Advertising with autopilot is misleading for consumers

The 33rd civil chamber of the Regional Court of Munich, which specializes in trademark and competition law, upheld a complaint by the Central Office for Combating Unfair Competition on July 14th, 2020, which is used against certain advertising statements by the defendant Tesla Germany GmbH (Az. 33 O 14041/19). The core of the dispute was the description of the driver assistance system with which the defendant equips their vehicles as standard, as “autopilot” and the application of individual components that can be booked separately under the heading “Full potential for autonomous driving“.
The objectionable text on the Tesla Germany GmbH website, which was integrated into the ordering process for the “Model 3” vehicle, was in July 2019:

Autopilot | Included

  • Allows automatic steering, acceleration and braking taking into account vehicles and pedestrians on their lane.

Full potential for autonomous driving

  • Navigating with autopilot functionality: automatic driving on motorways from entry to exit, including motorway junctions and overtaking slower vehicles.
  • Automatic parking: parallel and right-angled parking.
  • “Call in”: Your parked car will find you in parking lots and come to you. Strange but true!

Until the end of the year:

  • Traffic light / stop signs detection with automatic stop / start
  • Automatic driving in urban areas.

You can also purchase the function package for autonomous driving after delivery. However, the price is likely to increase over time due to the continuous expansion with new features.

The functions currently activated require active monitoring by the driver – autonomous operation of the vehicle is therefore not possible. The activation and use of autonomy functions, on the other hand, require proof of billions of kilometers traveled that their reliability far exceeds that of human drivers. In addition, legal approvals are required for autonomous operation, which may take longer depending on the case law. In the course of the further development of these self-driving skills, your vehicle will be continuously updated and upgraded via mobile radio. 

In the board’s opinion, both the advertising message as a whole and the components separately attacked by the plaintiff are misleading commercial acts in accordance with Section 5 (1) sentence 2 no. 1 UWG. Because the use of the relevant terms and formulations arouses a notion that is inconsistent with the actual circumstances among the relevant public – in this case, the average consumer. In fact, both the Tesla autopilot and the bookable “Full potential for autonomous driving” package are components of a driver assistance system in which a journey is not possible without human intervention. However, by using the term “autopilot” and other wording, the defendant suggests that their vehicles are technically capable of driving completely autonomously. Furthermore, the impression is given that autonomous vehicle operation is permitted in road traffic law in the Federal Republic of Germany, but this is not the case according to the applicable provisions of the StVG (§§ 1a f StVG). The information provided by the defendant at the end of the website does not remedy the misleading lack of clarity and transparency.
The judgment is not final.