AUSTIN, Texas – According to an exclusive Reuters report, the federal Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation concerning Tesla Inc.’s claims about its Autopilot self-driving system.
According to reports, the investigation has been undertaken by prosecutors in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco who were examining various company claims as to the capabilities of the Autopilot system.
Reuters reported the federal DOJ probe was opened last year.
In addition to the federal investigation, there were reports during the summer the California Department of Motor Vehicles filed complaints with the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings that Tesla used language in its marketing that was not based upon facts. In addition, it was claimed the company falsely indicated its cars, with these systems, were capable of automated trips without driver input.
Examples of this type of marketing include verbiage on Tesla’s website: “All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go.”
A video on the same website opens with “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He isn’t doing anything. The car is driving itself.”
Tesla has pointed to statements like those on its support page warning users: “Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel.”
The company also states on its site that these features “do not make the vehicle autonomous.” Its sources told Reuters that Tesla’s warnings that drivers should keep their hands on the wheel could complicate any case the DOJ may bring.
In addition to these reported investigations, Tesla faces lawsuits over Autopilot operations and phantom braking – activation of automatic emergency braking (AEB) for no apparent reason.