Elon Musk's Tesla under pressure from bid to ban questionable 'self-driving' claims

·2-min read
tesla autopilot
tesla autopilot

Elon Musk's questionable claims to have created a "self-driving" car pose a fresh challenge for Tesla after ministers were advised to make using the term a criminal offence if human input is still involved.

Motorists are in danger of being misled into thinking that they can completely ignore the road by carmakers overegging the autonomous capabilities of their vehicles, according to the Law Commission, which recommends legislation to be brought before Parliament.

It is suggesting two new criminal offences are created “to restrict the use of certain terms (such as “self-driving”) and to prohibit practices which confuse drivers about the need to pay attention”.

The proposal is likely to cause a particular challenge for Tesla, which has developed a so-called Full Self-Driving mode that has previously been labelled "misleading" by the head of the US National Transportation Safety Board.

Tesla warns drivers in owners’ manuals to keep their hands on the wheel and “be prepared to take over at any moment.”

Its Full Self-Driving mode allows a car to automatically change lanes and park. Another version in testing, FSD Beta, allows drivers to try out an unfinished feature where the car steers itself on city streets.

The Law Commission report said: "Evidence suggests that many drivers are currently confused about which systems are or are not self-driving.

“This has the potential to be dangerous by encouraging people to think that they do not need to be fully engaged in the driving task, even for a technology which provides mere assistance.

“This problem is aggravated if marketing gives drivers the misleading impression that they do not need to monitor the road while driving.”

Fully autonomous cars needing zero input from a human driver are thought to be years, or even decades, away from production as current iterations struggle to spot wet road markings or understand the difference between a clear road and a space under a large truck.

The Law Commission report, which was released on Tuesday, also said that motorists in self-driving cars should not be held legally liable for crashes or accidents.

Under the proposals, the developer would instead be responsible for any accidents and face sanctions from a new regulator if they were found to be to blame.

Tesla was approached for comment.