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Tesla cars won't be approved as fully autonomous this year, says Musk


(Reuters) - Tesla Inc's advanced driver assistance program (TSLA.O) will not receive regulatory approval in 2022, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said, a sign that the company is not yet able to satisfy authorities that its cars can be driven without a person. behind the wheel.

The Silicon Valley automaker is selling an additional $15,000 program called "Full Self-Driving" (FSD) that enables its cars to change lanes and park independently. This complements the standard "autopilot" feature, which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention.

Tesla cars won't be approved as fully autonomous this year, says Musk

However, Tesla says cars still need to be driven with human supervision. A self-driving car requires regulatory approval in California, for example.

On a call Wednesday to discuss quarterly results, Musk said he expects an upgraded FSD to be released toward the end of the year, adding that while its cars aren't ready for no one behind the wheel, drivers rarely have to touch the car. Regulations.

"The car will be able to take you from your home to your work, your friend's house and the grocery store without ever touching the steering wheel," he said.

"It's a separate issue in terms of getting regulatory approval. You are not going to get regulatory approval at that time," he added.

Tesla cars won't be approved as fully autonomous this year, says Musk

Musk also said that Tesla hopes to introduce an update to the FSD in 2023 to show regulators that the technology is safer than the average human driver.

Regulatory audit

“Musk opens the door to the possibility that Tesla may have a more difficult path to FSD approval given the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and further scrutiny,” said Craig Irwin, an analyst at Roth Capital.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said Thursday that it is "constantly reviewing the intended design and technological capabilities of Tesla vehicles," without elaborating.

The regulator previously said it was assessing whether Tesla's self-driving tests required regulatory approval, following "videos showing dangerous use of that technology" and federal investigations into Tesla car accidents.

She said the beta version of Tesla's "fully self-driving" requires human intervention, and is therefore not subject to its regulations for self-driving vehicles.

Critics say Tesla was able to avoid government regulatory oversight by telling the DMV that its FSD features do not make the cars autonomous.

“Tensions between NHTSA and Tesla will intensify towards the end of the year and Tesla will move forward,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures, which owns Tesla stock.

However, some analysts say Tesla's primary problem is not the regulators, but the software themselves, given the complexity of autonomous driving.

"The obstacle is the technology. It's not about approving that technology," said Bryant Walker-Smith, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina.

Tesla has repeatedly missed self-set goals for its cars to achieve full self-driving capability -- a job Musk said would eventually become "Tesla's most important source of profitability."