California’s 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 advertising that vehicles equipped with Autopilot and full self-driving capability programs were autonomous. If the agency’s appeal to the state Office of Administrative Hearings is 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 as equipped or potentially equipped with advanced driver assistance features (ADAS),” the agency said in its complaints, which were filed on 28 .July.
The Los Angeles Times previously reported on the agency’s complaints, which are separate from the review of Tesla’s vehicle design and technological capabilities.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a company attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.
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In marketing material on its website, Tesla said the driver assistance technology was capable of making 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 steer, brake and accelerate the company’s cars on its own. But it is mainly 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 borrowed from aeronautical systems that allow aircraft to fly even in ideal conditions with limited pilot effort. With the current system, the car will disengage the autopilot if the drivers do not consistently keep their hand on the steering 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 it will not continue after a green light unless the driver intervenes.
In May, Mr. Musk said that about 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 continued to keep their hands on the wheel in case something went wrong. He also said that Full Self-Driving would be “complete” by the end of the year and available to around one million car owners.
In late 2015, the year Autopilot debuted, Mr. Musk began saying 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 just 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 just hit a ceiling.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s top auto safety regulator, is investigating Autopilot after becoming aware of 35 crashes involving the system, including nine that resulted in 14 deaths. The survey covers 830,000 vehicles sold in the US and will look at full self-driving as well as autopilot.
Tesla has until next Friday to contest or otherwise respond to the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ charges.