Tesla Faces Investigation Over FSD Vehicle Safety, False Advertising

Even as Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report chief Elon Musk teases the latest version of the company’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) technology, investigations have been ongoing into the safety of that same tech. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been conducting an ongoing probe into nearly a million Tesla vehicles over safety concerns about Autopilot and FSD.

The California attorney general, CNBC learned Wednesday, is also conducting his own investigation into the high-tech car brand, in part over concerns about FSD safety and in part over complaints of false advertising. 

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The attorney general’s office, according to the CNBC report, is currently seeking more information from both customers and former Tesla employees over these two issues. 

One Tesla customer filed a complaint with the FTC in 2022 over a “phantom braking” issue, when his 2018 Tesla Model 3 suddenly and needlessly applied the brake while using Autopilot on the highway. 

Tied into the safety concerns that come with something like phantom braking, to the customer, Greg Wester, is false advertising. 

“Tesla should offer customers the option to receive a full refund of Autopilot features if they are unsatisfied with the product,” Wester told CNBC.  He “bought a full autonomy product and we received a driver monitoring product with partial autonomy.”

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FSD cost $5,000 in 2019; the service now costs $15,000 up front. There is also a monthly subscription option — only in the U.S. — which costs anywhere between $100 and $200 per month, with the possibility of driving the annual cost up as high as $2400. But for drivers without the proper hardware, they’ll need to pay additional one-time fees to upgrade. 

An analyst in the attorney general’s office left Wester a voicemail during the second quarter of the year requesting to interview him over the complaint, according to CNBC. The attorney general’s office could neither confirm nor deny the investigation, saying in a statement: “To protect its integrity, we’re unable to comment on, even to confirm or deny, a potential or ongoing investigation.”

I tested the version 12 alpha build today. It is mind-blowing.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 27, 2023

Despite its name, Full Self-Driving isn’t actually full self-driving. The feature still requires the driver’s active attention, complete with eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, of any driver using the service. 

Musk, who has long promised that full FSD was on its way, said in Tesla’s second-quarter earnings that it really is this time. 

“I’ve been wrong in the past. I may be wrong this time (but) I think we’ll be better than human by the end of this year,” Musk said. “We see a clear path to full self-driving being 10 times safer than the average human driver.”

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