California Has a Bill to Go After Tesla’s Self-Driving Claims

Lawmakers have passed legislation banning advertising cars as 'self-driving' if that isn't the case.

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A photo of a Tesla Model X SUV with The Morning Shift graphic underneath.
Image: Tesla

Lawmakers in California are targeting Tesla’s self-driving claims with a new false advertising bill, VW’s next boss says the firm must speed up its switch to electric vehicles, and GM recalls its autonomous Cruise cars. All this and more in The Morning Shift for September 1, 2022.

1st Gear: False Advertising Law Targets Tesla

Despite claiming that its cars could be fitted with a system called Full Self-Driving for more than five years, Tesla has yet to prove that its cars can safely drive autonomously. Instead, as we’ve pointed out before, the $10,000 option is more of a neat driver assist feature, that still requires your utmost attention on the road ahead.

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Well now, lawmakers have cottoned onto the tall tales being peddled by Tesla and a new bill has been introduced in California to clamp down on the firm and its software. According to the LA Times:

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has rules on its books that ban the advertisement of cars as ‘self-driving’ when they are not. But it has never enforced those rules.

So, impatient with the DMV, the state Legislature is stepping in, going over the DMV’s head and making its false advertising regulation a state law.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), was passed by the Senate on Tuesday night and now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature.

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This isn’t the first time lawmakers in California have targeted Tesla and its FSD system. The DMV in the state is currently ‘reviewing’ the company’s claims about the software’s capabilities.

While the agency said that it did have the power to stop the EV maker from selling cars in the state if it was found to be in breach of advertising standards, the LA Times reports that any penalties “would be far softer than that.”

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2nd Gear: VW Must Speed up EV Transition

It’s all change at VW as of late. CEO Herbert Diess has stepped down to be replaced by Porsche boss Oliver Blume. Now, in his first appearance as VW’s chiefs executive, Blume has called on the automaker to ramp up its switch to electric vehicles.

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As reported by Reuters, Blume was speaking at an internal conference earlier today. There, he outlined a “10-point plan” to reinvigorate the German carmaker. This included steps to secure “financial robustness”, increase sustainability and develop the company in China and North America. But chief among his concerns was VW’s switch to EVs. Reuters reports:

“I am a fan of e-mobility and I stand by this path ... we will keep the current pace and, where possible, increase it,” Blume said.

Volkswagen aims to overtake Tesla as the world’s largest electric vehicle maker by 2025 and for half its global vehicle sales to be battery-electric by 2030.

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Blume also touched on synthetic fuels and their place in the VW group. Porsche recently invested heavily in the technology, but the new boss said that this would remain “primarily a topic for Porsche.”

3rd Gear: Canoo Exec Quits After Manufacturing Outsourced

Everyone’s favorite troubled EV maker is back in the news this week. Canoo is charging ahead with its plans to begin constructing its cutesy EVs for companies such as Walmart, but will do so via a third party. As such, the company has this week bid farewell to John Mocny, the startups manufacturing boss.

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Canoo opted to outsource the manufacturing of its electric delivery vans, which will be built by a third-party and delivered to companies such as Walmart eventually. But the move away from in-house manufacturing sees Mocny step down from his post. Bloomberg reports:

John Mocny, a longtime employee of General Motors Inc. who joined the startup in early 2022 from Harley-Davidson Inc., is leaving the startup, according to people familiar with the matter.

The exit after less than a year on the job is the latest sign of executive tumult at the fledgling EV company, which has struggled to bring a production vehicle to market since going public in a December 2020 merger with a blank-check company. Its shares have tumbled about 59% this year.

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Despite claiming that rumors of its demise were “greatly exaggerated,” the automaker does seem to get through execs at an impressive rate.

In recent months, the company has also lost its former chief human resources officer and multiple employees in the talent acquisition department. The company also lost its senior vice president of manufacturing, Rich Schmidt, in May after he joined the company late last year following a stint with Tesla.

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4th Gear: GM Recalls Self-Driving Cruise Cars

The plight of the self-driving car continues this week, as GM has been forced to recall its Cruise autonomous vehicles after one crashed in San Francisco.

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Automotive News reports that GM has recalled 80 self-driving Cruise vehicles to update their software this week. The recall was sparked by a crash in San Francisco that left two people injured. The crash occurred when an autonomous Cruise car slammed on the brakes while performing a turn. The site reports:

Federal regulators said the recalled software could “incorrectly predict” an oncoming vehicle’s path. Cruise said it had determined this unusual scenario would not recur after the software update.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the recalled software could “in certain circumstances when making an unprotected left, cause the (autonomous driving system) to incorrectly predict another vehicle’s path or be insufficiently reactive to the sudden path change of a road user.”

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Immediately following the collision in San Francisco, Cruise prevented its autonomous cars from making unprotected left turns. Following the software update, cars were gradually allowed to begin making the maneuver again.

In a statement, Cruise said that the recall did not “impact or change our current on-road operations.”

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5th Gear: VW Mexico Workers Reject New Contract

Union workers at a VW plant in Mexico have rejected a deal for a second time, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough to support workers as inflation runs rampant.

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Reuters reports that VW workers at the company’s plant in Puebla, in central Mexico, rejected a 9 percent pay rise after asking for raises of 15 percent on salaries that range from $15 to $48 per day. According to Reuters:

“The union and company representatives can now sit down again to continue negotiating and try to reach an agreement,” Mexico’s Federal Labor Center said in a statement early Thursday, after the deal was rejected with 3,450 workers voting against the deal compared to 3,225 in favor on Wednesday.

It said the Independent Union of Automotive Workers, one of Mexico’s strongest independent unions, could now request a delay for a strike planned this Sept. 9 to allow time for the talks, or it could alternatively go ahead with strike action.

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This is the second time workers at the Mexican plant have turned down the deal. After a vote last month drew low turnout, the union was ordered to redo the ballot to ensure a higher turnout.

In the end, 97 percent of the union came out to vote on the deal this week.

Reverse: My Heart Will Go On

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Neutral: Are You Not Entertained?

I’ve got a pretty long drive coming up this weekend and could do with some more podcasts to listen to when I hit the highway. I’ve exhausted the likes of “Adam Buxton,” “Off Menu,” and “99% Invisible,” so could do with some more fun or informative listening. What have you got?