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Good news, bad news for Tesla

Everywhere you look on Los Angeles TV stations, there are commercials touting sleek and fashionable electric vehicles. According to Car and Driver magazine, there are now 19 EVs being sold in the U.S., which doesn’t even count the many available hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

The publication’s list of the 12 best-selling EVs includes the stylish Porsche Taycan at number 9, with 5,367 units sold in the first quarter of the year. The much cheaper (at $32,620, nearly $50,000 less than the Taycan) and more utilitarian Nissan Leaf at 5, with 7,729 units sold in the first quarter.

The top two best-selling vehicles are both from Tesla: its Model 3 (more than 51,000 sold) and Model Y (76,429 sold in the first quarter) far outpaced the competition.

Tesla investigation launched

While that’s great news for the California-based company, there’s also a sobering announcement for CEO Elon Tusk to consider: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot assisted-driving technology that can steer, brake and accelerate on its own. There have been 11 crashes of Teslas on Autopilot slamming into parked police cars, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.

The crashes resulted in one death and 17 injuries, the NHTSA says.

There is grim irony in the collisions: the Autopilot tech is supposed to reduce the odds of motor vehicle crashes.

Calls for a second investigation

A day after the NHTSA investigation was announced, two U.S. senators asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Tesla’s marketing of its Autopilot and Full-Self Driving features.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey asked the FTC to look into Tesla’s “potentially deceptive and unfair practices” advertising those technologies.

In a letter, the senators said they “fear that Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD features are not as mature and reliable as the company pitches to the public,” adding that Tesla owners hear Musk touting the features and read the company’s sales pitches on the Tesla site and they come away “(believing) their vehicles are equipped to drive themselves — with potentially deadly consequences.”

Dangerous name game

Even the names of the software – Autopilot and Full Self-Driving – imply that the features are fully autonomous when they are not.

The senators believe the “repeated and overstated claims” of the company and its quotable CEO give Tesla drivers a false sense of security using the technologies that puts them “and all of the traveling public — at risk of serious injury or death.”