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Self-driving Tesla ads to be outlawed in California

Wrong pedal crashed this Tesla into an ambulance, not Autopilot (image: SDFD)
Wrong pedal crashed this Tesla into an ambulance, not Autopilot (image: SDFD)
The proposition that California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law will kick in as soon as 2023 rolls in, banning advertising vehicles as self-driving if they still require driver supervision. The upcoming autonomous driving ads ban doesn't explicitly mention Tesla, but it has been crafted in response to DMV's tussle with Elon Musk's automaker.

Annoyed by the lack of legal repercussions with the California Department of Motor Vehicles warning over the marketing of Tesla's electric cars as "full self-driving," State Senator Lena Gonzalez of Long Beach has introduced a new legislation banning the practice altogether. It has already been signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, and will become an active piece of legislation as soon as New Year is rung in, in a package with many other laws that kick in come 2023.

This bill would require a dealer or manufacturer that sells any new passenger vehicle that is equipped with a partial driving automation feature, as defined, or that provides any software update or vehicle upgrade that adds a partial driving automation feature, to provide the buyer or owner with a consumer notice that describes the functions and limitations of those features. Any violation of these requirements would be punishable as an infraction. The bill would additionally prohibit a manufacturer or dealer from deceptively naming or marketing these features, as specified.

While the law doesn't specifically name Tesla, the DMV's tussle with the description of its US$15,000 FSD Beta feature as "self-driving" resulted in it demanding a dealer license and plates suspension at one point. Tesla representatives then met with the DMV and those meetings produced the infamous phrase crafted by its lawyers who argued that a "mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud" before the DMV.

Tesla vehicles that take part in accidents are sometimes entering an NHTSA database on suspicion for Autopilot or FSD Beta engagement, though a federal investigation into the matter, again starting from California, is still in its discovery phase and Tesla faces no imminent charges.

A recent eight vehicle pile-up on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, for instance, resulted in a Model S driver claiming their Tesla FSD system suddenly started braking while changing lanes at will, but the authorities could find no evidence the autonomous driving system has malfunctioned, while drunk drivers have sometimes blamed their crashes on Autopilot, too, and have been subsequently admitting they were at fault.

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Daniel Zlatev, 2022-12-23 (Update: 2022-12-23)