A simple look at Tesla’s official pages for Autopilot and Full Self-Driving would show that the company is very clear in warning customers and would-be vehicle buyers that the advanced driver-assist systems do not in any way make cars autonomous in their present state.
Yet despite these, recent reports have suggested that Tesla is under criminal investigation in the United States over claims that the company’s electric vehicles are able to drive themselves.
The information was shared with Reuters by several people familiar with the matter. The publication’s sources claimed that the US Department of Justice had launched the previously undisclosed probe last year following over a dozen crashes that involved Tesla Autopilot. Some of the crashes were reportedly fatal.
But while Tesla CEO Elon Musk has frequently estimated that the company’s vehicles would eventually be able to drive themselves without a human behind the wheel, Autopilot’s numerous warnings before and while using the system might make it a bit challenging to pin the electric vehicle maker.
Reuters’ sources, for one, noted that Autopilot and FSD warnings on Tesla’s official website, which indicate that the advanced driver-assist system’s present capabilities “do not make the vehicle autonomous,” might complicate any case that the US Department of Justice might wish to bring.
Tesla has not issued a comment about the reported DOJ probe. CEO Elon Musk has also not issued a statement on the matter as well.
While there have been accidents involving Tesla Autopilot in the past, Elon Musk highlighted in an interview with Automotive News in 2020 that Autopilot problems typically stem from customers using the system incorrectly. This could very well be a fair assessment from the CEO, seeing as aftermarket companies even promote defeat devices that are designed to “trick” Autopilot into thinking that drivers are paying attention to the road even if they’re not.
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