Tesla may soon have to change how it promotes its Full Self-Driving (FSD) Capability, at least in California. A new bill that aims to limit Tesla’s “false advertising” of its driver-assist software passed through the state’s senate on Tuesday and is now awaiting a signature and final approval from Governor Gavin Newsom.
UPDATE September 15, 2022: Gov. Newsom has now signed the bill into law.
(b) A manufacturer or dealer shall not name any partial driving automation feature, or describe any partial driving automation feature in marketing materials, using language that implies or would otherwise lead a reasonable person to believe, that the feature allows the vehicle to function as an autonomous vehicle, as defined in Section 38750, or otherwise has functionality not actually included in the feature. A violation of this subdivision shall be considered a misleading advertisement for the purposes of Section 11713.
The bill is sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Lena Gonzalez (not to be confused with Lorena Gonzalez who once tweeted ‘f—k Elon Musk’). Gonzalez says the average consumer might believe their car is capable of driving by itself, when in fact no car available to be purchased on the market today is able to do so.
“People in California think Full Self-Driving is fully automated when it’s not. Are we just going to wait for another person to be killed in California?” Gonzalez told the LA Times.
The bill doesn’t go so far as addressing the technology that powers FSD, but its scope is instead limited to how Tesla can advertise it. Gonzalez worked with several automakers on the bill’s language, and reportedly received “heavy lobbying” against it from Tesla.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not allow cars to be advertised as “self-driving.” The agency has so far not enforced that rule, leaving Gonzalez to wonder why the DMV has been so slow to take action and ultimately leading to the creation of the bill.
Perhaps in anticipation of the bill passing, the DMV this month accused Tesla of misrepresenting Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features in their advertising, filing a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings. No date has been set for when that hearing will take place.
According to Gonzalez, all other automaker clearly state the limits of their driver-assist software, and it is only Tesla that claims it is “self-driving.” Apparently Gonzalez has not visited Tesla’s website as there are numerous mentions that the car is not fully autonomous and the driver is still responsible for the vehicle.
“The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous,” Tesla says on their website.
Gonzalez may also not be aware of similar claims made in Germany. Earlier this month an Intermediate Court of Appeals overturned a 2020 ruling by a Munich court that would have prevented the use of ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Full Self-Driving’ in the country.
The decision was overturned because the court ruled Tesla made it clear on their website that both are driver-assist features and the car is not fully autonomous.