Tesla faces U.S. criminal probe over self-driving claims, sources say

Tesla is under criminal investigation in the United States over claims that the company’s electric vehicles can drive themselves, said three people familiar with the matter.

The US Department of Justice launched an unprecedented investigation last year after a series of accidents, some of them fatal, related to Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, which triggered It happens during accidents, people say.

At the beginning of 2016, Tesla customers announced Autopilot capabilities. At a press conference that year, Elon Musk, the Silicon Valley automaker’s chief executive, described it as “better” than a human driver.

Last week, Musk said in another call that Tesla will soon release a new version of the “Full Self-Driving” program that will allow customers to “go to your job, the your friend’s house, to the store without you touching the wheel.”

A recent video on the club’s website says: “The person in the car seat is only there for legal reasons.

However, the company has made it clear to drivers that they should keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicles while using Autopilot.

Tesla’s technology is designed to help with driving, steering, acceleration and changes but its features “do not separate the car,” the company says on its website.

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Those warnings could affect the cases the Justice Department wants to bring, the sources said.

Tesla, which ended its media relations campaign in 2020, did not respond to written questions from Reuters on Wednesday. Musk did not respond to written inquiries seeking comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Musk said in an interview with Automotive News in 2020 that Autopilot problems stem from customers using the system in ways contrary to Tesla’s instructions.

Federal and California safety regulators are looking into whether claims about Autopilot’s capabilities and the system’s design lull consumers into a false sense of security, luring them keep Teslas as unreal cars and become comfortable behind the wheel with deadly consequences.

The investigation by the Department of Justice represents a significant level of scrutiny due to the possibility of criminal charges against the company or its executives, said people familiar with the matter.

As part of the latest investigation, Justice Department prosecutors in Washington and San Francisco are looking into whether Tesla defrauded customers, investors and regulators by making unsupported claims about the capabilities of its driver-assistance technology, the sources said.

Authorities conducting their investigation could file criminal charges, seek civil penalties or close the investigation without taking action, they said.

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The Justice Department’s Autopilot investigation isn’t far off because it’s competing with two DOJ investigations into Tesla, one of the sources said. Investigators have a lot of work to do and no resolution to the charges is imminent, the source said.

The Justice Department could face challenges in building its case, the sources said, because of Tesla’s warnings about over-reliance on Autopilot.

For example, after telling investors on the phone last week that Teslas will soon go without customers touching the controls, Musk added that the cars need something in the car seat. “It’s like we’re not saying that’s ready and there’s no one behind the wheel,” he said.

The Tesla website also notes that, before using Autopilot, the driver must agree to “keep your hands on the wheel at all times” and “maintain control and control of your vehicle .”

Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit who has prosecuted auto companies and workers in fraud cases and was not involved in the current investigation, said investigators may need to uncover evidence to such as emails or internal communications showing that Tesla and Musk made false statements. about Autopilot’s capabilities in principle.

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There are Probes

The Autopilot misconduct investigation joins other investigations and legal cases involving Musk, who was embroiled in a court battle earlier this year after missing out on a $44 billion settlement. The takeover of social media Twitter Inc, just turn the table and spread the joy of having it.

In August 2021, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into a series of accidents, some of which were fatal, involving Teslas equipped with Autopilot hitting emergency vehicles. .

NHTSA officials in June intensified their investigation, covering 830,000 Teslas with Autopilot, identifying 16 accidents involving the company’s electric vehicles and first-responder vehicles and trucks. road maintenance. The move is a step regulators must take before requesting a recall. The company did not immediately comment.

In July of this year, the California Department of Motor Vehicles sued Tesla for falsely advertising its Autopilot and self-driving cars as providing autonomous driving capabilities. Tesla has filed papers with the company seeking to hear the complaints and has indicated it intends to defend them. The DMV said in a statement that the operation is currently in its current state and declined to comment further.

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