Tesla’s autopilot system is being investigated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration following a fatal crash in California that killed three passengers this month. It is the 35th accident the agency has investigated since 2016 related to Tesla's Autopilot feature, according to Reuters. Those accidents have resulted in a total of 14 deaths.
It is unclear whether Autopilot was in use during the crash in California, and earlier investigations have ruled out the use of Autopilot in three of the 35 investigations the agency has undertaken.
But the NHTSA isn't the only one taking a harder look at Tesla's Autopilot promises. Senators have also called on the FTC to investigate Tesla's statements with regard to Autopilot.
One big issue is the way Tesla has promised “full self-driving capabilities.” Last September, Jennifer Homendy, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, described the use of such language in advertising as "misleading and irresponsible" and prone to abuse by drivers. In a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan last year, Democratic senators made much the same case, writing, "Their claims put Tesla drivers — and all of the traveling public — at risk of serious injury or death."
When in Autopilot mode, Tesla says the car can suggest lane changes and steer itself in “tighter, more complex roads.” The company warns that Autopilot does "require active driver supervision" and says that the feature does not "make the vehicle autonomous."
The investigations are yet another burden for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose company has also faced mounting recalls over everything from Tesla vehicles' rolling stop feature to concerns about windshield defrosting. That's in addition to Tesla's falling stock price in the wake of Musk's bid to takeover Twitter.