When US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talked about Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) on Monday, he just had to say something about the carmaker’s name for its driver assistance system.
“I wouldn’t call something ‘Autopilot’ if the manual explicitly says that you have to have your hands on the wheel and the eyes on the road all the time,” the DOT secretary told Bloomberg News in Washington. “That’s not saying anything about the NHTSA scope of investigation, I’m just saying at a common sense level. I think that’s a concern.”
Buttigieg was referring to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency under DOT, and its investigation into how the feature figures into road collisions and some sudden-breaking incidents. The Justice Department has also started a probe into whether the carmaker made misleading statements about what the driver assistance system can actually do.
The feature’s name has also been targeted by legislation in California.
Tesla’s driver assistance system for urban driving, which it calls Full Self-Driving, is also not as its name suggests, self-driving. Like the base Autopilot feature, it still requires the driver to be at full attention, with their hands on the wheel at all times.
On top of the federal probes, the carmaker also has an ongoing lawsuit over a 2018 crash that killed Wei “Walter” Huang. Huang’s Model X had Autopilot engaged when it crashed into a highway barrier in Mountain View, California.
The head of the company’s Autopilot engineering revealed in a deposition for this suit that Tesla’s 2016 Full Self-Driving promotional video was faked. Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared the video, appearing to falsely claim that “Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot.”
In the same interview, Buttigieg also praised the carmaker for its role in advancing the transition to zero-emission vehicles. “They have done undeniably extraordinary work and made the country better off with their acceleration of electric vehicle manufacturing, and provided a template that a lot of their competitors are racing to keep up with,” he said.
Information for this briefing was found via Bloomberg, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.