In July 2022, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) accused Tesla of falsely advertising that its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capability provide autonomous vehicle control.
It was not the first agency to throw this sort of accusations at Tesla; the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Justice Department are also probing Tesla's self-driving claims.
Tesla filed paperwork with the California DMV and sought a hearing on the allegations, indicating that it intends to defend against them. That time came last week, when the EV maker reportedly demonstrated a beta version of its Full Self-Driving driver-assistance system for California transportation officials as part of the DMV's ongoing review of the intended design and technological capabilities of FSD Beta-equipped Tesla vehicles.
The demonstration took place on October 26 at the California DMV's Sacramento headquarters, according to emails seen by Bloomberg via a public records request. The event was also attended by a representative of the California Highway Patrol, a deputy secretary with the Caltrans state transportation agency and three outside advisers for the DMV.
As it turns out, Tesla previously wanted to bar from the event at least two of the outside consultants, but the California DMV did not agree to that. Tesla did not want the advisers present at the event because they had made statements critical of the Full Self-Driving system in the past.
In an email sent in late September to Miguel Acosta, the California DMV's autonomous vehicle chief, Tesla's California lead for policy and business development, Jennifer Cohen, wrote that she questioned "whether it is appropriate to include your consultants that have made negative public statements about Tesla."
The consultants Cohen was referring to included Bryant Walker Smith, an affiliate scholar at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, and Steven Shladover, a transportation research engineer at the University of California at Berkeley. Walker previously said that California's autonomous-vehicle testing rules should apply to Teslas using FSD, while Shladover told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that he believes the company's use of the term self-driving is "very damaging."
"We have yet to receive any assurance that their bias does not influence DMV's treatment of Tesla," the EV maker's executive continued in the email.
In response, California DMV's AV chief said that while the agency appreciates Tesla's assistance regarding the Full Self-Driving Beta program, "our consultants assist us with our ongoing examination of the technology available on California public roads." Smith and Shladover declined to comment to Bloomberg.