I’ll admit that the first time I heard of the “bioweapon defense mode” on Tesla’s Model S and Model X, I thought it seemed a bit silly. I mean after all, it’s just a car. And the suggestion that it would be able to stop a bioweapon – the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants – seemed laughable.
“We’re trying to be a leader in apocalyptic defense scenarios” – Elon Musk, with a straight face. XD
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) September 30, 2015
While the name itself might be a bit gimmicky, it turns out that it’s proven to be invaluable help with the historic wildfires currently burning in California.
Get our official Cats in Space Quoting Scientists wall calendar, available only on SkepticalKitten.com!
According to the New York Times, the fires currently burning in California are the deadliest fires in California’s history. As of yesterday, 42 people were confirmed dead while hundreds are still missing. Over a quarter million people have been evacuated while thousands of homes have been completely destroyed, tens of thousands of homes are at risk, and over 100,000 acres (over 400 square kilometers) have burned. The fires are truly horrific, and I encourage anyone who can to donate to the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund.
Amidst the chaos though, Tesla drivers are reporting some very interesting results from the “bioweapon defense mode” in their cars. It works very well to scrub air pollution from inside the car’s cabin.
Andrei B shared pictures on Twitter of the air quality just outside his Tesla versus the air quality inside his Tesla, and it was a dramatic change in air quality.
Horrible Bay Area air quality due to Paradise, CA fire… Check out this laser particle counter “Window Up / Window Down” test using the Model X Bio-Defense filter. Thank you Tesla! pic.twitter.com/iefEtRStqy
— Andrei B (@AndreiBulu) November 9, 2018
Other Tesla users are reporting similar results.
Using Bioweapon Defense Mode ☣️ all day so I can breathe fresh air as the #CaliforniaFires ravage this beautiful state. 🔥💨😷
Thank you @tesla for caring about your customers’ health & safety by incorporating this feature into our cars. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/B5FqhFqLLk
— Manic Marge 🏁 (@Manic_Marge) November 9, 2018
According to Tesla’s own website, the “bioweapon defense mode” uses a HEPA filter, and in their own test, cleaned the air both inside and outside the car.
Not only did the vehicle system completely scrub the cabin air, but in the ensuing minutes, it began to vacuum the air outside the car as well, reducing PM2.5 levels by 40%. In other words, Bioweapon Defense Mode is not a marketing statement, it is real. You can literally survive a military grade bio attack by sitting in your car.
I don’t think that a bacteria or virus that’s been modified to kill humans is the same as cleaning up air pollution. The fact is, they didn’t actually test a bioweapon (or a safer equivalent to, you know, not get themselves arrested by the FBI), they tested air pollution. And I very much doubt that the ventilation system in a car would absolutely protect you from a bioweapon. After all, the CDC uses a massive amount of equipment in their level 4 biohazard laboratories to keep microbes where they are supposed to be.
Besides, the air pollution wasn’t brought down to zero, and you still have to get inside your car, creating an opportunity for the microbes to meander inside and join you in your safe space. Hopefully, we’ll never know if Tesla’s defense mode actually works against bioweapons.
So yeah, the “bioweapon defense mode” is a bit of a gimmick. But calling it “this will make the air in your car much more breathable, you’re welcome” mode just doesn’t have the same ring to it.