The chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said concerns raised by lawmakers regarding Tesla Inc’s driver assistance framework known as Autopilot are “on our radar.” Following agency policy, FTC Chair Lina Khan, talking in an interview on Tuesday, wouldn’t affirm nor deny a test. Tesla, which disbanded its press department, didn’t answer a solicitation for input.
An FTC investigation could potentially lead to a lawsuit seeking to force the company to change how it describes Autopilot’s capabilities. That might damage Tesla’s reputation.
“It’s absolutely true that, you know, this is a issue on which many members of Congress have focused and written to us about, so it’s certainly something that’s on our radar,” Khan said.
NHTSA has opened special investigations into 35 crashes since 2016 involving Tesla vehicles in which advanced driver assistance systems like Autopilot were suspected of being in use. To date, 14 deaths have been reported in those incidents, including three who were killed in a California crash last month.
Two U.S. consumer advocacy groups in 2018 also urged the FTC to investigate Tesla’s naming of Autopilot. The FTC previously declined comment on NHTSA’s referral and has taken no public action on it.
In a 2018 letter, NHTSA said Tesla had made “misleading statements” about the Tesla Model 3 five-star safety rating and associated data. The agency referred the issue to the FTC to investigate whether Tesla’s claims constituted “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
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