Tesla Inc.’s promotion of its driver-assistance system Autopilot is under scrutiny in Germany, where a court is scheduled to rule next week on whether the carmaker is misleading consumers. The maker of the Model 3 sedan says on its German website that Tesla vehicles have full potential for autonomous driving.
The company had also promoted its cars as having the ability to perform automatic city driving by the end of 2019. Tesla is promising customers more than its Autopilot system actually delivers, according to the Center for Protection Against Unfair Competition, a German non-profit financed by companies and industry groups that sued the U.S. carmaker. A Munich court indicated during a hearing last month that it may side with the group.
“A legal framework for autonomous inner-city driving doesn’t even exist yet in Germany,” Andreas Ottofuelling, a lawyer for the group, said Thursday. “And other functions aren’t working yet as advertised.” Representatives for Tesla didn’t immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has long offered bullish takes on the capabilities of his cars, even going so far as to start charging customers thousands of dollars for a “Full Self Driving” feature in 2016. Years later, the company still requires users of its Autopilot system to be fully attentive and ready to take over the task of driving at any time.
According to the fair competition institution, Tesla’s vehicles today could not drive without a driver, and they could not do so legally because there are no laws about self-driving cars in Germany yet. The Competition Center also stated that consumers cannot buy a car that automatically drives in urban areas and on the freeway, even if Tesla gives this impression.
Impact of the ruling at Court
If the Munich court does indeed decide to lean towards the fair-competition group and Tesla doesn’t appeal, it will have to remove the claims from its website. That would add to the resistance Musk has run into in Europe, where regulations force the company to limit how Autopilot features can be used. The CEO tweeted in August that Tesla was working with regulators in Europe to change the rules and said the following month that customers were unhappy with the policies.
In other news, Tesla is going to use Autopilot side cameras on its vehicles to show blind spots on the screen when the driver is signalling a turn or lane change. Last month, Tesla introduced a new software update with a new feature to involve the side cameras in the backup camera system.