Tesla is reportedly under criminal investigation by the United States Department of Justice over its self-driving claims. Over the past few months, pressure from regulators, politicians, and the media has grown over Tesla’s self-driving efforts.
Tesla Autopilot has been under NHTSA investigation for a year now, and Tesla’s full self-driving (FSD) beta has been under attack by a well-funded smear campaign that reached out to politicians. Both of these challenges have been successfully addressed by Tesla in the past.
But now the automaker is facing something new for the company: a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice into its self-driving claims.
According to the report, the Justice Department is looking into “whether Tesla misled consumers, investors, and regulators by making unsubstantiated claims about the capabilities of its driver assistance technology.”
Tesla has always said that its current driver assistance features require constant monitoring under Autopilot or the full self-driving beta package and that drivers must be ready to take control at all times.
However, the company and CEO Elon Musk have been criticized specifically for marketing the features in a way that could be misleading to the public.
Taking of Electrek
Let’s preface this by adding the classic disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, but it sounds serious. In terms of accident liability, Tesla has always been careful to add multiple warnings by activating any driver-assist features. I think consumers have a case against Tesla for not delivering on the company’s promise of fully self-driving. However, it is going to be settled through a civil case. A class action lawsuit was already filed last month. I don’t know how criminal charges might apply, but again, I’m not a lawyer.
Sources close to the matter told Reuters that the lawsuit being brought against Tesla could be complicated by the EV maker itself. Elon Musk has contradicted his own company many times when talking about Autopilot self-driving capabilities. Musk would say or claim one thing, but Tesla would come to say another. Just a week ago, Musk claimed that a new update would bring “full self-driving” and that it would allow Tesla drivers to “get to your work, your friend’s house, the grocery store without touching your wheel.” Still, the agency cautioned that drivers must maintain some sign of vehicle control with their hands on the wheel while the system is engaged.
According to Reuters, the potential investigation would be broad and far-reaching in its implications, as the investigation would likely be conducted by charging executives or the company itself. Which you can explain is that both Musk and Tesla are at risk.