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Craig Trudell

Tesla Says It Received Justice Department Requests Related to Autopilot

A sits on the steering wheel of a Tesla Inc. Model 3 electric vehicle in the Tesla store in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Tesla is poised to increase production at its California car plant and is back in hiring mode, according to an internal email sent days after the company wrapped up a record quarter of deliveries. (Bloomberg)

Tesla Inc. confirmed it’s received requests for documents from the US Justice Department in the latest indication regulators are subjecting its self-driving claims to greater scrutiny.

The automaker acknowledged in its annual 10-K filing what Bloomberg and other media outlets reported in October: that the Justice Department is looking into features the carmaker markets as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, or FSD. Both require drivers to remain fully engaged and take over at any time.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has for years said Tesla is on the verge of offering self-driving capability. In 2016, he said he considered autonomous driving to be “basically a solved problem.” In 2019, he said Tesla would be ready to run a robotaxi service the following year with more than 1 million cars. Almost four years later, customers who have paid as much as $15,000 for FSD are still required to keep their hands on the wheel.

Musk’s predictions have clashed with crashes where Autopilot or FSD were engaged, which have been getting significant public attention, Tesla said in its filing. The US National Traffic Safety Administration recently ordered automakers to begin regularly reporting collisions involving automated-driving systems, and Tesla has accounted for the vast majority of these incidents.

While NHTSA has cautioned that it’s too early to draw conclusions from manufacturers’ reports, it’s conducting two investigations into possible Autopilot defects.

“We have experienced, and we expect to continue to face, claims and regulatory scrutiny arising from or related to misuse or claimed failures or alleged misrepresentations of such new technologies that we are pioneering,” Tesla said in its filing.

The carmaker said it’s unaware of a government agency in any ongoing investigation concluding that wrongdoing has occurred. Bloomberg reported last week that the the US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Musk’s role in shaping the company’s self-driving claims, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Tesla’s shares rose 3.2% as of 1 p.m. Tuesday in New York trading. The stock has surged in January after registering record monthly and annual declines in December and 2022.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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