Currently reading: German court bans Tesla's 'misleading' use of Autopilot
Tesla's marketing material found to falsely imply its cars are fully capable of self-driving

A German court has ruled that Tesla’s use of the term ‘Autopilot’ to describe its cars’ autonomous driving capabilities is “misleading for consumers”. 

Munich Regional Court made the ruling in response to a complaint from Germany’s Central Office for Combatting Unfair Competition. It found that Tesla models are still unable to complete a journey without human intervention, even equipped with the firm’s Autopilot software and the optional “Full Self-Driving Capability” package.

The court said that in using these terms in its marketing and sales material, Tesla suggests that its models “are technically able to drive completely autonomously”, but drivers are still required to be alert at all times and intervene in case of emergency. 

In July 2019, the Californian brand had promised “full potential for autonomous driving” for German customers by the end of the year. The functions, already deployed in some markets including the US, were to include traffic light recognition and automatic stopping and starting in urban areas. 

Tesla has now been banned from using this language in Germany, where vehicles are not yet permitted to drive autonomously on public roads, though it can appeal the decision. 

Matthew Avery, research director at vehicle testing body Thatcham, which is a part of the Euro NCAP safety body, said: “We have long warned of the pitfalls to the Autopilot system. Its seemingly competent performance can encourage drivers to hand too much control to the vehicle and lose sight of their responsibilities behind the wheel. This is a progressive process that begins when motorists are marketed the ‘self-driving’ experience.

“Autopilot is not a self-driving system. It is there to provide driver assistance, not become an invisible chauffeur. We support the German competition commission’s ruling. Naming is key, and Autopilot is an especially misleading term.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to criticise the ruling, arguing that the Autopilot system was “named after the term used in aviation”, and drawing links with the German word for motorway: autobahn. 

Israeli tech firm Mobileye, which helped develop Autopilot, cut ties with Tesla in 2016 following a fatal crash involving the system, and the Full Self-Driving Capability option was removed from the brand’s UK site in 2018 following assertions from safety body Euro NCAP that it was misleading. 


Inside the industry: Tesla's success starts on the playground 

Saloon showdown: Tesla Model 3 vs BMW 3 Series 

Tesla removes ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’ from options list

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Paddy Asphalt 16 July 2020

Jilted Lover

Basing your whole identity,

As a reaction against somebody,

is the same as being in Love.


Harvey Danger

nimmler 15 July 2020

tesla shill defence force to the rescue in comments section

about time. elon musk is a con man and great work by the logical Germans for calling out his misleading non existent self driving vapourware.Musk as a big history of being a snake oil salesman making promises that he is fully aware that will never come to fruition:

Remember when the model 3 was 'promised to be sold from £30k but turned out the ‘cheapest’ m3 is £43k before gov grant..? bait and switch tactics

Remember when enron muck promised a 100% autonomous coast to coat US drive by of 2018 that has still not taken place? Lies to get wall street to pump the stock price

Remember when musk promised full 100% hands free autonomy by the end of 2017? 2020 and it is still not there? Lies so dump tesla sheep with purchase the £5300 software that does almost nothing

Remember when musk called the Thailand cave rescue hero a paedo because he called musk out for trying to score media PR points from the tragedy?

Remember that Tesla cars have the WORST reliability of any new car because musk demands tesla pump out a cars as fast as possible without proper qc because his massive personal compensation package is tied to arbitrary performance goals?

teslas are not bad cars but the sociopath who runs the company constantly over hyping, over promising and knowingly advertising outright lies(full self driving...) to pump the stock price thus his personal wealth turns away many potential customers from the brand

xxxx 16 July 2020


nimmler wrote:


Remember when the model 3 was 'promised to be sold from £30k but turned out the ‘cheapest’ m3 is £43k before gov grant..? bait and switch tactics

No, because he never promised the Model 3 would be £30k.

You wrong on several other points too but the haters are gonna hate as Taylor would say. 

V-ger 15 July 2020

It is misleading, because it

It is misleading, because it is no more advanced than other manufacturers driver assist programmes. Also Europe legally doesn't allow full autonomy.