Elon Musk is yet again facing scrutiny from the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), according to a new report from Bloomberg.
This time, the agency is investigating his part in the promotion of autopilot features associated with vehicles produced by Tesla, where he is CEO. In one now infamous example of the questions surrounding those promised features from the manufacturer, a senior engineer at the electric vehicle company said in a deposition in the middle of last year that a video purportedly showing a Tesla vehicle with autopilot engaged stopping at a red light and moving through a green light — basics of driving — was staged. Ashok Elluswamy, the Tesla engineer, testified as part of a lawsuit against the company over a fatal crash involving autopilot capabilities.
There are currently features marketed at Tesla as autopilot capabilities that actually don’t completely run the vehicle if employed, although the prospect of a more expansive role for the autopilot system has been discussed. Previously, Musk explicitly claimed that the disputed footage of a supposed test run showed a Tesla vehicle fully driving itself, although the precise statements now under federal investigation are unclear. According to Bloomberg, which was summarizing revelations from a source, “SEC officials are weighing whether Musk may have inappropriately made forward-looking statements.” The idea was evidently that the talk of supposed autopilot options reflected something that would become available to Tesla drivers, although such hasn’t actually happened to the extent that footage promised, potentially creating a false impression about the so-called autopilot features that have already been made available.
In an internal email at Tesla, Musk specified he would supposedly be informing observers the demonstrated capabilities would be a feature eventually available rather than an option now — but that’s not what he did, at least in some of his statements. “Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot,” Musk posted on Twitter. According to Bloomberg, Musk said in an audio chat on Twitter last month that Tesla vehicles are “upgradeable to autonomy,” which in a literal sense is, again, just not true. Musk’s previous disputes with the SEC include the controversy around his past claims he secured the financial support to take Tesla private at a share price higher than it’s ever actually traded on the market. He paid the SEC a $20 million fine, as concern mounted about the arbitrary impact on investment prices from his claims.