Tesla under investigation in US over 'misleading' marketing of full self-driving tech

Possible penalties, if the automaker is found to be misleading customers, include the suspension or revocation of autonomous vehicle deployment permits

Tesla on Autopilot

Tesla is under investigation by US authorities over whether it has misled customers by advertising its vehicles as having a full self-driving option when they don't.

Tesla offers its ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’ option for an extra $10,000 on the asking price – claiming the upgrade will allow the customer to navigate using Autopilot, automatically change lanes/park and summon the vehicle as well as utilise its full self-driving computer and traffic light/stop light controls.

However, the reason for the probe, being carried out by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in America, is that in fact Tesla’s models can’t drive themselves yet as implied – which the company itself admits in the fine print on its website, acknowledging the system “does not make the car autonomous” and that it requires “active supervision” from the driver.

Tesla Autonomous Driving
Tesla Autopilot

According to the Los Angeles Times, automated vehicle law expert at the University of South Carolina, Bryant Walker Smith, said Tesla could be on dodgy legal ground, and its small print effort is unlikely to be enough to keep it out of trouble.

“Tesla seems to be asking for legal trouble on many fronts from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and its state counterparts for deceptive marketing,” Smith said. “From the California DMV for, potentially, crossing into the realm of autonomous vehicle testing without state approval, from competitors with driver assistance systems, competitors with actual automated driving systems, ordinary consumers, and future crash victims who could sue under state or federal law.”

While the DMV is unable to comment on its investigation, a spokeswoman did say that possible penalties for misleading customers include the suspension or revocation of autonomous vehicle deployment permits, as well as manufacture and dealer licenses.

This isn’t the first time that Tesla’s marketing of its ‘full self-driving system’ has landed it in hot water.  Last year Tesla was banned from using the Autopilot name in Germany, and also scored badly in the Euro NCAP ratings, getting just two out of four stars because it’s Autopilot system was found to be more “authoritarian than co-operative”.

America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also reportedly investigated over 20 car accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot driving function in recent months.

WhichCar has contacted Tesla for comment.

Got a tip-off for a story? Get in touch: kathryn.fisk@aremedia.com.au


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