Tesla accused of misleading California regulators

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Tesla accused of misleading California regulators

WASHINGTON NEW YORK - Tesla Inc, the electric car company run by billionaire Elon Musk, has been accused by a California state transportation regulator of falsely advertising its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features as providing autonomous vehicle control.

California Department of Motor Vehicles DMV said in a complaint filed with the state Office of Administrative Hearings that Tesla misled prospective customers with advertising that overstated how well its advanced driver assistance systems ADAS worked.

The DMV said in complaints on July 28 that Tesla made public on Friday that they made untrue or misleading statements that were not based on facts.

Vehicles equipped with Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technology could not be operated as autonomous vehicles at the time of those advertisements, according to the DMV.

The DMV wants to make restitution for drivers, including suspending Tesla's license to sell vehicles in California.

Tesla, which has recently disbanded its media relations department, did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

Tesla has said Autopilot enables a car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane, while Full-Self Driving allows vehicles to obey traffic signals and make lane changes.

According to Tesla's website, both technologies require active driver supervision, with a fully attentive driver whose hands are on the wheel, and do not make the vehicle autonomous. The DMV said Tesla's disclaimer contradicts the original untrue or misleading labels and claims, which are misleading and do not cure the violation. California is Tesla's largest U.S. market. In 2021, the company sold 121,000 vehicles, out of an estimated 352,000 sold nationwide.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA has opened 38 special investigations of accidents involving Tesla vehicles that have been suspected of being used by ADAS systems since 2016. There were nineteen deaths from the crashes, including a motorcyclist killed in Utah last month.

NHTSA had no immediate comment on the DMV complaints.

In a Reuters interview last year, Jennifer Homendy, the National Transportation Safety Board chair, said there was no comparison between Tesla's Autopilot and the tool used in aviation.

Some manufacturers are going to do what they want to do to sell a car, and it's up to the government to rein in, she said.