California DMV accuses Tesla of deceptive practices in marketing Autopilot and full self-driving options

Brand new Tesla cars sit in a parking lot at a Tesla showroom on June 27, 2022 in Corte Madera, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

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

Elon Musk’s electric car business is at risk more than its reputation – in the worst-case scenario, the company could temporarily lose the licenses that allow it to operate as an automaker and car dealership in California.

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

“Instead of simply identifying product or brand names, these ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’ labels and descriptions indicate that vehicles equipped with ADAS capabilities will operate as autonomous vehicles, but vehicles equipped with these ADAS features could not at the time of these advertisements, and cannot now operate as autonomous vehicles.”

California DMV Public Affairs Office Deputy Director Anita Gore told CNBC via email that if the department wins, it “will ask Tesla to advertise to consumers and educate drivers better. of Tesla on its ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Full Self-Driving’ capabilities, including warnings about feature limitations, and for other appropriate actions in light of the violations.”

Gore noted that this action relates only to Tesla’s marketing and advertising practices regarding Autopilot and FSD. The California DMV conducts 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 special permission.

The DMV, Gore said, wants to prevent driver misunderstandings and the misuse of new automotive technologies.

The Los Angeles Times previously reported on the documents the DMV filed with the administrative body.

Tesla has fifteen days to respond to the charges in administrative court, failing which the DMV will make a default decision.

Tesla includes its Autopilot driver assistance features in all of its newly manufactured cars and sells a premium FSD (or Full Self Driving) option for $12,000 upfront or on a subscription basis for $199 per month. Sometimes the company sells an enhanced autopilot option with some of the premium features included.

Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker is also allowing drivers to test unfinished driver-assist features on public roads in the United States through a program called FSD Beta (or Full Self Driving Beta).

Only Tesla owners who have installed the company’s premium FSD system can participate in the FSD beta. Owners must achieve a high Driver Safety Score, as determined by Tesla software that monitors their driving, and then maintain it to continue using FSD Beta. The company said it has already rolled out FSD Beta access to more than 100,000 pilots, most of them in the United States.

Automakers, including Tesla, are now required to report major 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 figures released in early July. The data is not intended to indicate which automaker systems might be the safest.

NHTSA has also launched at least 37 special investigations into collisions involving Tesla vehicles where the company’s driver assistance systems were believed to be a factor. At least 17 deaths have resulted from these collisions which inspired NHTSA’s Special Accident Investigations.

NHTSA has also opened an evaluation of Tesla’s Autopilot technology to confirm whether it is faulty and should be recalled, after a series of crashes in which Tesla vehicles struck emergency response vehicles that were stopped.

Read the formal California DMV charges against Tesla here and here.

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