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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tesla recently told California regulators that the "Full Self-Driving" beta software it's testing with select customers doesn't make them autonomous — nor will it any time soon.

Why it matters: The company is charging $10,000 extra for the not-really-self-driving, might-arrive-someday addition to its standard Autopilot adaptive cruise-control and lane-keeping feature.

  • Meanwhile, CEO Elon Musk is selling investors on the notion that its full self-driving tech will enable Teslas to become money-generating robotaxis.

Our thought bubble: Tesla has one message for customers and investors, and another one for legal authorities.

Catch up quick: Legal transparency website PlainSite this week released a year's worth of correspondence between Tesla lawyers and the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which regulates autonomous vehicles.

  • The agency had been pressing Tesla for details about the technology's evolving capability since late 2019 while reminding the company that it does not have a permit to deploy autonomous vehicles in California.

Details... In one November 2020 letter, Tesla emphasized that its FSD beta software had limited functionality.

  • The software is "not capable of recognizing or responding" to "static objects and road debris, emergency vehicles, construction zones, large uncontrolled intersections with multiple incoming ways, occlusions, adverse weather, complicated or adversarial vehicles in the driving path, and unmapped roads."
  • In a December follow-up, Tesla reiterated that its FSD capability, including a City Streets pilot feature, did not make the vehicles autonomous.
  • Even when fully released to all customers, the FSD system "will continue to be an SAE Level 2, advanced driver-assistance feature."

Reality check: Tesla's "full self-driving" system isn't designed to drive itself, and an attentive human driver must always be in control.

What they're saying: The DMV told Forbes it continues to gather information on the rollout of Tesla's software but would not comment on whether the agency thinks the company's "full self-driving" terminology is misleading for customers.

  • Consumer groups and safety advocates have repeatedly hit Tesla for overselling the capabilities of its Autopilot feature, including the "full self-driving" option.

The bottom line: Musk's already-missed goal to have a million Tesla robotaxis on the road by 2020 seems less likely than ever.

Go deeper

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Tx in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which bans effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.

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