August 10, 2022
California DMV says Tesla FSD, Autopilot marketing misleading

Brand new Tesla cars sit in the parking lot at the Tesla Showroom on June 27, 2022 in Corte Madera, Calif.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of engaging in deceptive practices around the marketing of its driver assistance systems, which are branded Autopilot and Full Self Driving, in the US, according to a filing with the state administrative agency.

Elon Musk’s electric car business is at risk more than its reputation — in a worst-case scenario, the company could temporarily lose the license that allows it to operate as an automaker and auto dealer in California.

In a July 28 pairing with the California Administrative Hearing Office, a DMV official and attorneys wrote:

“Rather than simply identifying product or brand names, these ‘autopilot’ and ‘full self-driving capability’ labels and descriptions indicate that a vehicle equipped with ADAS features will operate as an autonomous vehicle, but those equipped with ADAS features Vehicles couldn’t be in those commercials at the time, and can no longer function as autonomous vehicles.”

The California DMV’s deputy director for the Office of Public Affairs, Anita Gore, told CNBC via e-mail that if the department prevails, “it will ask whether Tesla should be allowed to advertise to consumers and Tesla drivers about its capabilities.” will need to be better educated in “autopilot’ and ‘full self-driving’ features, including warning warnings about the features’ limitations and other actions appropriate to the violations.”

Los Angeles Times First reported to the administrative body on the filing of the DMV.

Tesla has fifteen days to respond to the charges before the administrative court, otherwise the DMV will make a default decision.

Tesla includes Autopilot driver assistance features in all of its newly manufactured cars, and sells a premium FSD (or full self driving) option for $12,000 up-front for $199 per month, or on a subscription basis. Sometimes, the company sells an enhanced autopilot option along with a portion of the premium features.

Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker also allows drivers to test unfinished driver assistance features on public roads in the US through a program called FSD beta (or Full Self Driving Beta).

Only Tesla owners who have the company’s premium FSD system installed can participate in the FSD beta. Owners should achieve a high driver-safety score, as determined by Tesla software that monitors their driving, then maintain it to keep using the FSD beta. The company said it has already rolled out FSD beta access for more than 100,000 drivers, most of them in the US

Automakers, including Tesla, are now required to report critical collisions involving advanced driver-assistance systems to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Tesla vehicles accounted for nearly 70%, or more than 270, of accidents involving these systems between June 2021 and July 2022, according to federal data released in early July. The data is not meant to indicate which carmaker system may be safest.

NHTSA has launched at least 37 special accident investigations into collisions that involved Tesla vehicles where the company’s driver assistance system was thought to be a factor. Those collisions resulted in at least 17 fatalities that prompted the NHTSA Special Accident Investigation.

NHTSA has also begun an evaluation of Tesla’s Autopilot technology to confirm whether it is faulty and needs to be recalled, following a string of accidents in which Tesla vehicles crashed into emergency response vehicles that still were standing.

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