Tesla has defended its use of the names “Autopilot” and “self-driving” to a California regulator this week in a continuing case alleging that the titles are false advertising.
After Tesla responded to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) last year saying that it would defend itself against the claims of false advertising, the automaker this week made a filing arguing that the agency had already approved the use of the terminology.
On Friday, in a filing with the Office of Administrative Hearings, Tesla argued that the California DMV previously and implicitly approved the use of the terminology by not taking action against the automaker in prior investigations (via Reuters). According to the filing, Tesla also faced an investigation from the DMV on its Autopilot name in 2014, which went on to let the automaker keep using the term.
“The DMV chose not to take any action against Tesla or otherwise communicate to Tesla that its advertising or use of these brand names was or might be problematic,” Tesla wrote in the filing.
Tesla also argued it was cleared to use the term “self-driving” in 2016 when the DMV was creating regulations around statements on autonomous technology. The resulting legislation left out previous clauses in DMV drafts that called for the prohibition of the title, which the automaker says was a tacit approval of the language used in its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta.
“Tesla relied upon Claimant’s implicit approval of these brand names,” Tesla added.
The case could oversee the DMV taking drastic action against Tesla, including the potential of revoking the automaker’s license to sell vehicles in California, which is its largest U.S. market. The agency could also force Tesla to pay restitution to drivers of its vehicles with Autopilot and/or the FSD beta.
In its owner’s manuals, and inside its cars when driving, Tesla notes that Autopilot users are to keep their hands on the wheel at all times and to be ready to regain control of the vehicle.
“Basic Autopilot is a hands-on feature,” Tesla says in the manual. “Keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times and be mindful of road conditions, surrounding traffic, and other road users (such as pedestrians and cyclists). Always be prepared to take immediate action. Failure to follow these instructions could cause damage, serious injury, or death.”
Tesla also provides the following warning in its manual under the FSD beta heading:
“Always remember that Full Self-Driving (Beta) does not make Model 3 autonomous and requires a fully attentive driver who is ready to take immediate action at all times. While Full Self-Driving (Beta) is engaged, you must monitor your surroundings and other road users at all times.”
Despite these warnings, the DMV has previously said that Tesla’s disclaimer “contradicts the original untrue or misleading labels and claims, which is misleading, and does not cure the violation.”