Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have asked new chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, to investigate the marketing of Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot. Senators are particularly concerned about how Tesla has charged customers thousands of dollars for what it calls “full self-control,” even though buying the package doesn’t make the company’s cars completely independent.
“Tesla’s marketing has repeatedly overestimated the capabilities of its vehicles, and these statements pose an increasing threat to motorists and other road users,” senators wrote in a letter published on Wednesday. “We therefore urge you to initiate an investigation into potentially misleading and inappropriate practices in the advertising and marketing of Tesla’s automation systems and to take the necessary enforcement action to ensure the safety of all road users.”
The letter comes when the Biden administration has steadily increased its oversight of technology companies. Much of this focus has so far been through the lens of competition policy – particularly at the Khan FTC – but Tesla has also generated some warmth. Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced investigation of Autopilot’s tendency to collide with parked emergency vehicles.
For years, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has argued that the cars in his company were on the verge of driving themselves without human intervention, even though this function has never come. In 2015, he said he was a fully independent Teslas was only two years old. In 2016, Tesla announced that all new cars had the necessary hardware to do thisand that the company just needed a little more time to play the software. It didn’t turn out to be true, as did Tesla has since created a new one the computer these older cars need.
At the same time, Tesla began offering its customers the “full self-driving” option when they purchased their car, and mainly asked them to pay a one-day down payment on a fully autonomous car. In return, these owners would get more advanced features than what is offered in the standard Autopilot package when Tesla developed them.
From the end of 2018 Tesla removed this option from their websiteMusk admits it caused “too much confusion. “But in just a few months, it was backand Musk again promised full autonomy available by the end of 2019.
Since then, Tesla has continued to charge for the “Full Self-Guided” option — the price is currently $ 10,000 if you buy it when you buy company cars, although Tesla also recently started selling “orders” for the Self-Guided package if owners want it after purchase. The company announces on its website that option does not make his cars completely independent, although it still promises that the functionality will be available by the end of the year.
Even then, Musk now says a “full-featured” version of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software is defined a car can drive someone from home to work “probably without intervention, Which does not describe a completely independent vehicle.
Tesla has been beta testing this full-featured version of Full Self-Driving software has been around for months, and a few thousand owners of the program use the software on roads around the country. Many of these owners have described their experiences with software that is updated every few weeks or months. The results are mixed; for everyone intervention free video From Tesla sliding through the cityscape, there is another place with a car refuses to take the left turn or dive towards oncoming traffic.
Musk’s many claims to both beta and a video released in 2019 The presentation of an early version of the Full Self-Driving software navigating the roads in the San Francisco Bay Area is most of what the senators mention in their letter. They also say Tesla has been misleading in its advertising on autopilot and full self-driving — even though the company doesn’t engage in traditional advertising.
“We fear that Tesla’s autopilot and FSD capabilities are not as mature and reliable as the company announces,” the senators wrote. “Tesla drivers are listening to these claims and believing that their vehicles are ready to drive on their own – with potentially life-threatening consequences.”
Safety advocates and other regulators have long called for more oversight of how Tesla treats driver assistance technology. In early 2020, the Finnish Transport Agency noticed this Autopilot design and overconfidence in its capabilities resulted in a fatal accident in Mountain View, California. Musk has even admitted that drivers can be too happy at any time using Tesla driver assistance functions. But for years, he has only allowed passive driver control when Autopilot is turned on.
Charging thousands of dollars for a feature that doesn’t completely exist, and at the same time beta testing in the real world, for years after we’ve moved the target to create a self-contained car, will certainly continue to cause confusion, like the one that Musk took a step back from Full Self-Driving. In Wednesday’s letter, Markey and Blumenthal erroneously say that the Full Self-Driving beta software is now available to all Tesla owners through a subscription. This promise, like many others made by Musk, has not yet been fulfilled.