Two senators are calling on the FTC to investigate Tesla’s ‘deceptive and unfair’ claims about Autopilot and Full Self-Driving software

FILE PHOTO - New Autopilot features are demonstrated in a Tesla Model S during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
New Autopilot features are demonstrated in a Tesla Model S during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California
  • Sens. Blumenthal and Markey have asked the FTC to investigate Tesla over its Autopilot claims.
  • The company's self-driving technology has been involved in numerous accidents and fatalities.
  • Musk's statements "demonstrate a deeply concerning disregard for the safety of those on the road," they said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Two US senators have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla for "potentially deceptive and unfair practices" in its marketing of its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems.

In a letter to Chair Lina Kahn on Wednesday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey, democrats who serve on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called Tesla's marketing "misleading" and requested enforcement action to protect public safety.

The letter comes a week after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced an investigation into Tesla's automation systems that regulators say were involved in 11 crashes with vehicles at first-responder sites in recent years.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: A Tesla manufacturing chief turned VC reveals what he looks for in self-driving and mobility startups and founders

No vehicles currently on the market offer fully autonomous driving, and the NHTSA projects there won't be until at least 2025, but the lawmakers note that Tesla's marketing language "fails to provide additional information about the true capabilities of the vehicle."

"Tesla drivers listen to these claims and believe their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves - with potentially deadly consequences," they wrote.

A lawsuit in California names Tesla as a defendant in the matter of a 2019 crash that killed a 15-year-old boy after his father's truck was struck by a Tesla operating in Autopilot mode.

Data from the crash showed the Tesla had its Autopilot feature enabled when it struck the victim's car, ejecting the boy from the vehicle. The data also showed that in the seconds before the crash, the Tesla briefly accelerated before braking.

A website tracking Tesla-involved fatalities attributes at least nine deaths to Teslas operating with Autopilot engaged. Last month, the company released the latest beta version of its Full Self-Driving software, which falls far short of the Level Five standard for full autonomy accepted by the industry.

Videos of Tesla drivers testing the system show the system struggles with basic driving tasks, like staying in a lane or recognizing large stationary objects.

Musk has defended Tesla's use of the names, saying in 2020 that the idea of changing the name - as critics have asked - is ridiculous.

"The people who misuse Autopilot, it's not because they're new to it and don't understand it," he told Automotive News. "The people who first use Autopilot are extremely paranoid about it. It's not like, 'If you just introduced a different name, I would have really treated it differently.' If something goes wrong with Autopilot, it's because someone is misusing it and using it directly contrary to how we've said it should be used."

Still, the lawmakers say it puts the public at real risk.

"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," Blumenthal and Markey wrote. "Their claims put Tesla drivers - and all of the travelling public - at risk of serious injury or death."

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