California DMV to ‘Revisit’ Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta Regulation

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on January 5 informed Tesla that it is “revisiting” its approach to regulating the electric vehicle (EV) maker’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta — reports The Los Angeles Times.

Full Self-Driving is Tesla’s suite of advanced driver assistance features, available as a $10,000 USD add-on or a $199 USD/month subscription and currently in a public beta. FSD pricing in the U.S. will be bumped up to $12,000 come January 17.

Autonomous car developers that operate in California, including Waymo, Cruise, Argo, and Zoox, are required to report crashes and system failures to the DMV.

However, the DMV has not required Tesla to report crashes and disengagements up until now, since the agency considers FSD to be a “Level 2” driver-assist system, much like systems from other carmakers that include technologies like lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, and automatic lane changing.

California State Senator Lena Gonzalez, chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, in December sent a letter to the DMV asking for the agency’s assessment of Tesla’s ongoing Full Self-Driving beta trial and whether experimental autonomous driving software in the hands of any Tesla owner willing to pay for it posed a public danger.

“Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space” have prompted the DMV to “revisit” its rules for Tesla, the agency said in a Monday letter to Senator Gonzalez.

In its response, the DMV cited an FSD beta demonstration conducted over a year ago in November 2020, noting that “the vehicle could not safely complete the entire task of driving on its own,” and was unable “to recognize or respond to ‘static objects, road debris, emergency vehicles, construction zones, large uncontrolled intersections, adverse weather, complicated vehicles in the driving path, and unmapped roads.'”

If the DMV decides that FSD should be subject to the same testing safety regulations as autonomous driving technologies being tested by companies like Waymo, Tesla will have to start publicly reporting crashes and system failures to the DMV. Tesla would also have to implement and tighten test-driver requirements for the FSD beta, like its Safety Score system.

What the DMV’s “revisit” will look like remains to be seen, and the agency did not specify how long it will take to reach a conclusion.

The California DMV put Tesla’s Full Self-Driving under “review” last May for a possible violation of agency regulations that prohibit companies from marketing a driving system as autonomous when it is not. Eight months later, the review is still “ongoing,” according to the DMV.