California regulator accuses Tesla of falsely advertising Autopilot

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of falsely advertising its driver-assist 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 ads that vehicles equipped with its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability programs were autonomous. If the agency’s complaints to the state Office of Administrative Hearings are successful, Tesla’s licenses to make and sell vehicles in California could be suspended or revoked.

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

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

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

In marketing materials on its website, Tesla said its driver-assist technology was capable of driving trips “without requiring any action from the person in the driver’s seat.” Despite Tesla’s disclaimer that the programs “require active driver supervision,” the claim and others were false and misleading, the agency said.

Available since 2015, Autopilot is a system that can drive, brake and accelerate company cars on its own. But it’s designed primarily for highway use, and company documentation requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and take control of the car in case the system malfunctions.

Its name is borrowed from aviation systems that allow aircraft to fly by themselves in ideal conditions with limited pilot input. Under the current system, the car will disengage autopilot if drivers don’t constantly keep a hand on the wheel.

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

In May, Musk said some 100,000 fully self-driving buyers had access to a “beta” test version of the service that could navigate city streets more extensively, while drivers still kept their hands on the wheel. in case something went wrong. He also said that full autonomous driving would be “complete” by the end of the year and available to about a million car owners.

In late 2015, the year Autopilot debuted, Musk began saying that Teslas would drive themselves in 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 autonomous driving,” he said in May. “You think you have control over the problem and then, no, it turns out you just hit a ceiling.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s top auto safety regulator, is investigating Autopilot after learning of 35 crashes involving the system, including nine that resulted in 14 deaths. His research covers 830,000 vehicles sold in the United States and will look at full autonomous driving and autopilot.

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

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