By on July 14, 2020

Hey, how bout that bitchin’ new Bronco- whoops! Sorry, got ahead of myself there. The check hasn’t even arrived yet!

In news unrelated to a Ford model Car and Driver wrote 13 stories about in the last 24 hours, a German court has smacked Tesla for misleading its citizens. The ruling, brought on by a complaint from an industry group, involves something that’s plagued the auto industry for years. Essentially, the overstating of a car’s autonomous driving abilities.

Thankfully, we’ve reached a point where even the Associated Press Stylebook is warning about inaccurate self-driving language use, but old habits die hard at Tesla. Germany didn’t like what it heard.

Via Reuters, we learn that on Tuesday, a Munich judge banned Tesla from airing ads containing certain statements or phrases relating to its Autopilot driver-assist system and its  vehicles’ future abilities.

The case arose when the Wettbewerbszentrale (an industry-backed group concerned with anti-competitive things, and a mouthful to say) raised an eyebrow at Tesla’s advertising and took the automaker to court. Now banned from Tesla marketing materials in Germany are the phrases “full potential for autonomous driving” and “Autopilot inclusive.”

Tesla has long garnered criticism in this country for its pronouncements of just-around-the-corner autonomous breakthroughs. Autopilot was played up from Day 1 as a self-driving system that allowed drivers to take naps and watch movies while underway, and YouTube and social media still crank out recent examples of people doing exactly this. Deaths have resulted from owners placing too much trust in their vehicle’s abilities and subsequently letting down their guard.

And while Tesla has dialed back its self-promotion on this front, the company’s “Full Self Driving capability” has only added to the problem. Vehicles equipped with what Tesla says is the necessary hardware to support autonomous driving can’t actually perform this feat, but might at some point in the future. It’s a magic box just waiting to be opened when the time comes.

Recently, the automaker said it was on the cusp of developing true Level 5 capability for its products — in other words, the ability for a car to completely drive itself in all situations, without any intervention from an occupant (or the need for a steering wheel).

But back to Germany, where Tesla is in the process of building a local assembly plant for the growing German and Northern European EV market. The court ruled that an average buyer could be led into believing that their car is capable of hands-off, destination-to-destination driving, placing them i danger. So the words had to go.

Tesla still has an opportunity to appeal.

[Image: IIHS]

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14 Comments on “‘Language!’: German Court Slaps Tesla for Bad Words...”


  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Errr, what about “Possible potential future FULL SELF DRIVING, YEEHAA!!!!, maybe , someday, if a miracle happens (maybe)?
    Is that okay?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “someday, if a miracle happens (maybe)?”

      No miracle needed. Just 10 to 15 years of next-generation AI research and several years of research on new types of sensors like ground-penetrating radar mapping and “see-around-corners” (picking moving objects out of reflections and shadows) technology. But, their current hardware and sensors aren’t going to cut it. My standard for FSD is that it has to be better than any human. It can get there, but it’s more work than most realize or are willing to admit.

      BTW, I’ve experimented with technologies to pull objects out of fragmented reflections. It really works and will give AV systems an edge over humans. It just needs a lot of work.

      • 0 avatar
        Imagefont

        It may indeed come to pass in the not too distant future that cars are able to reliably pilot themselves without human intervention, at least under limited conditions. Whether that’s 10-15 years or longer remains to be seen, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.
        What is NOT possible, what has NEVER been even remotely possible is that Tesla’s cars would receive a firmware update giving them this capability with their existing computers and sensors. That has always been 100% grade-A BS and a straight up bold faced lie. Musk is a liar and he doubles down on his lies every single day.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Autopilot was played up from Day 1 as a self-driving system that allowed drivers to take naps and watch movies while underway”

    Not by Tesla, it wasn’t.

    Anybody enabling Autopilot has to press the “I agree” button that confirms their pledge to remain attentive.

    Never once has Tesla claimed the product is better than SAE Level 2 autonomy, which is essentially nothing.

    If words matter, then Tesla should appeal. Their message might be misleading, but it is not factually incorrect.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Some aviation autopilot systems I’ve used will happily fly you into the side of a mountain if you let them. I’ve got an aviation background, so autopilot makes perfect sense to me, but I suppose the general public doesn’t understand the shortcomings of aviation autopilots.

      • 0 avatar
        NigelShiftright

        Since navaids are pretty much standardized worldwide, since airways, approaches and departures are predefined for all IFR traffic, and since IFR traffic also (usually) follows specific spacing rules, it should be as safe (if not more so) to fly liftoff to touchdown without a pilot.

        I’ll trust my life to Tesla’s autopilot the day that Elon and the rest of his senior management fly LHR-JFK at night with no one in the cockpit.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        Yup. Autopilot for the most part blindly follows the course you set and the pilot has to remain attentive but doesn’t have the fatigue of maintaining altitude, course, etc. Had Tesla said FMS or something, DMS maybe, it would be different but even the FMS can fly you into a mountain as proved years ago by the European pilot that committed suicide with his passengers aboard.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      “Autopilot was played up from Day 1 as a self-driving system that allowed drivers to take naps and watch movies while underway”

      Not by Tesla, it wasn’t

      **Yes it absolutely was. They’ve downplayed how egregious it used to be on their website and I wish I remembered where I quoted it before- now on their website it still says: “full self driving capability” and “autopilot included” – then at the bottom in a smaller font it talks about driver supervision. This self driving stuff used to be a splash screen and you didn’t have the driver supervision caveats without drilling down. A consumer could reasonably come to a conclusion that Tesla did the driving for you based on Tesla’s website until just recently – and when I say recently I mean definitely no further back than spring of 2020. No layperson buying a Tesla knows wtf SAE Level 2 autonomy is. What they know is “full self driving capability” and “autopilot included” is right there in the description.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    aka, what Steve Lehto dismisses as meaningless “sales puffery”.

    Apparently the German courts take a more literal, conservative interpretation of the words and their importance than does the American system of “sure, he said random things–you believed him?? Sucks to be you.”

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Well, the ruling can be appealed and you can be sure Elon has been on his mobile honker ordering up just that. No damn German is he going to tell HIM he got something wrong! He’s a genius! Too bad his vast overhype of calling the Tesla system Autopilot, followed by dimbulb drivers taking him at his word, is there to haunt him. Not that he has ever acknowledged any Tesla was ever at fault for anything. About time someone gave the silly man a rap over the knuckles and brought him home to reality. Lord knows he needs it. If this ruling holds upon appeal, it’s far worse for his ego than an SEC fine for $20 million. It means his brainwave itself is officially censured.

    Yes indeed, there are jurisdictions that don’t allow false advertising, jalop1991, places that can handle Covid-19 for instance. Checked Germany’s stats? They probably think it sucks to be you.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I honestly can’t believe that Elon hasn’t been prosecuted for criminal fraud over this in the US by some ambitious prosecutor. He’s advertising “FULL SELF-DRIVING,” taking people’s money in exchange, and has no hope of ever delivering on that promise.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed on that point.

      Worse, apparently the FSD option is removed from the vehicle when it is sold used, thereby reducing its value. So not only does the first owner get ripped off, but so does the used car dealer and the second owner, depending on precisely when that option is deleted.

      Tesla really should be taken to task on this, and I think it’s a matter of time until there is a class action lawsuit. I suspect Mr Musk’s tweets about FSD are just moves to buy time.

  • avatar
    TakeshiHonda

    “ In news unrelated to a Ford model Car and Driver wrote 13 stories about in the last 24 hours…” shady, shady, shady! Haha

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