Tesla is developing driverless cars on California’s public roadways using its own customers as test drivers and shrugging off test-reporting requirements — and, so far, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has been largely content to look the other way.
But as drivers participating in the “beta test” post videos of their cars making potentially disastrous mistakes, state legislators are growing concerned about the danger that the DMV’s stance poses to other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders.
On Tuesday, the chair of the California Senate’s Transportation Committee, Lena Gonzalez, a Democrat, sent a letter to DMV Director Steve Gordon to find out what’s up between the agency and Tesla. The DMV has served as the state’s chief autonomous-driving regulator since the Legislature gave it that power in 2012.
In the letter, Gonzalez cited the apparent poor performance of what Tesla calls Full Self-Driving beta, a $10,000 option that gives owners advanced automated driving features and allows them to test cutting-edge autonomous technologies on public roads. (Beta is a software term that describes a product not quite ready for general sale to the public.)