Tesla is facing a federal criminal investigation over its claims its vehicles have "self-driving" capabilities, with reports now indicating that the US Department of Justice is getting involved.
The long-standing debate on whether Tesla's "self-driving" capabilities have been appropriately named has sparked interest from prosecutors with the US Department of Justice, according to a recent exclusive report from Reuters. The problem doesn't necessarily lay with Tesla's claim that its vehicles have "self-driving" capabilities, but with the naming/feature of its optional version of Autopilot called "Full Self-Driving", or FSD. Tesla specifically claims this optional feature provides buyers with "full self-driving capabilities".
The problem with these claims is that Tesla still requires drivers to have their hands-on the wheel at all times while using this feature. Reuters reports that three anonymous sources close to the matter informed the publication that prosecutors with the US Department of Justice are looking into the matter, and if found to be guilty, criminal charges could be laid against Tesla executives for defrauding consumers.
Notably, these same sources informed Reuters that they weren't certain anything would come from the investigation, which they, at least in part, attribute to Tesla's classification of its vehicle as not "autonomous".
In Tesla's most recent earnings call, Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk touched on the naming of FSD, saying that "we're not saying that [it's] quite ready to have no one behind the wheel."
Notably, California recently passed a bill that prevents Tesla and any other automaker from using the term "Full Self Driving" as it was found to be misleading drivers and resulting in increased danger on the roads.
"Are we just going to wait for another person to be killed in California?. People in California think Full Self-Driving is fully automated when it's not," said state Sen. Lena Gonzalez to the LA Times.