The U.S. Department of Justice has asked Tesla for documents related to its branded Full Self-Driving and Autopilot advanced driver-assistance systems, the automaker disclosed in a securities filing.
Tesla said in the filing it “has received requests from the DOJ for documents related to Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD features. . . . To our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred,” Tesla noted in the 10-K filing that was posted Monday.
Tesla has been under investigation by the DOJ for at least a year, Reuters reported last fall, citing three people familiar with the matter. It’s unclear if the DOJ’s request for documents is connected to that investigation, which was launched in late 2021 following more than a dozen accidents involving the active use of Tesla’s Autopilot system.
Tesla vehicles come standard with a driver-assistance system branded as Autopilot. For an additional $15,000, owners can buy “full self-driving,” or FSD — a feature that CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly promised will one day deliver full autonomous driving capabilities.
Neither one of these systems are self-driving. Autopilot and FSD are advanced driver-assistance systems that automate some driving tasks and still require the driver to be ready to take over at any moment. Autopilot keeps the vehicle centered in the lane, can automatically change lanes and maintains the proper distance from other vehicles in traffic. FSD has those features and more, including an active guidance system that navigates a car from a highway on-ramp to off-ramp and can navigate interchanges and make lane changes.
Musk’s claims and promises of these systems, as well as the branding, has caught the attention of regulators. The DOJ’s inquiry reflects an uptick in regulator scrutiny of Tesla.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began investigating Musk after specific comments and efforts were made to promote the vehicle’s “self-driving” capabilities. The investigation follows a testimony from a Tesla engineer claiming that a 2016 video purporting to show a Tesla vehicle driving itself was in fact staged, and that Musk directed the video.
Tesla has been investigated and sued by several agencies and individuals for its claims of self-driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a number of special investigations into Tesla for crashes involving Autopilot; the California Department of Motor Vehicles has accused Tesla of falsely advertising its ADAS; and drivers have sued the company for deceitful marketing.
All of the attention hasn’t thwarted Musk. During Tesla’s fourth-quarter 2022 earnings call, Musk said “full self-driving is obviously getting better very rapidly.” In the past he has boasted that Tesla was close to “solving” full self-driving.
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