No more Mr Nice DoJ: Tesla gets subpoenas over self-driving software claims

Has someone been shooting their mouth off a little too much?

In financial filings, Tesla has admitted that it is under a serious investigation by the US Department of Justice over the efficacy of its self-driving code, among many other things.

The 10-Q regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission says that, in addition to investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the SEC, the DoJ has subpoenaed the electric car maker for a host of important information.

"The company has received requests for information, including subpoenas, from the DOJ. These have included requests for documents related to Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD features," it states.

"Additionally, the Company has received requests for information, including subpoenas from the DOJ, regarding certain matters associated with personal benefits, related parties, vehicle range and personnel decisions. To our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred."

Nevertheless Elon's Musketeers say that they can't predict any outcomes of such investigations and included the usual boilerplate of "We cannot predict the outcome or impact of any ongoing matters. Should the government decide to pursue an enforcement action, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operation, prospects, cash flows, financial position or brand."

In February Tesla said that the DoJ had requested documents relating to the company overpromising on the capabilities of its Autopilot and FSD self-driving software – and if this was implicated in any deaths of US citizens. Now it seems the DoJ is playing hardball over the issue.

California and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already investigating the number of crashes involving Tesla vehicles running with software assistance for drivers. The NHTSA found around 70 percent of such reported incidents involved Tesla vehicles, with the firm's vehicles currently accounting for around half of the electric cars bought in the US.

As for battery range issue, this could be related to a report in July claiming that Tesla rigged its cars to overestimate the range available to drivers, until the charge levels reached 50 percent, when a more realistic figure was displayed. This has been going on for around a decade, according to Reuters.

When customers called in to get a fix for an issue that could potentially see them stranded too far from a recharging station, Tesla reportedly set up a "Diversion Team" in Las Vegas, where support staff would get a $1,000 for every customer appointment on the issue they canceled.

Given that last month the SEC had to start legal action against Elon Musk because he refused to cough up docs relating to his purchase of Twitter, the DOJ might have a long wait.

Tesla had no comment at time of publication. ®

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