Senate Democrats ask FTC to investigate Tesla over 'misleading' Autopilot claims

The lawmakers say the company’s claims pose a potential threat to motorists

Senate Democratic lawmakers called Wednesday for the Federal Trade Commission to launch a probe into Tesla’s "Autopilot" and "Full Self-Driving" systems, citing "serious concerns" regarding what they described as the company’s "misleading advertising" of their features.

In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts argued Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have "persistently misrepresented" the capabilities of its vehicles. The lawmakers say the company’s claims pose a potential threat to motorists.

"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 senators wrote in the letter. "Their claims put Tesla drivers – and all of the traveling public – at risk of serious injury or death."

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The senators called for an investigation just days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal probe into Tesla’s Autopilot system. Regulators said they had identified 11 crashes involving Tesla vehicles with Autopilot engaged since 2018.

Tesla and FTC representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tesla shares rose more than 3% in trading Wednesday.

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Tesla has repeatedly defended the safety of its Autopilot system. In April, Musk tweeted vehicles equipped with Autopilot were "now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle."

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The lawmakers expressed concern about videos published by Tesla touting its technologies, as well as public remarks from Musk on the company’s advances in autonomous driving. Autopilot provides lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control features but still requires human oversight.

"We fear that Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD features are not as mature and reliable as the company pitches to the public," the senators added.