Tesla is said to be facing a criminal investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice facing claims made by the company regarding its “Autopilot” capabilities, Reuters reports, citing “three people familiar with the matter.” The inquiry was launched last year per the sources and was initiated following over a dozen accidents involving the active use of Tesla’s Autopilot system, some resulting in fatalities.
Tesla, and in particular CEO Elon Musk have been bold in their claims regarding Autopilot’s capabilities: The company’s so-called “Full Self-Driving” or FSD (which is not that at all, by the way, even by the admission of the company’s own materials) beta launched in October of 2020, and now has over 100,000 members enrolled from the larger global Tesla owner population, according to the most recent public numbers.
The automaker still cautions users of “Autopilot,” “Enhanced Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving Capability” that they must remain “alert,” with their “hands on the steering wheel at all times” and that they “maintain control of [their] car.”
That said, Musk himself has suggested FSD could be “safer than a human” before the end of this year in an earrings call from January. It was a reiteration of a claim from a year prior he made on Twitter, noting that FSD would “work at a safety level well above that of the average driver this year.”
Note that just because the DoJ is investigating doesn’t mean criminal charges will necessarily result — they could opt to pursue civil action, do nothing at all or level charges.