Tesla Faces Scrutiny Over Autopilot Marketing in California

A California judge has denied Tesla’s attempt to dismiss allegations from a state regulator, accusing the company of exaggerating the capabilities of its self-driving technology. This decision comes amid ongoing scrutiny over Tesla’s marketing practices and safety claims.

On Monday, Judge Juliet Cox of the state Office of Administrative Hearings ruled that the accusations from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) warrant further examination. The DMV had charged Tesla in July 2022 with misleading consumers about its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features, stating that these technologies were advertised as autonomous when they were not.

The DMV is seeking actions that could include suspending Tesla’s sales license in California and requiring the company to compensate vehicle owners. Tesla and its legal team have yet to comment on the ruling, while the DMV has stated that the case will proceed with a formal review on September 9.

This legal challenge is not isolated. On May 15, a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed Tesla’s attempt to quash a nationwide class-action lawsuit that accused the automaker of falsely promising imminent self-driving capabilities.

Tesla has long faced federal investigations concerning the potential link between its self-driving technology and fatal accidents. Additionally, federal prosecutors are exploring whether Tesla misled investors about the true functionality of its self-driving features.

Tesla, headquartered in Austin, Texas, maintains that while its Autopilot system enables vehicles to steer, accelerate, and brake within their lanes, and Full Self-Driving allows for lane changes and obeying traffic signals, these features do not render the vehicle fully autonomous, and drivers must remain attentive.

Judge Cox emphasized that the DMV case should not be dismissed prematurely and requires a formal hearing to proceed. Tesla argued that sufficient documentation was already available for a ruling without a hearing.

California remains Tesla’s largest market in the U.S., accounting for roughly 10% of its global deliveries. However, sales have dipped for two consecutive quarters, with Tesla’s market share in the state’s electric vehicle sector dropping to 55.4% in the first quarter from 61.8% the previous year.

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