Tesla admits to California DMV that Elon Musk has been exaggerating about ‘full self-driving’ cars


Tesla privately admitted to a California regulator that CEO Elon Musk has been exaggerating about the capabilities of his company’s cars to fully self-drive by the end of the year.

The acknowledgment was revealed in a series of exchanges with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which were released by legal transparency group PlainSite, and first reported by The Verge.

In the emails, it was revealed that Tesla told the agency that is Autopilot software was not yet capable of providing full driving automation despite lofty predictions made by Musk.  

It comes as the electric vehicle company faces intense scrutiny after a Tesla car that did not have anyone in the driver’s seat crashed, resulting in the deaths of two men.

Tesla's executives have admitted to the California DMV that Elon Musk is exaggerating about all of the company's cars to have full self-driving technology. Pictured: Musk speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition, March 2020

Tesla’s executives have admitted to the California DMV that Elon Musk is exaggerating about all of the company’s cars to have full self-driving technology. Pictured: Musk speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition, March 2020

The company said its cars are currently at Level 2, which means they can control steering and accelerating/decelerating, but a human sits in the driver's seat. Pictured: Tesla car in Shanghai

The company said its cars are currently at Level 2, which means they can control steering and accelerating/decelerating, but a human sits in the driver’s seat. Pictured: Tesla car in Shanghai

During an earnings call in January, Musk told investors he was ‘highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human this year,’ reported The Verge. 

In the exchanges, the DMV asked Tesla’s director of Autopilot software CJ Moore, to address, from an engineering perspective, Musk’s comments about reaching full driving automation by the end of 2021.

‘Elon’s messaging does not match engineering reality per CJ,’ the DMV wrote, in reference to Tesla’s director of Autopilot software CJ Moore.

The agency added: ‘Tesla is at Level 2 currently.

Level 2 means a vehicle can control steering and accelerating/decelerating, but a human sits in the driver’s seat and can take control of the car at any time.

The DMV then revealed that Tesla told officials it is unlikely to reach Level 5 (L5) autonomy, which involves cars that do not require human attention, by year’s end. 

‘The ratio of driver interaction would need to be in the magnitude of [one] or [two] million miles per driver interaction to move into higher levels of automation,’ the DMV wrote.

‘Tesla indicated that Elon is extrapolating on the rates of improvement when speaking about L5 capabilities. Tesla couldn’t say if the rate of improvement would make it to L5 by end of calendar year.’

Musk has made lofty predictions that he company would be able to have auto pilot by the end of the year. Pictured: Musk arrives on the red carpet for automobile awards in Germany, 2019

Musk has made lofty predictions that he company would be able to have auto pilot by the end of the year. Pictured: Musk arrives on the red carpet for automobile awards in Germany, 2019

In October, Tesla introduced what it has described as a ‘beta’ version of its ‘full self-driving’ (FSD) program. 

Just last month, Musk hyped FSD, describing it as already ‘superhuman’ on the highway and getting close on city streets. 

‘Anyone paying attention to the rate of improvement will realize that Tesla Autopilot/FSD is already superhuman for highway driving & swiftly getting there for city streets,’ he tweeted on April 29.

However, in the memo, the DMV reiterated its concerns the Musk had overstated the ability of Telsa’s cars to have full autonomous capabilities 

‘Tesla indicated that they are still firmly in L2,’ the memo read.

‘As Tesla is aware, the public’s misunderstanding about the limits of the technology and its misuse can have tragic consequences.’       

It comes as Tesla faces scrutiny after one of its vehicles crashed in Texas, killing two men, neither of whom were in the driver's seat (above)

It comes as Tesla faces scrutiny after one of its vehicles crashed in Texas, killing two men, neither of whom were in the driver’s seat (above)

This seems to be in reference to several recent car crashes that have involved Tesla’s vehicles.

In the Woodlands, Texas, two men died after the Tesla they were in – neither behind the driver’s seat – crashed.

Around 11.25pm on April 17, the vehicle, a 2019 Model S, flew off the road about 100 feet and hit a tree. 

And, in Fontana, California, the state’s Highway Patrol is investigating why a Tesla crashed into an overturned truck on a highway, which killed the car’s driver.

The patrol did not reveal whether or not the Tesla was operating on Autopilot.  

According to Reuters, federal highway safety regulators are investigating more than 20 accidents involving Tesla vehicles. 



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