California Regulator Accuses Tesla of Falsely Advertising Autopilot

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of falsely advertising its driver-assistance technology in two complaints that could affect the company’s ability to sell cars in the state.

The agency said Tesla had misled customers by claiming in advertisements that vehicles equipped with the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability programs were autonomous. If the agency’s complaints with the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings succeed, Tesla’s licenses to make and sell vehicles in California could be suspended or revoked.

Tesla “has made or disseminated statements that are untrue or misleading, and not based on fact, in advertising vehicles equipped or possibly equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) features,” the agency said in its complaints, which were filed on 28 October. July.

The Los Angeles Times previously reported on the agency’s complaints, which are separate from its assessment of Tesla’s vehicle designs and technology skills.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a company lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.

In marketing materials on its website, Tesla said its driver assistance technology was able to perform journeys “without the person in the driver’s seat having to do anything”. Despite Tesla’s disclaimer that the programs “require active driver supervision,” the claims and others were false and misleading, the agency said.

Autopilot, available since 2015, is a system that can independently steer, brake and accelerate the company’s cars. But it’s primarily designed for highway use, and the company’s documentation requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and take control of the car should the system fail.

The name is taken from aviation systems that allow aircraft to fly themselves in ideal conditions with limited pilot input. With the current system, the auto will disable Autopilot if drivers do not consistently keep one hand on the wheel.

For the typical buyer, the added features are minimal. For example, when used on city streets, the car will stop at a red light, but will not proceed beyond a green light unless the driver intervenes.

In May, Mr. Musk said that about 100,000 buyers of fully self-driving cars had access to a “beta” trial of the service that could more extensively navigate the city’s streets — while drivers kept their hands on the wheel in case there was an accident. something would go wrong. He also said Full Self-Driving would be “full features” by the end of the year and available to about a million car owners.

At the end of 2015, the year Autopilot debuted, Mr. Musk started saying that Teslas would drive themselves within two years. In the years since, he has repeatedly claimed that such an ability was only a year or two away.

“There are so many false dawns with self-driving,” he said in May. “You think you’ve got the problem under control and then — no — it turns out you’ve just hit a ceiling.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the country’s largest automotive safety regulator, is investigating Autopilot after learning of 35 crashes involving the system, including nine that killed 14. The study covers 830,000 vehicles sold in the United States and will look at both Full Self-Driving and Autopilot.

Tesla has until next Friday to dispute or otherwise respond to the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ allegations.

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