California regulator accuses Tesla of falsely promoting 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 misled customers in ads that vehicles with Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability programs were autonomous. If the agency’s complaints to the state’s Office of Administrative Appeals are upheld, Tesla’s licenses to manufacture 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’s complaints, which were filed July 28, state.

Los Angeles Times. reported previously about the agency’s complaints, which are separate from a review of Tesla’s vehicle design and technological capabilities.

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

In marketing material on its website, Tesla said its driver-assistance technology can make trips “without requiring any action from the person in the driver’s seat.” Despite Tesla’s disclaimer that the apps “require active driver supervision,” the claim and other claims were false and misleading, the agency said.

Since 2015 available Autopilot is a system that can independently drive, brake and accelerate company cars. But it’s mainly designed for highway use, and the company’s documentation calls for drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and take control of the car if the system fails.

Its name is borrowed from aviation systems that allow airplanes to fly themselves in ideal conditions with limited pilot input. With the current system, the car will turn off Autopilot if drivers don’t keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

Additional features are minimal for the average buyer. For example, when they are used on city streets, the car will stop at a red light, but at a green light it will not move unless the driver intervenes.

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

In late 2015, the year Autopilot debuted, Musk began saying that Teslas would be driving themselves within two years. Over the past year, he has repeatedly claimed that such an ability is only a year or two away.

“There are so many false dawns with self-driving,” he said in May. “You think you’ve solved the problem, and then you don’t – it turns out you’ve just hit the ceiling.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s leading auto safety regulator while researching Autopilot after learning of 35 accidents involving the system, nine of which resulted in 14 deaths. The study covers 830,000 vehicles sold in the United States and will look at fully autonomous 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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