LOS ANGELES — The California Department of Motor Vehicles is reviewing whether Tesla is breaking state law by selling its vehicles as completely autonomous even though they don’t follow the legal definition. In an email to The Associated Press on Monday, the department announced the analysis. It is against state law to advertise cars for sale or lease as autonomous if they do not meet the regulatory definition, according to the study.
Tesla’s website advertises a $10,000 “Full Self-Driving” option for its electric cars, but the same website also states that the vehicles are not self-driving. Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, has stated that he believes Tesla’s cars will be able to move more efficiently than humans by the end of the year.
Tesla is developing its “Full Self-Driving” program in cars owned by select owners in the United States.
Autopilot is another name for the company’s partly autonomous driver-assist feature, which is located in Palo Alto, California.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on Monday after disbanding its public relations department. The DMV’s analysis was first published by the Los Angeles Times.
Violations of the law will result in the denial of autonomous vehicle licenses and the revocation of a manufacturer’s license, according to the DMV, which oversees self-driving vehicle testing on California highways. It wouldn’t say much else about the study, like when it started.
Tesla requires a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to pilot autonomous vehicles with human backup drivers. However, it is not one of the firms allowed to conduct tests without the use of human drivers.
According to the firm, the “Complete Self-Driving” program can steer, change lanes automatically, and obey traffic signals and stop signs. “Autopilot” will keep a car in its path and at a reasonable distance from the cars in front of it.
A Tesla in self-driving mode slammed into a Snohomish County deputy’s patrol car north of Seattle on Saturday, causing major damage but no injury.
The California Highway Patrol originally said that Autopilot was “engaged” prior to the accident, but later retracted that assertion. According to the study, investigators have not made “a definitive decision as to what operating mode the Tesla was in or whether it was a contributing factor in the crash.”
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing Tesla’s electronic systems. For fear of stifling the creation of promising new features, the NHTSA has previously taken a hands-off approach to control partial and fully integrated systems.
However, the department has increased its investigations into Teslas since March, dispatching teams to three accidents. In the last three years, it has investigated 28 Tesla collisions but has so far focused on voluntary safety enforcement from car and tech firms. At least three people have died in autopilot-assisted deaths in the United States, in which neither the machine nor the driver took precautions to prevent collisions.