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Tesla faces criminal investigation over Autopilot claims

The DOJ is looking into Tesla’s marketing strategies.

Tesla badge on rear of model 3
Image: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

Over the last year, Tesla has found itself at the center of a previously undisclosed criminal investigation from the Department of Justice (DOJ) over its Full Self-Driving claims.

A recent report from Reuters shares news of the criminal investigation. The criminal probe has been ongoing since last year after several crashes were reported using Tesla’s Autopilot.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, described Autopilot as “probably better” than a human driver. The “Full Self Driving” feature came out back in 2020, and there are now over 100,000 Tesla owners using the feature.

But the issue lies with the terminology that Tesla uses to describe its autopilot feature. “Self-driving” itself is a bit misleading, as Tesla vehicles require that drivers keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

Tesla self-driving
Image: Pexels

However, Tesla’s marketing material isn’t very explicit on the actual limitations of Full Self-Driving. In fact, a video on the company’s website says quite the opposite.

“The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons,” says the video. “He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.”

Elsewhere on the website, the company warns that Tesla’s Full Self-Driving features “do not make the vehicle autonomous.” That’s more in line with what the DOJ is looking for.

While Tesla technically states what Full Self-Driving is capable of on its website, it’s the other marketing claims that are a concern. Musk, and Tesla as a whole, have been overselling Tesla’s Autopilot capabilities for years.

And the Department of Justice has had enough. It will be interesting to see what comes from this investigation and if Tesla is required to modify its marketing language across the board.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at

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