California Bill Says Tesla Can’t Call Cars ‘Full Self-Driving’

Tesla Inc. vehicles in a parking lot
Tesla Inc. vehicles in a parking lot after arriving at a port in Yokohama, Japan. (Toru Hanai/Bloomberg News)

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A Tesla with Full Self-Driving software was reportedly responsible for causing an eight-car crash on the Bay Bridge on Thanksgiving that injured 18 people after the car abruptly stopped. But, starting next year, Tesla will effectively be banned from advertising its vehicles as Full Self-Driving in California under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this legislative session.

Senate Bill 1398 is among the hundreds of new state laws taking effect in 2023 and specifically targets the electric carmaker’s marketing of software included in some Tesla models that imply that the car can fully drive itself — which it can’t.

The new law, sponsored by Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Calif.) of Long Beach, prohibits California dealers and manufacturers from “deceptively naming or marketing” a car as self-driving if it’s equipped with only partial automation features that still require human drivers to pay attention and handle driving.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles, which regulates autonomous vehicles, already had rules banning the false advertisement of self-driving cars. However, Gonzalez 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.


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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,” Gonzalez said in a statement as the bill made its way through the Legislature. Gonzalez could not be reached for comment Dec. 22.

Tesla, owned by Elon Musk, lobbied against the bill, arguing that it already makes Tesla buyers aware of the Full Self-Driving software’s limitations.

California’s new law does not address safety aspects of the Tesla software, though it’s the latest example of legislators, regulators and consumers pushing back on advertising they say is deceptive and misleading.

Tesla drivers filed a class-action lawsuit in San Francisco federal court against the company in September alleging that Tesla has falsely advertised its self-driving software since its 2016 debut.

According to a legislative analysis of the new California law, Waymo, one of the companies the state permits to test and operate autonomous vehicles, stopped describing its vehicles as self-driving in 2021, citing confusion among drivers caused by Tesla’s advertising.

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