Tesla is being investigated for securities and wire fraud for self-driving claims

The Department of Justice is looking into whether Tesla committed securities and wire fraud around its self-driving vehicle claims, Reuters reports today, citing three sources familiar with the matter.

The investigation, which was first reported in October 2022 but has been going on since at least late 2021, involves federal prosecutors in Washington and San Francisco who are examining whether Tesla executives misled consumers, investors, and regulators by making unsupported claims about its autonomous capabilities. Now, it appears that investigators are zeroing in on specific charges against the company: securities and wire fraud.

According to Reuters, the probe is looking into statements made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in particular. For years, Musk has been promising fully autonomous Tesla vehicles are just around the corner — while also admitting that he often sets overly optimistic timelines. Meanwhile, the company’s advanced driver-assist features, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, do not make the vehicles autonomous and require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road.

According to Reuters, the probe is looking into Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s claims in particular

Tesla has repeatedly pushed the boundaries of safety by allowing its customers to beta test products that may not be ready for wide release. Tesla vehicles using Autopilot have been subject to numerous recalls and involved in hundreds of crashes over the years, dozens of which have been fatal. The most recent recall, which applied to every single Tesla sold to date, has now come under a new investigation for its failure to prevent driver misuse and correct the flaws identified in the first recall.

Wire fraud involves deceiving customers in interstate communications, whereas securities fraud relates to misleading investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also looking into whether Tesla lied in its communications about self-driving vehicles, Reuters says.

The Justice Department is said to also be looking into Tesla’s vehicle range claims. Tesla customers have long complained that the company’s listed vehicle ranges often don’t match up to the reality of what the cars are capable of.

In its latest securities filing, Tesla acknowledged “regularly” receiving subpoenas and requests for information from the SEC and Justice Department, some of which involve Autopilot and Full Self-Driving.

“To our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred,” the company said.


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