This time, the issue is self-driving.
Go anywhere in California and you're bound to see a Tesla Model 3 within minutes. The entire lineup is extremely popular in the Golden State. The Fremont factory also served as Tesla's headquarters, but that'll soon change as CEO Elon Musk moves to business-friendly Texas. The Fremont facility will remain up and running but the attention has now focused on the still under construction Austin Gigafactory, home of the Model Y and, eventually, the Cybertruck.
But Tesla's slow-to-grow lineup has been impacted by other new technologies, mainly Full Self-Driving (FSD), a more advanced version of the already controversial Autopilot. The carmaker has managed to keep FSD records, like incidents on public roads, mostly secret even in California, a state known for regulating just about everything. That could soon change, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has informed the carmaker it is reevaluating its FSD program in order to determine whether it falls under the department's autonomous vehicle regulations. It's also reassessing its own autonomous vehicle policies.
"Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space," the DMV announced. California state Senator Lena Gonzalez, chair of the Senate's transportation committee, asked the DMV last month for its opinion on Tesla's FSD beta program. Like other politicians, agencies, and safety advocates, Gonzalez is concerned over Tesla's policy of allowing owners to supervise the operation of their FSD-equipped vehicles.
Waymo, Cruise, and other self-driving car companies, in contrast, must report any crashes or system issues to the DMV. They're also using trained test drivers whereas Tesla requests FSD users/test dummies to pay $10,000 for the service (soon to be $12k). If the state's DMV concludes Tesla's FSD is truly an autonomous driving system, the automaker will have to report all crashes, system failures, and boost test-driver requirements.
So why hasn't California requested this information from Tesla before? Because FSD, like Autopilot, is officially classified as a Level 2 driver-assist system. Waymo vehicles, to compare, are at Level 4, meaning they can drive themselves under certain conditions without direct driver supervision. Neither the California DMV nor Tesla have commented on the possible new rules, but we're fairly certain the carmaker is against any changes to the status quo.
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