Tesla stepped into the lion’s den, pitching its so-called fully self-driving beta to California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officials shortly after the agency sought to have its car sales license revoked.
Bloomberg reports that the protest took place last week at DMV headquarters in Sacramento. Also present were a representative from the California Highway Patrol as well as three outside consultants for the DMV.
According to emails obtained by Bloomberg via a public records request, Tesla initially sought to bar these consultants from attending the protest.
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“I wonder if it’s appropriate to include your consultants who have made negative public statements about Tesla,” Jennifer Cohen, Tesla California policy and business development manager, wrote in an email in late September. to the DMV’s Chief of Autonomous Vehicles, Miguel Acosta.
“We have not yet received any assurances that their bias does not influence Tesla’s treatment by DMV.”
The three consultants were Bryant Walker Smith, a researcher affiliated with Stanford Law School, Michael Wagner, CEO of Edge Case Research, and Steven Shladover, a transportation research engineer at the University of California.
Smith has previously said state autonomous vehicle testing rules should apply to Teslas using FSD, while Shladover wrote earlier this year that the company’s use of the term “self-driving” is ” very detrimental”.
None of the parties involved responded to Bloomberg’s requests for comment.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said he doesn’t expect regulatory approval for his company’s self-driving technology until next year.
Tesla plans to roll out its Full Self-Driving technology widely this quarter. Currently, approximately 160,000 Tesla drivers in North America have access to the FSD beta.
It began rolling out an update this week, with the release notes mentioning improvements such as “reducing false slowdowns for pedestrians near the crosswalk by using a better model for the pedestrian kinematics.”
Controversially, even as Tesla pursues increasingly autonomous driving, it has phased out radars and sensors and eschewed LiDAR in favor of its camera-based Tesla Vision system.
The California DMV has spoken out about what it says are misleading claims that were made by Tesla about its Autopilot and full self-driving technology.
In a complaint to the California Office of Administrative Hearings, dated July 28, he requested that Tesla’s license to sell and manufacture cars in the state be suspended or revoked.
He also called on Tesla to compensate parties who suffered financial loss or damage, and to order any other “just and appropriate” action.
“Defendant made or disseminated false or misleading statements, not based on fact, in the advertising of vehicles equipped, or potentially equipped, with Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) features,” it said. he stated in his complaint.
He specifically called out the controversial Autopilot and Level 2 full self-driving features, and cited statements made in marketing materials by Tesla — mostly on the company’s website — from 2021 through July 2022.
“The system is designed to be able to perform short and long trips with no action required from the person seated in the driver’s seat,” reads a line cited by the California DMV in its complaint.
“All you have to do is get in and tell your car where to go. If you don’t say anything, your car will check your calendar and take you there as your supposed destination,” reads another.
Although the DMV acknowledges that Tesla publishes disclaimers stating that the features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle self-driving”, it alleges that this disclaimer contradicts the “false labels and claims or misleading” and “does not correct the violation”.
Tesla has also reportedly been the subject of a criminal investigation by the US Department of Justice, with three people familiar with the matter telling Reuters late last month that the investigation was launched last year following more of a dozen crashes where Tesla’s autopilot system was active.
Some of these accidents were fatal.
Prosecutors in Washington DC and San Francisco are reportedly investigating whether Tesla misled consumers, investors and regulators by making unsubstantiated claims about the capability of its driver assistance technology.
This investigation represents a more serious level of scrutiny than previous investigations because it could lead to criminal charges against the company or individual executives, the sources said.
The DOJ could also seek civil penalties.
The Autopilot probe is currently competing with two other DOJ investigations involving Tesla, a source told Reuters, adding that there is still a lot of work to do and no decision is imminent.
Autopilot is considered a Level 2 autonomous driving feature, just like the full autonomous driving beta – despite what the name seems to imply.
Level 2 technology requires the driver to be attentive at all times, even as the vehicle takes control of acceleration, braking and steering.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation in August 2021 into a series of crashes, including one fatality, where Autopilot-equipped Teslas collided with emergency and emergency vehicles. stationary road maintenance.
The active NHTSA probe covers 830,000 Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot.
He confirmed in June 2022 that he was turning his investigation into a “technical analysis”, identifying 16 accidents. Such a step is necessary before you can request a callback.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been candid about the capabilities of his company’s driver assistance technology.
In a 2016 conference call, he described the autopilot as “probably better” than a human driver, although he has since moved the goal posts.
Last month, he said it will take until an update next year for the company’s driver assistance technology “to be able to show regulators that the car is safer.” , much more, than the average human” and that cars with Full Self-Driving beta will be “able to take you from home to work, to friends, to the grocery store by touching the steering wheel”.
Sometimes he made contradictory statements in the same breath. On the same earnings call last week, Mr Musk said: ‘Like we’re not saying it’s quite ready to have nobody driving. It’s just that you almost never have to touch the control, the vehicle controllers.
He went on to say, “But I think we’ll be pretty close…that you won’t have anyone in the car by the end of this year. And definitely, no doubt, whatever I think, next year.
Putting Mr. Musk’s statements aside, Tesla has been careful to issue legal disclaimers stating that its technology does not make the vehicle self-driving.
Tesla’s website, for example, warns before activating Autopilot that the driver must first agree to “keep their hands on the wheel at all times” and to always “retain control and responsibility for your vehicle. “.
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