Tesla Stock Plunged More Than 10% After NHTSA Announced Its Autopilot Investigation

By now, Tesla is probably best known for making EVs and having cars that have a semi-autonomous self-driving system. Autopilot, as Tesla calls it, has been one of the more famous and advanced semi-autonomous self-driving systems available on the market right now, but it’s not perfect. In fact, Tesla’s Autopilot is so imperfect that, after the NHTSA announced an investigation into it, Tesla’s stock crashed.

A look at Tesla Autopilot

A Tesla vehicle's driver's display using icons to enable autopilot
A Tesla driver’s display enabling autopilot | Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

While the name of this system might tell customers that their Tesla can truly drive themselves, that’s simply not true. In terms of self-driving technology, there are six levels at play, and they range from Level 0 to Level 5. At Level 5, the car can genuinely drive itself, but Tesla is only at Level 2. Most vehicles with a similar tech to Autopilot are also at Level 2. 

Tesla’s Autopilot uses sensors and cameras in the car to see what’s around it. After setting a speed limit, a Tesla will try to keep itself at that speed while using its other smart systems to brake or change lanes. However, none of these features are perfect, and there have been quite a few accidents involving owners who thought that Autopilot was perfect.

As such, Tesla still advises that drivers stay alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel. That said, this advice hasn’t stopped the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, from investigating Autopilot. From the looks of the stock market, it seemed like this investigation may have scared a few people. 

A short slump, but a quick rally back

According to Business Insider, after the NHTSA announced its investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot, Tesla’s stock price plunged by more than 10%. The NHTSA started this investigation because it had identified 11 instances involving a Tesla crashing into a parked first responder vehicle. However, despite this fast plunge, Goldman Sachs didn’t put too much stock into it. 

This is because, according to Business Insider, past safety investigations can take a long time to resolve. Furthermore, if the NHTSA does find an issue with Autopilot, it’s possible that Tesla could fix it quite quickly. This is because Tesla has access to over-the-air updates, which allows Tesla to update cars as easily as people update their phones.  

As such, Goldman Sachs, according to Business Insider, is still recommending that people buy Tesla stocks. Unsurprisingly, despite this investigation, Tesla’s stock prices have since recovered. It fell to a low of about $665 a share on Aug. 17th. However, currently, Tesla’s stock is valued at well over $700 and is closing in on $800 again. Despite this recovery, the NHTSA’s investigation is still ongoing, and it remains to be seen what it finds.

The goal of the NHTSA’s Autopilot investigation

One of the main reasons this investigation is still important is how broad it is and how dangerous it’s been. According to Investopedia, the NHTSA started its investigation on Aug. 16th, and it’s looking at almost every Tesla built between 2014 and 2021. Business Insider said that this amounts to over 760,000 Teslas under investigation.

The 11 incidents that the NHTSA identified were deadly, too. Investopedia reported that those crashes injured 17 people, and one was killed. These accidents all happened at night, and they all involved Teslas with Autopilot hitting first responder vehicles despite a lot of “scene control measures” in use. Due to that, the NHTSA will be looking at the technology used in Autopilot and the other circumstances in those accidents.

RELATED: Lawsuit: Tesla’s Under More Fire After Another Autopilot Accident With the Model X