SEC Expanding Tesla and Autopilot Probe to Include Elon Musk: Report

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched a probe into Elon Musk for his role in directing the branding around Tesla’s self-driving car ambitions — reports Bloomberg.

According to the publication, the efforts are part of the regulator’s ongoing investigation into Tesla’s claims surrounding its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) features. SEC officials seek to determine whether Musk may have inappropriately made forward-looking statements pertaining to Tesla’s development of self-driving tech, the publication’s source said.

Tesla’s Autopilot is a suite of advanced driver assistance features comparable to those found in most new vehicles today. However, the company is also working on the FSD Beta, which currently offers Level 2 self-driving, in hopes of eventually unlocking fully autonomous driving and even robotaxis.

Musk was heavily involved in a 2016 video from Tesla that may have exaggerated the self-driving capabilities of the company’s vehicles. The video promised eventual fully autonomous, hands-free driving functionality, which is yet to materialize.

Per internal emails, Musk told Tesla staff in internal emails in 2016 that he “will be telling the world that this is what the car *will* be able to do.” Musk continued, “not that it can do this upon receipt.”

Bloomberg was unable to confirm exactly which of Musk’s statements or activities regarding Autopilot triggered the SEC probe.

Musk has been butting heads with the SEC for years now. The pair are currently embroiled in a trial over the Tesla CEO’s 2018 tweet about having “funding secured” to take the automaker private. While Musk’s comments and actions fall under the SEC’s purview due to the weight they carry under the rules for public companies, products like Autopilot and FSD would typically be outside the watchdog’s wheelhouse.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has two active investigations into Tesla Autopilot — one for how the system behaves in the presence of first responder vehicles, and another for a phantom braking issue.

Tesla’s driver assistance features have also faced probes and criticism from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), with California Governor Gavin Newsom passing a new law last month that bars Tesla from using the “Full Self-Driving” branding in the state.