The U.S. Justice Department has requested documents from Tesla related to its Autopilot and "Full Self-Driving" features, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published Tuesday.
In the filing, which was reported on by multiple media outlets, Tesla confirmed that the Justice Department had requested documents, but it indicated it wasn't anticipating prosecution.
"To our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred," Tesla said in the filing.
2023 Tesla Model X - Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
Tesla has come under fire multiple times over the years for its driver assist features, particularly "Full Self-Driving" which, despite the name, does not allow a car to drive itself. The head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in 2021 called the label "misleading and irresponsible," and California has deemed it illegal.
Autopilot is Tesla's standard driver-assist feature and is essentially an adaptive cruise control that can also steer itself in a single lane. "Full Self-Driving" adds functionality, including the ability to automatically overtake slower vehicles, automatically react to traffic lights and stop signs, and handle some parking situations. It also includes Smart Summon, which brings the car to the driver in parking lots, as long as the driver stays in sight of the vehicle.
Tesla started offering "Full Self-Driving" as a hardware package in 2016, claiming later software updates would unlock true self-driving capability. CEO Elon Musk said at the time that he expected a Tesla to be able to travel from Los Angeles to New York "without the need for a single touch" of the steering wheel as soon as 2017.
2023 Tesla Model 3
That never happened, although Tesla has started offering the system in unfinished "Beta" form to all customers (it was initially available only to select customers), and steadily raised the price. The feature cost $5,000 when launched in 2016, but Tesla raised the price to $10,000 in 2020, $12,000 in 2022, and finally $15,000 later in the year. A subscription option was also added in 2021.
Disgruntled Tesla owners filed a class action lawsuit against the automaker in September 2022 over the failure to deliver on the promises of "Full Self-Driving." Tesla's lawyers later reportedly argued that failure to deliver self-driving cars isn't fraud, and called for the suit to be dismissed.