By on May 7, 2021

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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19 Comments on “Tesla Confesses to California DMV Self-Driving Tech is Overhyped...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good writeup.

    “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.”

    I still predict a class-action lawsuit or FTC action related to the fraudulent sale of the Full Self-Driving option. Tesla is selling a future product that does not work. Buyers are paying for – but not receiving – Level 5 capability. Then, used car dealers learn that the FSD option has been removed by Tesla and therefore the car does not have that option in a second-hand vehicle. So upon trade, the original buyer can kiss their $10k option goodbye.

    I once paid a dealer $235 for a real spare tire (donut) to be included with my car when I bought it. They had to order it, and I picked it up in a week. Just imagine if they never delivered it, or if it came with just a metal rim and no tire. We would have had some words. Tesla’s FSD is pretty much the same thing – except that their buyers never get the goods.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      You really think that’s not all spelled out in the fine print?

      Even the large print says, “The activation and use of these features are dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval”

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I defend Tesla on its Level 2 Autopilot because it complies with Level 2 requirements (which are basically nothing), and it’s free.

        I’m no lawyer, but when there is an exchange of money for a product that can’t work (like FSD), it seems that a refund is in order, and/or a cease-and-desist.

        FSD is snake oil. Even tire nitrogen has more value, because you actually received it.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          FSD includes auto park, auto lane change, navigate on autopilot which have already been delivered and work quite well. That certainly has value to many people. Those things are not included with Autopilot which now comes standard.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      When you buy FSD, you get two things. One is a cheaper price for FSD than you would have to pay if you waited until its formal release. Think of it as the net present value of an investment that will pay off sometime in the future. The other is a number of software features (e.g. navigation linked to auto pilot, automatic lane changing to pass slower traffic, self parking) that are already available. It’s a valid criticism that FSD doesn’t transfer with the vehicle when its sold. (I wonder if FSD, once paid for, transfers to a new Tesla.) In their YouTube videos, quite a few Tesla fanbois recommend against buying FSD.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    In other news, water is wet, film at 11.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I would love a retrospective article with a nice time line of all the inflated self driving promises from the various automakers.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Musk also said their body panel fits would be so good that people will use them to calibrate measuring devices…..some day….

  • avatar
    redapple

    I used to work at a GMAD Plant. I was responsible for hood fit and fascias as well as badges and other items. I got REAL good ‘seeing’ panel fit. We all had gages to measure gaps and height.

    At random, I can walk up to any TESLA and see 3 things that would have been a problem at GM.(in 80% of the Teslas i look at).

    I greatly dislike Teslas for the simple reason, a car so expensive should have better fits than a Chevy Cruse.

    • 0 avatar

      How panel gaps affect anything? I love Tesla because it is the car of future. With zero emission! Where I live everyone loves Tesla. Three of my closest neighbors own white Model 3.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Yes, a gilded cage.

      • 0 avatar
        conundrum

        Because the slap-happy assembly quality is indicative of the quality of the rest of the product, specially the parts you cannot see. That’s why it matters. No pride in producing quality, just shovel them out of the door in time-honored Yankee fashion, ready or not, the more the merrier. Ship ’em, Jake!

        I see in Germany that VW electrics outsell Tesla 39 to 7 percent in the EV segment. Whether or not the VWs have vacuum-formed chintzy interiors or not, I bet the body parts line up outside and in.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          I can’t dispute your numbers, but I think they will change when the Tesla Berlin plant comes online.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @condrum: “I bet the body parts line up outside and in.

          You just lost that bet:
          https://insideevs.com/news/443245/german-magazine-bashes-vw-id3/

          “Because the slap-happy assembly quality is indicative of the quality of the rest of the product, specially the parts you cannot see”

          Actually, there have been teardowns of Teslas and the engineering as other parts of the 3 and Y are pretty good. Although, I’m not a fan of the first gen S and X.

          Paint and overall quality are supposed to have improved recently with the fixing of a few issues, but I haven’t verified it myself. I’m waiting for Texas and Berlin to come online. Then there will be less pressure to push the line at Fremont beyond the breaking point. Then I’ll believe it if I hear the quality is good.

          Even now, Tesla is much better than the midengine yugo GM builds (although I’d still take one). GM can’t even put wheels that hold air on them.
          https://gmauthority.com/blog/2021/03/gm-issues-service-update-for-c8-corvette-due-to-porous-wheels/

          Like I said, as crappy as C8 quality is, I’d still get a Zora for my collection and I’d get a Tesla too.

        • 0 avatar

          “VW electrics outsell Tesla 39 to 7 percent in the EV segment…I bet the body parts line up outside and in.”

          Yeah, VW – paragon of quality. Thank you but no, I will take Tesla instead.

  • avatar
    redapple

    conundrum>>>
    Exactly. Its indicative of the quality mindset and speaks of the quality in items you cant see and the level of engineering expertise/skill.

    You said it better than i could. I thought that was imbedded / obvious in my comments.

  • avatar
    stuki

    “Unfortunately, organizations continue making the mistake of expecting to be given the benefit of the doubt as they continue repeating the same fables.”

    Why should they not, when the only thing which keep what passes for “organizations” alive anymore; is bailouts, special favors, bans and fines levied on less idiotic competitors, and de facto mandates that productive people fund idiots’ buying of said purely extractive “organizations\'” overhyped, underperforming junk?

    Just leave them alone, as in completely. And, tah-dah; to an “organization”, they wouldn’t even be around past tomorrow. Leaving the world a better place in their absense. Emphasis _their_. It ain’t just Tesla. But instead pretty much every “organization”, nominally public as well as private; in anything even remotely resembling their current form.

    In short: Decades upon decades of an environment which is nothing other than a totalitarian kleptocracy, cannot somehow _not_ result in the only remaining “organizations” being ones who are optimized solely for thriwing in exactly such an environment. Reward lies, hype and childish PC posturing for the benefit of connected idiots and nothig but, and that’s what you get. Duh!

  • avatar
    NigelShiftright

    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.

  • avatar
    islander800

    “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.

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