PARIS — The German Transport Minister has sent a letter to Tesla Motors, requesting the U.S. automaker to stop advertising its electric vehicles’ Autopilot function, claiming that this feature misleads drivers into unsafe inattention to the road, Reuters reported.
A spokesperson for the German ministry (KBA) confirmed that the Federal Motor Transport Authority had sent the request to Tesla.
On Friday, the KBA also wrote to owners of Tesla cars, warning them that their vehicles could not be operated without their constant attention and that under traffic regulations they must remain alert, according to the Reuter’s report.
This message to Tesla from the Transport Minster has been interpreted by some industry observers as going beyond the parochial self-interest of the German regulator.
Germany, after all, takes great pride in serving as “the world’s automotive innovation hub,” as Germany’s Economic Development Agency put it.
The question is whether this is a result of concerted efforts and lobbying by German automakers “looking for a way to ‘clip Tesla’s wings,’ asked Ian Riches, director for the Automotive Electronics service at Strategy Analytics. He told EE Times: “Always [it’s] very hard to second-guess someone’s motive – especially a politician…”
Not the first time
Nonetheless, Riches stressed that this is not the first time this issue has come up.
In draft regulations released on Sept. 30, the state Department of Motor Vehicles in Calif. specifically posed the issue. The proposed regulation says that car companies should not use the terms “self-driving,” “automated” or “auto-pilot” in advertising unless their cars are capable of driving themselves without human passengers paying attention.
More specifically, in the last page of the draft regulation, it says:
§227.90. Statements About Autonomous Technology
(a) No vehicle shall be advertised as an autonomous vehicle unless it meets all of the following requirements:
(1) The vehicle meets the definition of an autonomous vehicle specified in Vehicle Code section 38750 and section 227.02(d) of this Article.
(2) The vehicle was manufactured by a manufacturer licensed pursuant to Vehicle Code section 11701 also holding a valid autonomous vehicle manufacturer’s permit issued pursuant to this Article at the time of the vehicle’s manufacture.
(b) Terms such as “self-driving”, “automated”, “auto-pilot”, or other statements made that are likely to induce a reasonably prudent person to believe a vehicle is autonomous, as defined, constitute an advertisement that the vehicle is autonomous for the purposes of this section and Vehicle Code section 11713.
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