Needless to say, regulators aren't pleased.
There's no doubt Tesla's Autopilot system is very impressive, despite the controversy. Not all owners fully comprehend the fact the system is incapable of full self-driving, which has resulted in some serious and even fatal accidents. Autopilot is rated at level 2 autonomy, meaning the vehicle can control steering and accelerating/decelerating, but drivers must still pay attention at all times with their hands ready to grab the wheel at any moment.
Although Autopilot is legal in the US, it's facing regulatory approval delays in Europe, including Germany. One Munich court even banned Tesla from advertising Autopilot in the country due to concerns consumers have been misled about the technology's capabilities.
With Germany being a major market for the EV automaker, having Autopilot available and promoting it is essential. And now it appears Tesla has figured out a creative way to get around the issue. According to Germany's Automobilwoche, Tesla is using a legal loophole in the country's approval system for software updates to get Autopilot greenlit.
After doing its homework, Tesla realized the Dutch registration authority RDW is in charge of approving software updates not only for the Netherlands, but for the entire EU. Here's the loophole: this responsibility does not include software updates. Germany's Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has no control on the matter.
"The KBA is not responsible for vehicles that are already on the market, but the federal states [are]," the agency said. "Autonomous lane changes are not included here at the moment." And, lo and behold, Tesla's latest software update includes autonomous lane change improvements for Autopilot. Tesla, not surprisingly, had no comment on the matter.
But until Germany or the EU changes this policy, it appears Tesla may now be able to get away with Autopilot approval in Germany where it also happens to be building a new Gigafactory where the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y will be manufactured.