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 by claiming in ads that vehicles equipped with its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability programs were self-driving. If the agency’s complaints to the state Office of Administrative Hearings are successful, Tesla’s licenses to manufacture and sell vehicles in California could be suspended or revoked.
Tesla “has 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 company said. agency in its complaints, which were filed July 28.
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier on the agency’s complaints, which are separate from its review of Tesla’s vehicle designs and technological capabilities.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and a company attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday.
Learn more about electric vehicles
As the global automotive market stagnates, the popularity of battery-powered cars is skyrocketing around the world.
In marketing materials on its website, Tesla said its driver assistance technology was able to perform journeys “with no action required from the person sitting behind the wheel.” Despite Tesla’s warning 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 capable of steering, braking and accelerating the company’s cars on its own. But it’s primarily designed for highway use, and company documentation requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and take control of the car in the event of a system malfunction.
Its name is borrowed from aeronautical systems that allow planes to fly themselves in ideal conditions with limited pilot intervention. With the current system, the car will turn off autopilot if drivers don’t consistently keep one hand on the wheel.
For the typical buyer, the added features are minimal. When used on city streets, for example, the car will stop at a red light, but it will not move forward after a green light unless the driver intervenes.
In May, Mr Musk said around 100,000 fully self-driving buyers had access to a “beta” test version of the service that could navigate city streets more widely, while drivers continued to hold their hands on the steering wheel in the event of a problem. He also said full autonomous driving would be “complete” by the end of the year and available to around one million car owners.
In late 2015, the year Autopilot launched, Mr. Musk started saying that Teslas would be driving within two years. In the years that followed, he repeatedly claimed that such a capability was only a year or two away.
“There are so many false auroras with self-driving,” he said in May. “You think you’ve got the problem under control and then – no – it turns out you’ve 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 the deaths of 14 people. Its survey covers 830,000 vehicles sold in the United States and will focus on fully autonomous driving as well as Autopilot.
Tesla has until next Friday to contest or respond to the charges from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.