According to an exclusive by Reuters, Tesla is under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice for claims that its cars can drive by themselves.
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Although the NHTSA’s investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features was generally known, there are now reports that other Federal authorities are now investigating into the company for the same issues.
Namely, the Department of Justice.
According to an exclusive by Reuters, the criminal probe into Tesla began on Wednesday “over claims that the company’s electric vehicles can drive themselves”.
After more than a dozen crashes employing Autopilot, the DOJ allegedly opened an investigation against the company last year, according to the report.
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According to Reuters, the DOJ investigation “potentially represents a more serious level of scrutiny because of the possibility of criminal charges against the company or individual executives, the people familiar with the inquiry said.”
Prosecutors with the DOJ in San Francisco and Washington are investigating whether or whether the company intentionally misled customers by overestimating the capabilities of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving. Regarding the probe, all possibilities remain on the table, according to Reuters: “Officials conducting their inquiry could ultimately pursue criminal charges, seek civil sanctions or close the probe without taking any action, they said.”
Additionally, according to the article, the DOJ probe into Autopilot looks to be giving way to other DOJ investigations into the company:
The Justice Department’s Autopilot probe is far from recommending any action partly because it is competing with two other DOJ investigations involving Tesla, one of the sources said. Investigators still have much work to do and no decision on charges is imminent, this source said.
According to one U.S. attorney, the investigation may require “smoking gun” type evidence to continue:
Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit who prosecuted automotive companies and employees in fraud cases and is not involved in the current probe, said investigators likely would need to uncover evidence such as emails or other internal communications showing that Tesla and Musk made misleading statements about Autopilot’s capabilities on purpose.
Earlier this week, yet another alarming incident involving Tesla’s Autopilot and motorcycles occurred. This is a worrying trend that we first raised months ago when we discussed two accidents that happened this summer.
It was established that Autopilot was activated during a third incident based on driver crash assist data that automakers are required to provide in such cases.
According to the investigation, Ingrid Eva Noon was riding her motorcycle in Palm Beach County, Florida at 2:11 a.m. on August 26 when the event occurred.
According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office, a drunk driver who was using a Tesla with Autopilot on hit the back of the motorcycle, killing the rider by tossing her “onto the Tesla’s windshield.”
According to the CNN report, advocates of motorcycles have asserted that “recent crashes suggest the Tesla system is insufficient.” They worry that “the software fails to see motorcycles and lulls Tesla drivers into a sense of complacency and inattentiveness” and that “the government’s vehicle safety regulations do not adequately protect motorcycle riders”.