UPDATE: Final paragraph regarding two recent fatal Tesla crashes that gained nationwide attention was rewritten to make clearer that Autopilot has not been proven to be involved in either case, though investigations are ongoing.
First, a Munich court ruled on July 14, 2020, that Tesla was misleading customers by saying its cars had “full potential for autonomous driving.” Then, still in July 2020, the Korean MOLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport) started an investigation about Autopilot’s “suspect defects.” Finally, the latest strike came from California’s DMV, which is investigating Tesla’s claims about driving assistant software.
***UPDATE: The Associated Press has confirmed this news, stating:
The department confirmed the review Monday in an email to The Associated Press. State regulation prohibits advertising vehicles for sale or lease as autonomous if they can’t comply with the regulatory definition, it said.
According to the Associated Press, the DMV is reviewing what the company says about Autopilot and FSD. If it concludes that Tesla is misleading customers about the true capability of these driving aids, it could suspend or revoke “autonomous vehicle deployment permits and manufacture and dealer licenses.”
The issue is that Tesla does not have these permits as far as we know. We are not aware if it requested one to shoot the video above, for example. The company’s strategy is to offer beta versions of what it intends to become its full self-driving software for regular customers to test it and provide Tesla with data about its performance – with a legal disclaimer that clients may only use it at their own risk and only under proper supervising.
Ironically, those drivers are also the ones at stake with another sanction the DMV can establish. According to its spokesperson, vehicles operating on public roads using autonomous technology without first obtaining a permit ”can be removed from the streets by the police." In other words, people that paid for FSD may have their cars impounded. However, it will heavily depend on law interpretation.
Tesla classifies both Autopilot and FSD as Level 2 driving aids. In theory, they are like GM’s Super Cruise or Ford’s Active Drive Assist. Some people, however, may believe they are autonomous driving systems that will swerve obstacles, make turns left or right, and reach destinations on their own, which is precisely what autonomous systems are expected to do. The more recent crash involving Autopilot happened in Lake Stevens, Washington. Luckily, no one was hurt.
DMV's review comes after two fatal crashes involving Teslas, neither of which has been proven to involve Autopilot despite initial speculation to the contrary. One occurred in The Woodlands, Texas, which killed William Varner and Everett Talbot, and the other more recently in Fontana, California, which killed Steven Michael Hendrickson. NHTSA is investigating both of them.