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Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving claims are judged ‘misleading’ by German court

Tesla lost a case in a German court today over how the company advertises its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, which the court judged “misleading.”

Last year, we reported on Wettbewerbszentrale, which describes itself as “the largest and most influential nationwide and cross-border self-regulatory institution for enforcing the right to unfair competition,” filing an injunction against Tesla in Munich:

The Wettbewerbszentrale has criticized various advertising claims such as “autopilot included,” “full potential for autonomous driving,” or “by the end of the year: … automatic driving in town” with the automaker Tesla vehicle assistance functions of a particular vehicle type, as misleading and in the LG Munich I Action for injunctions filed (Case 33 O 14041/19).

The group claimed that Tesla has been misleading consumers by calling its level 2 assisted driving system “Autopilot” and claiming that “automatic driving on city streets” is coming later this year.

In a press release today, the Wettbewerbszentrale claims to have won in a court judgment (translated from German):

The regional court of Munich I (Az. 33 O 14041/19) today has various Tesla advertising statements for vehicle assistance functions such as ‘Autopilot included,’ ‘Full potential for autonomous driving,’ or ‘Until the end of the year: … automatic driving in urban areas’ as misleadingly prohibited.

Since the claim that “automatic driving on city streets is coming later this year” has been on Tesla’s website since 2019 and has yet to be released in Germany, it was actually hard for Tesla to defend the claim.

Dr. Andreas Ottofülling, an attorney for the Wettbewerbszentrale, commented after the trial:

Since autopiloted and autonomous driving at level 5 is currently neither legally permissible nor technically possible for the vehicle in question, Tesla must also adhere to the rules of the game and must not make false advertising promises.

He called the judgment today a “victory,” but the impact on Tesla is currently unclear.

It’s not the first time that Tesla has faced criticism of its language around Autopilot and Full Self-Driving.

In the US, Consumer Reports once called for Tesla to disable Autopilot and change the feature’s name.

Electrek’s Take

This seems perfectly fair to me.

Tesla did clearly have a false statement on its website since it didn’t deliver “automatic driving on city streets” by the end of the year.

I definitely think that Tesla could use some clarity and clean up its consumer-facing language when it comes to its “Full Self-Driving” package.

As for Autopilot, I personally never understood the problem with the name.

People are most familiar with the term in aviation, and even in the sector it doesn’t mean that a plane is autonomous and doesn’t need supervision, like Tesla’s Autopilot.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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