Those "full self-driving" claims finally caught the government's attention.
Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a probe into Tesla's Autopilot system, citing 11 incidents where a Tesla vehicle crashed into a first responder vehicle. NHTSA is not the only government entity that's targeting Tesla this week, as Reuters reports two United States senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company's public marketing.
"Tesla and Mr. Musk's repeated overstatements of their vehicle's capabilities put Tesla drivers - and all of the traveling public - at risk of serious injury or death," Senate Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey said in a letter to newly appointed FTC Chair Lina Khan. "Tesla drivers listen to these claims and believe their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves - with potentially deadly consequences."
Tesla's Autopilot system is not dissimilar to GM's Super Cruise or Ford's Blue Cruise; in fact, it's slightly less capable because it does not currently allow hands-free driving. However, the legal issues arises with how Tesla labels and markets the system as "full self-driving," wrongly convincing drivers that their vehicle is fully autonomous when no such capability currently exists. The company currently labels the feature as "Full Self-Driving Capability," with the word "capability" doing some heavy lifting to keep Tesla out of legal trouble.
Tesla's fine print reads: "The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. The activation and use of these features are dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions. As these self-driving features evolve, your car will be continuously upgraded through over-the-air software updates."
Unlike the NHTSA probe, which will examine specific cases, Blumenthal and Markey would like the FTC to investigate whether Musk's claims on Twitter have deceived the public into believe Tesla vehicles are fully autonomous. Musk frequently touts the capabilities of the Autopilot with FSD system, but it will be interesting to see if the FTC believes these statements were misleading. Tesla does not currently operate a PR department to field any comments or questions on the ongoing NHTSA and possible FTC probes.