American electric car maker Tesla has been banned from using the term 'Autopilot' when advertising its semi-autonomous driving technology in Germany, after a Munich court ruled the claims were "misleading consumers".
On July 14, the Munich Regional Court ruled in favour of a German competition group which argued Tesla's German website was suggesting its cars "could and should drive autonomously by the end of 2019".
However, European law does not yet allow for full autonomous driving and Tesla's advanced safety system – which in ideal conditions can steer, accelerate, brake, change lanes, independently manoeuvre the car short distances – still requires driver supervision.
“Using the term 'Autopilot' and other phrases suggest the cars were technically able to drive completely autonomously,” the court said in statement. “Additionally, it is claimed that would be legal in Germany, which isn’t the case.”
The decision bans Tesla from repeating the claims in future. The car maker can still appeal the decision.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk briefly addressed the ruling on Twitter, in response to a follower who compared Tesla's Autopilot system with those used in the aviation industry.
"Ever noticed how planes have Autopilot, but they still have two human pilots?" the follower tweeted.
In response, Musk wrote: "Tesla Autopilot was literally named after the term used in aviation. Also, what about Autobahn!?"
The Autobahn is a system of highways in Germany that famously has no enforced speed limit in several sections. The name roughly translates to "motorway" or "highway".
Tesla Autopilot was literally named after the term used in aviation. Also, what about Autobahn!?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 14, 2020
A day later, the Tesla CEO also responded to a follower who tweeted about reports the court case involved "a German Automaker... who does not want to be named", with Musk simply replying with a ponderous-face emoji.
?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 14, 2020
Musk has previously used the Autobahn argument when issues with Autopilot advertising in Germany first emerged in 2016, responding to a Reuters article on the topic by tweeting: "Umm...Autobahn?"
At the time, it was reported German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has written a letter to Tesla requesting the "misleading term Autopilot" no longer be used to describe the driver assistance system".
Umm...Autobahn?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 16, 2016
Tesla's Australian website says while "all new Tesla cars have the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving," the "current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous".
CarAdvice has contacted Tesla Australia to find out if the German ruling will have repercussions in other countries.
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