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California is revisiting its opinion not to regulate Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software after seeing ‘videos showing dangerous use of that technology’

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  • California’s DMV is “revisiting” its opinion not to regulate Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) software.
  • The move is partly inspired by “videos showing dangerous use” and the NHTSA’s Tesla investigations.
  • Tesla isn’t required to report crashes and disengagements to the DMV because the FSD beta requires human drivers.

Tesla’s full self-driving software is facing scrutiny in one of the car maker’s most popular states. 

The California Department of Motor Vehicles sent a letter this week to State Sen. Lena Gonzalez saying it is revisiting its opinion not to subject the technology to its autonomous vehicle regulations. Sen. Gonzalez first asked the DMV last year about its assessment of the FSD beta and its degree of safety.

The DMV says it’s taking a second look because of “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,” as The Los Angeles Times first reported.

The DMV previously said FSD isn’t subject to its autonomous vehicle regulations because the software still requires human drivers, who pay $10,000 — soon to be $12,000 — to participate in FSD’s beta program. This has allowed Tesla to avoid reporting crashes and disengagements, in which a human has to take control of the vehicle, to the DMV.

“The California DMV has reached out to Tesla regarding the most recent software releases, including any expansion of the program and features, and notified them that the department will be initiating further review of the technology of their vehicles,” said spokesperson Anita Gore in a statement. “If the capabilities of the features meet the definition of an autonomous vehicle according to California law and regulations, DMV will take steps to make certain that Tesla operates under the appropriate autonomous vehicle permits.”

“The DMV shares the concern held by many other safety stakeholders about the potential for driver inattention, misunderstanding, or misuse as these systems become more prevalent,” Gore added. “The DMV continues to encourage Tesla to provide clear and effective communication to customers, buyers and the general public about the technology’s capabilities, limitations and intended use.”

FSD beta testers have posted plenty of videos pointing out issues with the driver-assistance system, including instances where vehicles swerved into medians and narrowly avoided hitting poles. Other videos have shown vehicles with FSD turning into oncoming traffic and struggling to accommodate lightrails. In August, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said himself that the latest version of FSD at the time, Beta 9.2, was actually “not great.”

The company has also faced scrutiny from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which opened an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system in August after identifying 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas hit vehicles at first-responder scenes.

When reached for comment, Sen. Gonzalez’s office said it is currently reviewing the letter. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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