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Tesla faces criminal probe on eve of Musk’s Twitter buyout: Report

A person is in a car, looking down at a smartphone, with eyes partially closed.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk uses his mobile device as he sits in a Tesla car. | Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images | Source: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk’s Tesla is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over the carmaker’s claims that its vehicles can drive themselves, according to a report. 

The Justice Department launched the probe last year after Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance technology was involved in a number of crashes, some of which were fatal, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Sources said that prosecutors in San Francisco and Washington are looking into whether Tesla misled consumers, investors and regulators by making false claims about the capabilities of its driver assistance technology. 

The Justice Department probe is one of a few investigations and legal issues involving Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk.

In August 2021, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into a series of crashes that involved Tesla’s Autopilot technology. Regulators stepped up the probe in June, identifying 16 crashes and 830,000 Teslas with Autopilot technology. 

In July, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accused Tesla of misrepresenting the capabilities of both Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, a software add-on. Echoing those claims, a group of Tesla customers filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of California alleging that the carmaker deceived them in its claims about its technology. 

Meanwhile, Musk’s drama-laden deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion is expected to close this week.

That buyout deal will place Musk, both a heavy user of Twitter and a frequent critic of the social media platform, in charge of the San Francisco-based company. 

Should the deal close, Musk is expected to slash Twitter’s staff by around 75% in an effort to boost its profitability. 

Annie Gaus can be reached at