will help you make an informed purchase decision.” That was the old brand promise. CR’s current brand promise says no ads, you have to subscribe, and the “influence-free” part is such a blatant lie that it’s insulting on its face, but nowhere near as insulting as the attention-seeking clickbait they are trying to pass off as a consumer report.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is a business advisor and technology consultant. He helps Fortune 500 companies with digital transformation, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn's Top Voice in Technology, he is the host of the Shelly Palmer #strategyhacker livestream and co-host of Techstream with Shelly Palmer & Seth Everett. He covers tech and business for Good Day New York, writes a weekly column for Adweek, is a regular commentator on CNN and CNBC, and writes a popular daily business blog. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com

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