Senate Democrats: FTC Should Investigate Tesla Over “Deceptive” Autopilot Claims

Senate Democrats: FTC Should Investigate Tesla Over “Deceptive” Autopilot Claims
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Amid a series of crashes at emergency scenes, Democratic lawmakers prompted the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday to investigate Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s Full Self-Driving systems. Senators believe that the advertisement of this feature is “misleading.”

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Upcoming Probe?

As reported by Fox Business, Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan arguing that the EV maker has “persistently misrepresented” the capabilities of its vehicles, hence threatening road safety.

In the letter, “Tesla and Mr. 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.”

The probe intentions arrive barely days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had opened its own investigation on Tesla’s Autopilot system.

“Regulators said they had identified 11 crashes involving Tesla vehicles with Autopilot engaged since 2018.”

The Senate Democrats pointed to promotional videos published by Tesla and public statements by its founder Elon Musk, boasting about their developments in autonomous driving.

They say “Autopilot provides lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control features but still requires human oversight.”

Lawmakers added in the document: “We fear that Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD features are not as mature and reliable as the company pitches to the public.”

Wrong Message

The company has constantly reassured the public how safe its Autopilot system is. Four months ago, Elon Musk tweeted how vehicles offering Autopilot features were “now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.”

However, Elon Musk has faced criticism within his own company. According to Business Insider, Sterling Anderson ––the leader of Tesla's Autopilot team–– “grew increasingly worried about Musk’s tendency to overpromise.”

Anderson was aware that, even with the latest software updates, the system would not be able to take full control of the vehicle on the road.

Such claims have been disclosed in the book “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century” by author Tim Higgins, published Tuesday.

In the book, Anderson says “He was afraid Musk would declare it fully self-driving and relayed his concerns to Jon McNeill, Tesla's then head of sales and marketing.”

While Musk repeatedly took his hands off the wheel during TV reports and car reviews, legal and public relations employees tried hard for more than a year to reinforce the opposite message, that “drivers needed to keep their hands on the wheel when using Autopilot.”

Tesla is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders’ families.

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Cristian Bustos is senior editor for Previously, he was the news correspondent in Germany for Colombian radio broadcast Blu Radio, where he covered the 2017 German federal election and the 2017 G20 Hamburg summit. He was also public relations consultant to EY and HAYS, and has covered a wide range of topics including business, finance, and international relations, as well as verticals such as automotive, aerospace and renewable energy. Email him at
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