Elon Musk rails against German court decision on Tesla Autopilot terminology

Tesla CEO Elon Musk disputed a German court ruling issued today that bans the company from using on its website or other advertising terms like Autopilot or “full potential for autonomous driving.”

In a tweet, Musk said “Tesla Autopilot was literally named after the term used in aviation. Also, what about Autobahn!?”

The Wettbewerbszentrale, an industry-sponsored organization that focuses on anti-competitive practices, brought the case to the German courts, arguing that the terms mislead the public as to the capabilities of Tesla’s advanced driver assistant system.

Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot, an advanced driver assistance system that offers a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane steering. The more robust and higher-functioning version of Autopilot is called full self-driving, or FSD, which includes the parking feature Summon as well as Navigate on Autopilot, an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and making lane changes. The system now recognizes and responds to traffic lights, as well.

Still, Tesla vehicles are not self-driving cars. The system requires a human driver to remain engaged at all times.

Wettbewerbszentrale also noted that Tesla’s announcements on its website imply that automated driving will work on city streets by the end of the year, which misrepresents the reality that some of the functions mentioned are still not legally permitted in Germany.

A Munich court agreed.

And while Musk might disagree, it’s unclear if he will direct Tesla to appeal the ruling. Tesla has not issued any official statements nor has the company responded to a request for comment. TechCrunch will update the article if Tesla responds.

This is not the first time that the terms Autopilot and FSD have sparked criticism and controversy. Over the years, organizations, players within the auto industry and the media have raised questions about the use of Autopilot and FSD for a system that provides Level 2 driver assistance.

This ruling is more than just a strongly worded remark. It carries weight and now raises the stakes for Tesla and how it brands or describes the ADAS on its vehicles in Germany. It could prompt other European countries, which tend to have stricter regulations about advertising, to follow suit.