With Yet Another Embarrassing Mistake, 60 Minutes Unintentionally Predicts EU Ruling

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 3 2014 6:19 PM

With Yet Another Embarrassing Mistake, 60 Minutes Unintentionally Predicts EU Ruling

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Tesla Motors Chairman and CEO Elon Musk introduces the new Tesla Model S sedan in Hawthorne, California on March 26, 2009.

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Due to a new ruling in the European Parliament, electric auto makers will be forced to add artificial sound to vehicles sold in Europe by 2019. 60 Minutes, however, jumped the gun on that mandate, dubbing in artificial audio to a segment on Tesla on Sunday, in what was yet another embarrassing moment for the once-proud news entity.

As seen in the video below—which came during an interview with Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk—footage of the sleek Tesla Model S is shown, its engine revving loudly as it shifts. Similar video of the Model S was shown throughout the segment, always sounding suspiciously like most other cars on the road. And herein lies the problem: The Model S doesn't rev like a conventional engine, nor does it shift gears at all. It's powered by an AC induction motor and a single-speed fixed gear transmission. But then, 60 Minutes knew this, as correspondent Scott Pelley points out the wonders of the near-silent Model S himself in the segment, saying: "No engine, no transmission, no tailpipe."

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The error was immediately pounced on by car enthusiasts everywhere, including Jalopnik's Robert Sorokanich, who wrote: "It sounds like they recorded a motorcycle engine and used it to spice up the car footage. Whatever it is, it's not the sound of a Tesla."

And he was right. On Monday, CBS issued a statement to FoxNews.com admitting the error: "Our video editor made an audio editing error in our report about Elon Musk and Tesla last night. We regret the error and it is being corrected online."

This is just the latest unforced error from the CBS program, as it is still reeling from last year's erroneous report on the attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, a scandal so head-shakingly absurd it seemed to be pulled straight from Season 2 of The Newsroom.

Obviously, in comparison to that fiasco—for which chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan is still on a leave of absence as a result of—this is a relatively minor mistake. Still though, it's worth pointing out for two reasons: One, 60 Minutes prides itself specifically on not making these types of Journalism 101 mistakes. And two, it uninentionally draws attention to the afformentioned EU ruling, a law which could have profound effects on the electric car industry.

Due to a fear that mouse-quiet electric cars will be a danger to pedestrians—specifically those who are visually impaired—the European Parliament recently ruled that by July 1, 2019, all new electric cars in Europe must be outfitted with Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (ACAS) devices. Basically, the devices will replicate the sounds of combustion engines, with the exact specifications of them to be decided by 2017. The ruling is expected be affirmed by the European Council, making it law. While Tesla could not be reached for comment today about the new regulations, it did release a statement in 2013 about similar proposals in the United States, telling Slash Gear: "As regulations are put in place, Tesla will work to be in compliance with any laws."

So, in due time, the Tesla Model S may indeed come roaring down the road sounding like your everyday gas-powered, combustion engine-having car. Unfortunately for 60 Minutes though, we're not quite there yet.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate Video blogger.