California Bans Tesla From Marketing Its EVs As "Full Self-Driving"

California has passed a new law going into effect in 2023 that bans Tesla and other automakers from advertising their vehicles as “fully self driving.”

The Senate Bill (SB) No. 1398, sponsored by Democratic state senator Lena Gonzales, effectively prohibits Tesla from using the Full Self-Driving (FSD) name for its Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) package.

“A manufacturer or dealer shall not name any partial driving automation feature, or describe any partial driving automation feature in marketing materials, using language that implies or would otherwise lead a reasonable person to believe, that the feature allows the vehicle to function as an autonomous vehicle, as defined in Section 38750, or otherwise has functionality not actually included in the feature.”

California Senate Bill 1398

The new law states that auto manufacturers and dealers are prohibited from “deceptively naming, referring to, or marketing” a car as self-driving if it’s only equipped with partial automation features that still require human drivers to pay attention and take over driving at times.

The new bill, which was signed by California governor Gavin Newsom in September and comes into effect on January 1, 2023, applies not just to the sale of cars but also to all feature updates and vehicle upgrades in order to prevent “driver confusion.”

While the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) already had rules banning the false advertisement of self-driving cars, Senator Gonzales told the Los Angeles Times in August that the DMV’s lack of enforcement prompted her and state legislators to advance the bill to enshrine the rules into state law.

“(This bill) increases consumer safety by requiring dealers and manufacturers that sell new passenger vehicles equipped with a semiautonomous driving assistance feature … to give a clear description of the functions and limitations of those features.”

Senator Lena Gonzalez in a statement

Tesla has been lobbying against the bill, arguing that it already makes buyers aware of the Full Self-Driving software’s limitations. The EV maker has also been cited in several legal cases and investigations over its ADAS, as well as an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Justice over advertising for its Autopilot features. 

On its website, Tesla notes that Full Self-Driving features require “active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

“Full autonomy will be dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions,” Tesla notes on its website.

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