Tesla could face a criminal trial over alleged misleading claims its electric vehicles have self-driving features.

The Justice Department is carrying out an investigation after multiple accidents which could lead to a criminal trial.

Sources told Bloomberg some incidents were fatal and involved Tesla’s driver assistance system Autopilot, which was enabled during the crashes.

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Tesla has been scrutinized by US regulators for the safety of its automatic driving capabilities and in February, the company could face its first jury trial over a driver fatality blamed on Autopilot.

The feature has been investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US.

It has asked the firm to clarify how it monitors and enforces driver participation and alertness, including the use of in-car cameras.

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The Justice Department’s criminal investigation is still underway and may not result in charges being filed.

A source said the criminal inquiry into Autopilot claims isn’t the only active Justice Department probe into Tesla or its executives.

Meanwhile, the feature has become a significant element of the company’s marketing materials and a boon to campaigns to attract customers. 

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Elon Musk told a Tesla owners club in June that achieving full self-driving technology is “really the difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money and being worth basically zero.”

In addition to the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into Tesla’s statements about its Autopilot technology.

SEC investigations can result in fines for companies or individuals accused of infringing the agency’s rules.

Neither the regulator nor Tesla representatives responded to requests for comments on the probe. 

Source: Bloomberg

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