California law bans Tesla from advertising its electric cars as ‘full self-driving’

A new California law that goes into effect in 2023 effectively bans Tesla as well as other automobile manufacturers from advertising their vehicles as “fully self-driving”.

The Senate Bill (SB) No. 1398, sponsored by Democratic state senator Lena Gonzalez, states that auto manufacturers and dealers must provide consumers a “clear description” of the function and limitations of semi-autonomous driver assistance features.

“SB 1398 prohibits a manufacturer or dealer from deceptively naming, referring to, or marketing these features,” said the bill, signed by California governor Gavin Newsom in September and set to come into effect on 1 January 2023.

Even though Tesla has claimed its cars have a “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) feature, the company is yet to demonstrate that its vehicles can safely engage in complete autonomous driving without driver assistance.

The company has also been named in several legal cases and investigations over its advanced driver assistance system, as well as an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Justice over its advertising for its Autopilot features.

Tesla also sells its FSD feature as an additional option for $15,000 or $199 per month, but notes on its website that these 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,” the automaker notes in its website.

The new law urges manufacturers or dealers to ensure consumers know and understand the autonomous driving technology features they are purchasing and the capability and limitations of those technologies.

“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,” the new law reads.

The legislation applies not just to the sale of cars but also to all feature updates and vehicle upgrades in order to prevent “driver confusion”.

“A violation of this subdivision shall be considered a misleading advertisement for the purposes of Section 11713,” the new law states.

“(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,” Ms Gonzalez said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s stock price closed at a record low of $109.10 on Tuesday.