Technology

Senators call for FTC investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot feature

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Tesla’s marketing of a partially assisted driving feature known as Autopilot.

“Tesla’s marketing has repeatedly overstated the capabilities of its vehicles, and these statements increasingly pose a threat to motorists and other users of the road,” the senators wrote in a letter Wednesday to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan.

“Accordingly, we urge you to open an investigation into potentially deceptive and unfair practices in Tesla’s advertising and marketing of its driving automation systems and take appropriate enforcement action to ensure the safety of all drivers on the road.”

A spokesperson for the FTC confirmed receipt of the letter but declined to comment further.

The Hill has reached out to Tesla for comment.

Tesla’s Autopilot technology has come under increased scrutiny from regulators after a series of accidents and misuses.

At least 11 people have died in crashes with Autopilot activated since the feature was released in 2015.

The company has insisted that the technology is safe, and the user manual specifies that the Autopilot feature is not fully autonomous.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Monday that it would be probing the system after identifying 11 instances since 2018 of Teslas hitting parked vehicles with flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or road cones.

The National Transportation Safety Board has investigated some accidents, but does not have the authority to force Tesla to make any changes to the technology. The agency has recommended limiting when and where Autopilot can be used.

Tesla, whose CEO is Elon Musk, recently released a beta version of what it calls “Full Self-Driving” software that, despite the name, does not actually mean users can disengage from driving.

“Tesla and Musk’s repeated overstatements of their vehicle’s capabilities – despite clear and frequent warnings – demonstrate a deeply concerning disregard for the safety of those on the road and require real accountability,” Blumenthal and Markey wrote.

–Updated at 11:14 a.m.

Tags Autopilot Ed Markey Elon Musk Investigation Lina Khan Probe Tesla vehicle accidents

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