California has banned Tesla from calling its software full-self-driving

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(Credit: Tesla)
California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a new bill into law that effectively bans Tesla from advertising its cars as fully self-driving, official technology reports. The law states that starting January 1, 2023, Tesla will not be able to use the term full-self driving, commonly abbreviated as FSD, to refer to a feature of its vehicles.

Senate Bill 1398, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, prohibits dealers and automakers from “deceptively naming or marketing” a vehicle as self-driving if it still requires human attention and intervention. Reports state that the state DMV already had rules prohibiting this type of false advertising, but a lack of enforcement led Gonzalez and state legislators to advance the bill so that it is now state law.

“(This bill) increases consumer safety by requiring dealers and manufacturers who sell new passenger vehicles equipped with a semi-autonomous driving assistance feature… to provide a clear description of the features’ functionality and limitations,” Gonzalez said in a statement (PDF). Tesla says it already makes its customers aware of software limitations.

It’s something we’ve always wondered about, as Tesla vehicles have never progressed beyond Level 2 self-driving capability, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) document J3106 in 2014. Level 2 means the car can accelerate, steer, brake, and maintain or change lanes and avoid front-end collisions, but still can’t drive itself from point A to point B without human attention, ready to take over. In sticky conditions or if the vehicle cannot read pavement markings or road markings.

In any common sense lesson, this is not fully self-driving. Levels 3 and 4 are very close to self-driving, and Level 5 means fully autonomous even on roads that aren’t mapped or in heavy storms. To date, there are no vehicles available to consumers with Level 3, 4, or 5 self-driving capabilities.

(Credit: Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images)

Tesla sells FSD as an additional over-the-air option for $15,000 or $199 per month. A statement on the automaker’s website about the feature says: “Currently enabled Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. Full autonomy will depend on achieving far greater reliability than human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions.” The automaker also said on its website that all new vehicles are already required to add FSD in the future. The hardware is there.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in 2017 that he planned to drive Tesla cars across the country without the need for human assistance before 2018. As PCMag reports, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened two more accident investigations last week. Accidents in which the Tesla FSD is alleged to be at least partially responsible.

Earlier this month, a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicated that Tesla was working on a new radar system operating in the 76-77GHz range. The filing suggests the automaker plans to bring back a radar hardware component to at least some of its models, raising questions about whether existing vehicles without this hardware will be good enough to drive themselves without human intervention.

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