California DMV says Tesla FSD and Autopilot are marketing deceptive

Brand-new Tesla vehicles stand in a parking lot at the Tesla Showroom on June 27, 2022 in Corte Madera, California.

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Tesla or engaging in deceptive marketing practices for its driver assistance systems, which are called “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving” in the US, according to data filed with a government administrative agency.

Elon Musk’s electric car business is at greater risk than his reputation – in the worst case, the company could temporarily lose its licenses to operate as a car manufacturer and car dealer in California.

In a July 28 pair of filings with the California Office of Administrative Hearings, the DMV official and attorneys wrote:

“Instead of simply identifying a product or brand, these “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” labels and descriptions mean that vehicles equipped with ADAS features will operate as autonomous vehicles, but vehicles equipped with these ADAS features , cannot at the time of these advertisements and cannot currently operate as autonomous vehicles.”

California Department of Motor Vehicles Deputy Director of Public Affairs Anita Gore told CNBC in an email that if the department wins, it will “request that Tesla advertise to consumers and better inform Tesla drivers about its vehicle’s capabilities.” “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving” functions, including warnings about function limitations and other actions corresponding to violations.

Gore noted that this action only applies to Tesla’s marketing and promotional practices regarding Autopilot and FSD. The California DMV is conducting a separate safety review of “the intended design and technological capabilities of Tesla vehicles” to determine if they can be used on public roads without a special permit.

Gore says the DMV wants to prevent drivers from misunderstanding and misusing new automotive technologies.

Los Angeles Times previously reported registering a DMV with an administrative authority.

Tesla has fifteen days to respond to the administrative court allegations or DMV will issue a default decision.

Tesla includes its Autopilot driver assistance features in all of its new vehicles and sells a premium FSD (or Full Self Driving) option for $12,000 upfront or as a subscription for $199 a month. Sometimes the company sells an Enhanced Autopilot variant with some of the premium features included.

Electric vehicle maker Elon Musk is also allowing 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 test. Owners must achieve a high driver safety score as determined by Tesla software that tracks their driving and then maintain it in order to continue using the FSD beta. The company said it has already rolled out FSD beta access to more than 100,000 drivers, most of which are in the US.

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

Tesla Vehicles accounted for about 70%, or more than 270, of reported crashes involving these systems between June 2021 and July 2022, according to federal data released in early July. The data is not intended to indicate which vehicle manufacturers’ systems may be the safest.

The NHTSA also initiated at least 37 special collision investigations involving Tesla vehicles that were believed to have involved the company’s driver assistance systems. At least 17 people were killed in the clashes that prompted the NHTSA to conduct special crash investigations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also begun an evaluation of Tesla’s Autopilot technology to confirm if it is faulty and needs a recall, following a series of crashes in which Tesla vehicles collided with emergency vehicles that were standing still.