Tesla Confesses to California DMV Self-Driving Tech is Overhyped

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
tesla confesses to california dmv self driving tech is overhyped

Back in January, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he remained confident that his company would be able to deliver a self-driving vehicle exceeding the capabilities of an average human pilot by the end of 2021. But this has become a tired excuse used almost reflexively by automakers for years, making the inevitable shifting of the goalpost so predictable that nobody even bothers to get upset anymore. Being lied to is just part of everyday living and the automotive sector is just one droplet in the overflowing bathtub of mendacity.

Unfortunately, organizations continue making the mistake of expecting to be given the benefit of the doubt as they continue repeating the same fables. We know they’re working on solid-state batteries and autonomous cars, but they’re hitched to these unrealistic expectations and completely fabricated timelines that draw our focus while they engage in slimier practices on the sly. While holding them accountable is often easier said than done, catching them in a lie is usually fairly simple. For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accidentally called out Tesla on the full self-driving (FSD) beta it’s been testing with employees.

Introduced in the fall and touted by Elon Musk back in the summer of 2020 as a major breakthrough, FSD has been evolving for years. The latest version (Beta 8.2) just represents the most recent incarnation, which the California DMV learned has been massively overhyped. According to Reuters, the department stated that its March 9th conference call with Tesla indicated it was still at SAE Level 2 that constitutes partial automation but requires constant driver engagement — which isn’t all that novel and miles away from Level 5 (actual FSD).

“Elon’s tweet does not match engineering reality per CJ. Tesla is at Level 2 currently,” the DMV wrote in a memo about the meeting, which included real talk from Autopilot engineer CJ Moore.

From Reuters:

The memo was released by legal transparency group PlainSite, which obtained it under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“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,” the memo said, referring to level 5 full autonomous technology.

The manufacturer has been subjected to enhanced criticism whenever one of its vehicles are crashed. Regulators and the public desperately want to know if the car was in Autopilot as if that makes some kind of difference when it’s still operating at Level 2. The real scrutiny should be in response to how often Tesla makes false promises or misleads its own investors/customers before the same standards are applied to other automakers engaging in practically identical behaviors. Let’s face it, it wasn’t all that long ago when just about every manufacturer on the planet stated that self-driving cars would be made commercially available before 2020.

Where are they?

It’s getting to the point where we should really start blaming ourselves for being such complacent losers for standing for repeat nonsense. The proof that we’ve been collectively had is there and there are plenty of videos online capturing just how ineffective some of the most advanced “self-driving” systems actually are. For example, YouTuber AI Addict tested Tesla’s FSD Beta 8.2 in Oakland, California, and the video (below) is a 13-minute sizzle real of close calls and the car making bewildering decisions.

Officially, Tesla has been careful to state that drivers are expected to keep their hands on the steering wheel and should be prepared to assume control of their Tesla at any time. Frankly, we wish the company (all automakers, really) would be a little more vocal about those limitations and put an end to these not-so-subtle hints (falsehoods) about the technical prowess of their products.

[Image: Tesla Inc.]

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2 of 19 comments
  • NigelShiftright NigelShiftright on May 08, 2021

    There will be no such thing as true "FSD" until you can buy one and go places* in it without needing to have a driver's license or liability insurance. *"places" defined as from any street address in the USA to any other street address in the USA.

  • Islander800 Islander800 on May 09, 2021

    "Officially, Tesla has been careful to state that drivers are expected to keep their hands on the steering wheel and should be prepared to assume control of their Tesla at any time." Then WHAT'S THE POINT of claiming the vehicles are "self-driving" by naming the feature "Autopilot" if not to mislead consumers about the system's capabilities? And if they are intentionally misleading their customers, KNOWING that some people will actually BELIEVE their cars can drive themselves, then it can be argued Musk is an accessory to vehicular homicide - of his own customers! It's way past time the NHTSA issues an order for Musk to cease and desist from calling his feature "Autopilot" as it is leading to the death of Tesla occupants - and innocent bystanders. He literally has blood on his hands - and the government regulatory agencies have been negligent in allowing this to continue.

  • Dukeisduke In an ideal world, cars would be inspected in the way the MoT in the UK does it, or the TÜV in Germany. But realistically, a lot of people can't afford to keep their cars to such a high standard since they need them for work, and widespread public transit isn't a thing here.I would like the inspections to stick around (I've lived in Texas all my life, and annual inspections have always been a thing), but there's so much cheating going on (and more and more people don't bother to get their cars inspected or registration renewed), so without rigorous enforcement (which is basically a cop noticing your windshield sticker is out of date, or pulling you over for an equipment violation), there's no real point anymore.
  • Zipper69 Arriving in Florida from Europe and finding ZERO inspection procedures I envisioned roads crawling with wrecks held together with baling wire, duct tape and prayer.Such proved NOT to be the case, plenty of 20-30 year old cars and trucks around but clearly "unsafe at any speed" vehicles are few and far between.Could this be because the median age here is 95, so a lot of low mileage vehicles keep entering the market as the owners expire?
  • Zipper69 At the heart of GM’s resistance to improving the safety of its fuel systems was a cost benefit analysis done by Edward Ivey which concluded that it was not cost effective for GM to spend more than $2.20 per vehicle to prevent a fire death. When deposed about his cost benefit analysis, Mr. Ivey was asked whether he could identify a more hazardous location for the fuel tank on a GM pickup than outside the frame. Mr. Ivey responded, “Well yes…You could put in on the front bumper.”
  • 28-Cars-Later I'll offer this, offer a registration for limited use and exempt it from all inspection. The Commonwealth of GFY for the most part is Dante's Inferno for the auto enthusiast however they oddly will allow an antique registration with limited use and complete exemption from their administrative stupidity but it must be 25 years old (which ironically are the cars which probably should be inspected). Given the dystopia being built around us, it should be fairly simply to set a mileage limitation and enforce a mileage check then bin the rest of it if one agrees to the terms of the registration. For the most part odometer data started being stored in the ECU after OBDII, so it should be plug and play to do such a thing - this is literally what they are doing now for their emissions chicanery.
  • Probert For around $15 you can have a professional check important safety areas - seems like a bargain. It pointed to a rear brake problem on my motorcycle. It has probably saved a lot of lives. But, like going to a dentist, no-one could say it is something they look forward to. (Well maybe a few - it takes all kinds...)