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Unprecedented Scrutiny on Tesla’s Autopilot

Tesla’s Autopilot faces unprecedented scrutiny


Tesla’s Autopilot system and its claims of being a leader in autonomous driving technology are facing their biggest challenge yet. With a series of lawsuits over fatal accidents involving Tesla vehicles set to go to court and a federal investigation into Autopilot nearing its conclusion, the technology is under unprecedented scrutiny. Here, we will discuss the various legal and regulatory challenges faced by Autopilot and its implications for the electric vehicle industry.

NHTSA Investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system, specifically focusing on the software change that allows drivers to keep their hands off the wheel for longer. This change poses a significant risk of collisions, and the NHTSA is demanding an explanation from Tesla. The investigation was prompted by several crashes involving Tesla vehicles hitting stationary emergency vehicles. Additionally, they are examining whether Tesla vehicles ensure that drivers remain attentive when using the Autopilot system.

Department of Justice Investigation

Tesla is also currently under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the United States over claims that their electric vehicles can drive themselves. This investigation could potentially result in criminal charges against the company or individual executives. The DOJ has requested documents from Tesla related to the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features, indicating the seriousness of the probe.

California Investigation

Last year, California’s transportation regulator accused Tesla of engaging in deceptive practices by advertising that their driver assistance technology provided full autonomous vehicle control. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has the authority to suspend Tesla’s license to sell vehicles in the state as well as impose restitution requirements. Furthermore, the DMV is conducting a separate safety review that may require Tesla to obtain regulatory permits to operate their vehicles in California.

First Lawsuit over Autopilot Fatality

Tesla is facing two trials over fatal accidents involving Autopilot. The first trial, scheduled for mid-September in a California state court, involves a civil lawsuit brought by Micah Lee, the owner of a Model 3. Lee alleges that the Autopilot system caused his vehicle to veer off the highway, crash into a palm tree, and burst into flames within seconds. This trial will be a critical test of the Autopilot system’s safety and reliability.

Florida Lawsuit

The second trial, set to go to trial in October, stems from an accident in Florida that resulted in the death of Jeremy Banner, a Tesla Model 3 owner. Banner’s vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer at a highway intersection. The outcome of this trial will shed further light on the performance of the Autopilot system and its role in the accident.

Mountain View Accident

In 2018, a Tesla Model X was involved in a fatal crash in Mountain View, California. The vehicle swerved and crashed into a concrete divider, resulting in the death of the driver, Walter Huang. Huang’s wife has filed a lawsuit against Tesla, which is scheduled to go to trial next year. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated this accident and attributed blame to both the driver and Tesla.

Related Facts

  • The Autopilot system has been hailed as a key feature of Tesla’s vehicles, attracting customers who are interested in autonomous driving capabilities.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been a vocal advocate for Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, claiming that they will significantly improve road safety.
  • The outcome of the pending lawsuits and investigations can have significant implications for Tesla’s reputation, potential recalls, and the future development of autonomous driving technology.

Key Takeaway

Tesla’s Autopilot system is facing unprecedented scrutiny as a result of lawsuits and investigations over fatal accidents and claims of deceptive advertising practices. The NHTSA, DOJ, and California DMV are all actively investigating the safety and performance of Autopilot. The outcome of these investigations and trials will shape the future of Tesla’s Autopilot system and could have broad implications for the electric vehicle industry.


Tesla’s Autopilot system is at a crucial crossroads, facing legal and regulatory challenges that could significantly impact its future. The ongoing investigations and upcoming trials will determine the extent of the system’s responsibility in fatal accidents and whether it lives up to its claims. As the industry continues to progress towards autonomous driving, the scrutiny faced by Autopilot highlights the need for robust safety regulations and the need for car manufacturers to fulfill their promises for safer roads.

Denk Liu
Denk Liu
Denk Liu is an honest person who always tells it like it is. He's also very objective, seeing the situation for what it is and not getting wrapped up in emotion. He's a regular guy - witty and smart but not pretentious. He loves playing video games and watching action movies in his free time.

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