The Justice Department is pursuing a criminal probe over Tesla’s claim that its vehicles can drive themselves, according to Reuters, in the latest legal snarl for the automaker involving its self-driving assertion.
The investigation was launched last year after a series of Tesla accidents where the cars’ Autopilot systems were enabled, according to the news outlet, citing three people with knowledge of the probe.
The company has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and it’s unclear what the status of the probe is and whether prosecutors intend to bring any charges.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Forbes.
Tesla boasts about its “Autopilot” system and the “Full Self-Driving Capability” of some of its vehicles but its website includes several disclaimers, stating self-driving features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
The news didn’t have a negative impact on Tesla stock, which was flat in after-hours trading after rising 1% Wednesday, despite a broad downturn in tech stocks.
Musk has for years promoted Tesla as being at the forefront of a revolutionary shift to autonomous cars, but he’s recently toned down big promises made in the past like a vow to have “1 million robotaxis by the end of the year.” The billionaire said last week during a conference call following the release of Tesla’s third-quarter earnings report that its cars are not “quite ready to have no one behind the wheel.” Tesla has been plagued by reports of accidents, sometimes fatal, involving self-driving vehicles, but Musk has pushed back. In January, he tweeted “Correct” in response to a claim that “There has not been one accident or injury since FSD [Full-Self Driving] beta launch,” even though several drivers had filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, stating the Full-Self Driving feature wrecked their vehicles. The federal agency launched an investigation into Tesla last year to determine if a recall for Tesla vehicles is necessary. That investigation remains ongoing.
What To Watch For
Musk is expected to become the owner of Twitter on Friday, when his $44 billion takeover bid is set to be finalized.
We estimate Musk to be worth $221.2 billion, in large part thanks to his share of Tesla stock, making him the richest person in the world.