Tesla would face a criminal investigation launched by the US Department of Justice into claims made by the company regarding its “Autopilot” capabilities, Reuters reports, citing “three people familiar with the case.” The investigation was launched last year, according to the sources, and was initiated after more than a dozen accidents involving active use of Tesla’s Autopilot system, some of which were fatal.
Tesla, and especially CEO Elon Musk, are bold in their claims about Autopilot’s capabilities: the company’s so-called “Full Self-Driving” or FSD (which, by the way, isn’t at all, even through its own materials) beta launched in October 2020, and now has more than 100,000 registered members from the larger global Tesla owner population, according to the most recent public figures.
The automaker continues to warn users of “Autopilot”, “Enhanced Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving Capability” that they must remain “alert” with their “hands on the wheel” and that they “maintain control of [their] car.”
That said, Musk himself has suggested that FSD could be “safer than a human” before the end of this year in an earrings call from January. It was a repeat of a claim from a year before he made on Twitterand noted that this year FSD would “operate at a safety level well above that of the average driver.”
Note that just because the DoJ investigates doesn’t necessarily mean criminal charges will follow — they can choose to take civil action, do nothing at all, or equate the charges.