Autonomous Vehicle Regulation, Does Tesla's Full Self-Driving Beta Release Comply with Law?
14 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2021
Date Written: September 27, 2021
This essay argues that Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta Release qualifies for classification as a Level 3 or 4 capable technology in the Society of Automotive Engineer’s (SAE) classification scheme for levels of vehicle autonomy. Classification as an SAE Level 3 or 4 technology conflicts with Tesla’s own self-characterization of this technology as merely Level 2. Under California laws and regulations governing testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles, classification as an SAE Level 3, 4 or 5 technology would subject Tesla vehicles to stricter regulatory oversight. Tesla’s self-classification avoids this supervision. Significantly, if classified as Level 3 or 4, Tesla’s practice of using a select group of its customers as “beta testers” on public highways for its FSD feature would not comply with law. Given the reality of the FSD Beta Release’s capabilities, state departments of transportation around the United States ought to classify it as an SAE Level 3 or 4 technology, with applicable regulatory and operational guidance applied accordingly. Tesla and the California DMV should work together to qualify the Tesla beta testers in accordance with California law and regulations.
Keywords: automotive safety, autonomous vehicles, California DMV, California regulation, J3016, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, SAE, SAE J3016, self-driving cars, Tesla
JEL Classification: K23, L50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation