Consumer Advocacy Groups Call on DMV to Investigate Tesla’s Autopilot Feature Following Laguna Beach Crash

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A Tesla on autopilot crashed into a Laguna Beach Police Patrol vehicle on May 29, 2018. (Credit: Laguna Beach Police Department)

A Tesla on autopilot crashed into a Laguna Beach Police Patrol vehicle on May 29, 2018. (Credit: Laguna Beach Police Department)

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Watchdog groups on Wednesday urged the California Department of Motor Vehicles to investigate the marketing of Tesla's autopilot feature, a day after a crash involving a Tesla on the autopilot mode crashed into a Laguna Beach police SUV.

The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog accuse Tesla Motors, Inc. of having "dangerously misleading" and "deceptive" marketing practices, officials said in a news release.

"Either the software and hardware needs to be improved, or the name needs to change,"Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, said during a news conference in Los Angeles Wednesday.

Officials cited the DMV's newly enacted Autonomous Vehicle Regulations, which says that companies cannot lead customers to believe a vehicle is autonomous when it does not meet the definition of an autonomous vehicle. According to the two groups, Tesla's feature does not meet that definition.

"How many people have to die before we relabel a function that doesn't do what it says it's supposed to do?" Court asked the public.

The groups' push for reform comes after Tuesday's crash in Laguna Beach, where a Tesla in autopilot mode crashed into and totaled a police patrol SUV.

The officer was not in the vehicle at the time, but the Tesla driver, a 65-year-old man, sustained minor injuries.

About a year earlier, another Tesla on autopilot crashed into a semi-truck in the same location.

In addition, a Tesla driver was killed in a crash on Highway 101 in Mountain View earlier this year. That crash also occurred while autopilot was engaged, but the company said the driver was to blame in that incident.

In a statement after Tuesday's crash, Tesla emphasized that drivers are expected to remain engaged when using autopilot mode.

“Tesla has always been clear that autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, and before a driver can use Autopilot, they must accept a dialogue box which states that ‘Autopilot is designed for use on highways that have a center divider and clear markings,'” the statement read.

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