The complaint alleges that the company has made “false or misleading” statements in advertisements on its website by claiming that Tesla vehicles were or could be equipped with advanced driver assistance functions.
The Tesla (TSLA) ads ran in marketing materials on the company’s website “on at least five dates” between May 2021 and July 2022, the complaint said.
They included descriptions such as “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving Capability” and used words like “All you have to do is get in and tell your car where to go… Your Tesla will plot the optimal route, navigate urban streets, complex intersections and highways,” the suit said.
Another claim that the California DMV said was misleading said, “The system is designed to cover short and long distances without the need for the person in the driver’s seat to do anything.”
“These advertisements are a deceptive practice” under the California Civil Code, the DMV complaint said.
Tesla typically does not respond to requests for comment.
Tesla has been publishing disclaimers since June warning that the features still require active driver supervision, which contradicts the “misleading labels and claims,” the complaint added.
Tesla’s advertising campaigns could cause it to temporarily lose its manufacturer license and special license plates in California, the complaint warned.
Data released found by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June that there were 273 crashes in the past nine months involving Tesla driver assistance technologies, caused by: either its “fully self-driving” software or its predecessor, Tesla Autopilot.
Of the 497 total crashes studied by the NHTSA, 43% of crashes caused by driver assistance technologies occurred in California, the data found.
Tesla’s Autopilot feature comes standard on all of its vehicles, making it one of the most widely used autopilot systems in the industry. As Tesla reminds drivers to stay alert while in use, a 2021 MIT study revealed that users using the system were more distracted and looked away from the road more often than when they were drive without the function.
Tesla has 15 days to respond to the complaint to avoid a default decision.
The department said this complaint is separate from a ongoing review of the intended design and technological capabilities of Tesla vehicles.
The Los Angeles Times was the first news channel to report the complaint.