According the LA Times, the California Department of Motor Vehicles appears to be actively investigating Tesla over CEO Elon Musk’s audacious claims about his company’s Full Self-Driving technology. The news comes barely a week after Tesla engineers privately admitted to the DMV that Musk had exaggerated the FSD system’s capabilities on social media.
The FSD is a $10,000 option for Tesla models and promises to do everything from change lanes in freeway traffic and take exits on its own to independently stopping at traffic lights and signs. However, this does not make them “fully” autonomous. Tesla vehicles currently operate at Level 2 autonomy, director of Autopilot software CJ Moore told DMV investigators on a March 9th teleconference call.
“The ratio of driver interaction would need to be in the magnitude of 1 or 2 million miles per driver interaction to move into higher levels of automation,” a memo obtained by Plainsite obtained regarding the meeting reads. “Tesla indicated that Elon is extrapolating on the rates of improvement when speaking about L5 capabilities. Tesla couldn’t say if the rate of improvement would make it to L5 by end of calendar year.”
That fact, which Tesla itself admits on its website “does not make the car autonomous” (albeit in miniscule font), has not stopped a number of rich knuckleheads from treating these cars like their personal robochauffeurs — with years of deadly results.
Though California law places blame any accidents or damage caused while doing this squarely on the those technically behind the wheel, the DMV does have the authority to penalize any automobile company that misleads its customers under the Lanham Act, Bryant Walker Smith, associate professor in the University of South Carolina School of Law told the Times.
Those penalties could include either suspending (or outright revoking) Tesla’s autonomous vehicle deployment permits as are the company’s manufacturing and dealer licenses. For drivers, such a revocation would mean that their vehicles could be “removed from the public roadway by a police officer,” a DMV spokesperson told the Times, should the cop notice they’ve got FSD activated.
This is only the latest in Tesla’s long-running litigations over its self-driving systems. The company currently faces hundreds of lawsuits, nearly two dozen NHTSA investigations, and the FTC is looking into allegations against it of deceptive marketing. Even the CCP has been relentlessly dunking on Tesla for weeks over recent accidents.
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