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New Law Bans Elon Musk's Tesla From Advertising as 'Full Self-Driving'

The California law, SB No. 1398, forbids car dealers and manufacturers from using language that could lead the public to believe a car is fully autonomous.

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Tesla’s Autopilot feature is clearly not an autopilot, and SB No. 1398 wants to make that even clearer.
Tesla’s Autopilot feature is clearly not an autopilot, and SB No. 1398 wants to make that even clearer.
Image: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Apparently not everyone knows that Teslas aren’t actually full self-driving cars. A new California law going into effect in 2023 will prohibit Tesla (and other auto manufacturers) from marketing its driver assistance tech as completely autonomous if that’s not actually the case.

Senate Bill No. 1398 was sponsored by Democratic State Senator Lena Gonzalez and proposes a reform to the way both California car manufacturers and dealers advertise and sell driver assistance. The law states that car manufacturers and dealers must offer consumers a “clear description” of the function and limitations of semi-autonomous driver assistance features, per a fact sheet.

That’s a Tesla subtweet if I’ve ever seen one. The company has claimed that its cars could be connected to a system called Full Self-Driving for several years now, but Tesla hasn’t been able to prove that its cars can drive safely autonomously. SB No. 1398 was signed into law this past September by California Governor Gavin Newsom, and will officially take effect January 1, 2023. The law reads:

A manufacturer or dealer shall not name any partial driving automation feature, or describe any partial driving automation feature in marketing materials, using language that implies or would otherwise lead a reasonable person to believe, that the feature allows the vehicle to function as an autonomous vehicle, as defined in Section 38750, or otherwise has functionality not actually included in the feature. A violation of this subdivision shall be considered a misleading advertisement for the purposes of Section 11713


It’s not clear how this would effect a company like Tesla, that’s now headquartered in Austin, Texas as of December 2021 but still manufactures cars in their Fremont, California factory. Senator Gonzalez and Tesla did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment.

While Tesla is not the only company to offer cars with driving assistance, it is the company that has been making the most headlines over it. After several newsworthy crashes involving the feature, the company is being named in several legal cases and investigations surrounding its advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot. The first involves a fatal 2019 crash where the driver’s lawyers claim Tesla’s Autopilot feature is to blame for the crash. The second is an ongoing Department of Justice criminal probe into whether or not Tesla misled the public in its advertising for Autopilot.