Tesla is the subject of a criminal investigation launched by the US Department of Justice in response to claims made by the company about its “Autopilot” capabilities, Reuters reported.
According to sources, the investigation was launched last year in response to more than a dozen accidents involving the active use of Tesla’s Autopilot system, some of which resulted in fatal crashes.
Tesla, particularly CEO Elon Musk, has made bold claims about Autopilot’s capabilities. For example, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO and potential new owner of Twitter stated on a webcast discussing the company’s third-quarter financials last week that “you will almost never have to touch the vehicle controls” while driving a Tesla and that he believes the data Tesla is gathering will prove its FSD system is safer than humans driving themselves.
Musk stated that the beta version of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software should be available to all customers who signed up for it by the end of the year, but it is not yet ready.
According to the most recent data, the company’s so-called “Full Self-Driving” or FSD beta launched in October 2020 and now has over 100,000 members from the larger global Tesla owner population.
Users of “Autopilot,” “Enhanced Autopilot,” and “Full Self-Driving Capability” are still advised to remain “alert,” with their “hands on the steering wheel at all times,” and to “maintain control of their car.”
However, in a January earnings call, Musk suggested that FSD could be safer than humans by the end of the year. It reiterated a claim he made on Twitter a year before, stating that FSD would “work at a safety level far above that of the average driver this year.”
It should be noted that just because the DOJ is investigating does not guarantee that criminal charges will be filed; they could choose to pursue civil action, do nothing, or file charges.