SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 18 (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators on Wednesday called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla (TSLA.O), claiming the company misled consumers and endangered the public by marketing its driving automation systems as fully autonomous.
“Repeated overestimations by Tesla and (CEO) Mr. (Elon) Musk of their vehicle’s capabilities … put Tesla drivers – and all travelers – at risk of serious injury or death,” Senate Democrats said. Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey in a letter to incoming FTC President Lina Khan.
“Tesla drivers listen to these claims and believe their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves – with potentially fatal consequences.”
The letter, which came after the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration opened an investigation into Tesla’s autopilot on Monday, added to the pressure on Tesla. Read more
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Autopilot is a standard feature of Tesla cars and allows vehicles to maintain a distance from cars in front of them. Tesla sells its advanced driver assistance features such as lane changing and automated parking under the name Full Self-Driving (FSD) for $ 1,000, although the system does not make its vehicles fully autonomous.
Musk, who has nearly 60 million Twitter followers, frequently uses the term FSD, generally referring to the Tesla feature set, but many consumers see it as fully autonomous driving. Musk touted the safety of the technology and promised that his vehicles would run on their own soon, so as not to meet his own deadlines.
The NHTSA said in June that since 2016, it had opened 30 investigations into Tesla crashes in which the agency suspected the use of advanced driver assistance systems.
NHTSA said in a 2018 letter to Tesla that the company had made “misleading claims” about the safety of its Model 3 and confused consumers. The agency referred the matter to the FTC to determine whether Tesla’s statements constituted “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.