Tesla claims 1st Amendment right to call cars ‘Full Self Driving’

Seven years after Tesla released its automated driving feature, known as Full Self-Driving, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has accused the electric car maker of false advertising. The DMV alleges that Tesla has misled customers with claims about its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features, stating that the systems are capable of conducting trips with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat, which is not yet possible.

In response, Tesla is defending itself by arguing that the DMV has been aware of the company’s use of the brand names Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability since 2014 and 2016, respectively. The company claims that the DMV’s implicit approval of these brand names and its failure to take action against Tesla indicate that the case no longer has legal standing. Additionally, Tesla argues that the state’s false advertising rules on autonomous vehicles impermissibly restrict constitutionally protected speech that is truthful and non-misleading, violating its free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment.

This legal dispute has serious implications for Tesla, as the DMV’s legal motion states that the company’s California manufacturer’s license could be revoked and it could be required to pay restitution to affected parties. Furthermore, several customers have filed lawsuits against Tesla after purchasing the Full Self-Driving feature for thousands of dollars, only to find that it cannot drive itself, according to independent driverless car experts.

The case also brings attention to ongoing investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on safety concerns related to Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features. This includes probes into vehicular deaths and crashes into police cars and ambulances. The lengthy duration of these investigations has raised questions, with NHTSA officials declining to comment on their progress.

Historically, Tesla has been at the forefront of advancing autonomous vehicle Technology, and its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features have garnered both attention and controversy. The outcome of the legal dispute between Tesla and the DMV will likely have significant implications for the future of autonomous vehicles and the regulation of their advertising and marketing claims.

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