The California Department of Motor Vehicles is accusing Tesla Inc. of falsely advertising the capabilities of its self-driving technology.
Two complaints filed July 28 show that the DMV is seeking changes in the way Tesla TSLA, -6.63% promotes its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features or risk getting its manufacturing license suspended or revoked.
“Respondent made or disseminated statements that are untrue or misleading, and not based on facts,” read the complaints, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times and filed with the state Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
Tesla has 15 days to respond by filing a “notice of defense.” The company, which no longer has a press department, did not return a request for comment Friday.
After Tesla responds to the complaint, the matter could be brought to a hearing before the OAH, in which an administrative law judge would make a decision, according to the DMV. If Tesla disagrees with the decision, it could appeal to Superior Court. Or the company could reach a settlement with the DMV.
“DMV seeks to require Tesla to provide more accurate terms and descriptions, and more and better consumer education of the product capabilities and limitations,” a DMV spokeswoman told MarketWatch Friday.
In the complaints, the DMV refers to at least five dates between May and July during which Tesla on its website used sentences such as “The system is designed to be able to conduct short and long-distance trips with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat.” That sentence and others mentioned in the complaint remain on the Autopilot page on the company’s website.
“These ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’ labels and descriptions represent that vehicles equipped with the ADAS features will operate as an autonomous vehicle, but vehicles equipped with those ADAS features could not at the time of those advertisements, and cannot now, operate as autonomous vehicles,” the DMV further states. ADAS stands for advanced driver assistance system.
The complaints note that Tesla has also included a disclaimer that its vehicles require active driver supervision and are not autonomous, but that it “does not cure the violation.”
Tesla’s marketing of its driver-assist systems have long been controversial. Several years ago, Consumer Reports called on Tesla to change the Autopilot name, saying it gave drivers a false sense of security. Three years ago, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study showing that people overestimated what Tesla’s Autopilot could do.
In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released for the first time data showing that Tesla vehicles topped the list of crashes linked to driver-assist technology, some of which involved fatalities.