Tesla is reportedly the subject of a US criminal probe over its self-driving promises.

 Reuters discovers After more than a dozen collisions involving the Autopilot technology, some of which were deadly, the US DoJ opened an investigation last year.

Tesla is reportedly the subject of a US criminal probe over its self-driving promises.

According to three persons with knowledge of the situation, Tesla is under criminal investigation in the United States for making promises that its electric cars can drive itself.

According to the persons, the hitherto secret inquiry was started by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) last year due to more than a dozen crashes involving Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system, which was engaged during the accidents.

Tesla's marketing brochures began praising Autopilot's capabilities as early as 2016. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, said on a conference call that year that it was "probably better" than a human driver.

On a different call last week, Musk stated that Tesla would soon deploy an updated version of "complete self-driving" software that would enable users to travel "to your work, your friend's house, or to the grocery store without you touching the wheel."

The person in the driver's seat is merely there for legal reasons, according to a video that is now available on the corporate website. He is not acting in any way. The vehicle is self-driving.

But the company has also made it clear that while using Autopilot, drivers must maintain control of their cars by keeping their hands on the wheel.

According to the company's website, the elements of the Tesla technology are intended to help with steering, braking, speed, and lane changes but "do not make the vehicle autonomous."

According to the sources, such warnings could make it more difficult for the justice department to prove any case.

Tesla, which shut down its media relations division in 2020, did not react to a Wednesday letter from Reuters. Additionally, Musk did not reply to written requests for comment. A representative for the justice department declined to comment.

In a 2020 interview with Automotive News, Musk claimed that difficulties with Autopilot are caused by users who don't follow Tesla's guidelines.

The claims made about Autopilot's capabilities and the system's design are already being closely examined by federal and California safety regulators to see if they give customers a false sense of security, leading them to treat Teslas as truly driverless cars and grow complacent behind the wheel with potentially fatal results.

The possibility of criminal charges being brought against the business or specific executives makes the justice department investigation possibly a more serious level of scrutiny, according to the people familiar with the investigation.

Prosecutors in Washington and San Francisco are looking into whether Tesla deceived customers, investors, and regulators by making unsubstantiated claims about the capabilities of its driver assistance technology, according to the individuals.

The investigators' options included filing criminal charges, asking for civil penalties, or ending the probe without taking any further action, they added.

One of the sources claimed that the DoJ's Autopilot probe is far from suggesting any course of action in part because it is in direct competition with two other Tesla-related DoJ investigations. According to this source, there is still a lot of work for the investigators to perform before any charges are decided.

According to the sources, due to Tesla's cautions about excessive dependence on Autopilot, the justice department may encounter difficulties in compiling its evidence.

Investigators would probably need to find evidence, such as emails or other internal communications, to prove that Tesla and Musk intentionally misrepresented Autopilot's capabilities, according to Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney in Detroit who prosecuted automotive businesses and employees in fraud cases and is not involved in the current investigation.

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