In its owner’s manual and other documents, Tesla has long said drivers must keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, ready to take control of the car at any time. With the current system, cars will disengage Autopilot if drivers do not consistently keep a hand on the wheel.
Nonetheless, Mr. Musk has often described the technology as if it could fully drive cars or was on its way to operating autonomously. The name of the technology also implies that it can operate without oversight.
In 2016, he said Tesla vehicles were leaving the factory with all the hardware they would need to achieve autonomy — a statement that surprised and concerned some Tesla employees who were working on the project. Since then, he has repeatedly said autonomy was just one or two years away.
In two complaints in July, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Tesla of misleading customers by claiming in advertisements that vehicles equipped with its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technologies were autonomous.
If the two complaints, which were filed with the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings, succeed, Tesla’s licenses to make and sell vehicles in California — by far the country’s biggest market for electric vehicles — could be suspended or revoked.