Tesla faces criminal probe over autopilot 'self-driving' claims: report

The company explicitly warns drivers that the feature does not allow them to refrain from operating the vehicle altogether.

Updated: October 26, 2022 - 9:02pm

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Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla is reportedly facing a criminal investigation over claims that the cars' "Autopilot" feature effectively allowed the vehicle to drive itself without the aid of human input.

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, first reported on the Department of Justice probe, which it ostensibly opened last year following a bevy of crashes involving the "Autopilot" system.

The company explicitly warns drivers that the feature does not allow them to refrain from operating the vehicle altogether. Tesla's website states that its driver assistance programs "do not make the vehicle autonomous." However, company promotional material seems to suggest otherwise.

The outlet highlighted past comments from CEO Elon Musk claiming that the Autopilot feature was superior to a human driver as well as a recent conference call that the company was slated to release genuine self driving technology that would allow the customer to travel "to your work, your friend's house, to the grocery store without you touching the wheel."

Moreover, Reuters pointed to a Tesla promotional video that seemingly claimed its vehicles were entirely self-operating. "The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself," the video says.

The probe follows a number of crashes of Tesla vehicles during which the "Autopilot" feature was found to have been operating. There have been multiple fatalities in such incidents.

News of the probe comes amid a bevy of other legal woes for founder Elon Musk, including a federal investigation over his upcoming purchase of social media giant Twitter and federal scrutiny over his recent public comments regarding the Ukraine war.