Tesla is facing a criminal investigation over its self-driving tech claims

Tesla Inc is currently facing a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into its advanced driver assistance system Autopilot, which was first reported by Reuters today.

An investigation was launched last year, but until now, the public remains unaware. The U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation after a series of Tesla crashes involving the use of Autopilot, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of these accidents are fatal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already investigating these crashes, and these tragedies could have been avoided if Autopilot had not been turned on.

The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly focusing on the language Tesla uses when it comes to artificial intelligence systems. Tesla has a “Full Self-Driving” mode, but none of its technology guarantees that the driver will allow the car to drive itself. Tesla has said in the past that drivers should always “keep their hands on the steering wheel” when using FSD, Autopilot or Enhanced Autopilot, although the wording may seem contradictory.

It doesn’t help that Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk sometimes tweets praise for the software in his cars. He never said cars should be driven without human interaction at all, but when he says things like FSD will soon be “safer than humans”, some Tesla owners may hold back against the technology. There is too much confidence. The company is already facing lawsuits from drivers over what they say are misleading claims.

In 2021, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said it had launched an investigation into Tesla’s marketing campaigns, concerned that the company was indeed misleading customers. The DMV says the software’s false propaganda is putting people’s lives at risk.

In a crash that proved fatal, a 35-year-old California man boasted on video that he could drive without his hands or feet. “Best carpool buddy — even taking on boring traffic for me,” he said. Perhaps drivers not reading Tesla’s warnings are to blame, but some suggest Tesla should change the terminology its systems use.

Photo: Brock Wegner/Unsplash

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