Tesla Lawsuit Settled Over “Essentially Unusable” Features

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A lawsuit that argued the Tesla website misrepresented claims of “safer” highway driving capabilities due to its Autopilot feature has been settled with 6 Model S and Model X owners. These owners, who claimed the Autopilot feature was “dangerous” and “essentially unusable,” had opted to have their cars equipped with the Autopilot software, which included automated emergency braking and side collision warning. They found, however, that features of the 2016/ 2017 Autopilot upgrade were “completely inoperable,” according to the complaint.

Tesla lawsuit

Tesla will pay the members of the class action lawsuit between $20 and $280 in compensation and has designated more than $5 million into a settlement fund, which will also cover attorney fees, according to Reuters. The plaintiffs paid $5,000 each to have Autopilot installed in their Teslas.

The 2017 lawsuit named 6 Tesla Model S and Model X owners from Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, and California. These individuals alleged the company had engaged in fraud by concealment and had also violated various state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.

The San Jose federal court filing on Thursday, May 24, 2018 doesn’t cover any claims about the safety of Autopilot. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that Tesla has experienced delays in its attempts to address these Autopilot issues.

Even though the San Jose settlement only covers US customers, Tesla said it would compensate “all customers globally in the same way.” The case interests many in the automotive and legal communities, as it is the sole instance to date in which the Autopilot technology has been put before the courts.

Tesla Lawsuit: Backdrop to Multiple Concerns

Tesla continues to experience some degree of public backlash about its Autopilot. Though, it’s unclear how much comes from actual Tesla owners versus Tesla critics. The Federal Trade Commission recently received complaints from two watchdog groups that contend that the “Autopilot” wording of Tesla’s automated driving system is deceptive and potentially dangerous. Earlier this month, a Tesla Model S crashed into the back of a fire department vehicle at a red light in South Jordan, Utah. The driver sustained a broken ankle and the Model S was destroyed. In early spring, a fatality occurred in California when a Tesla Model X with the Autopilot engaged hit a concrete median without its steel safety guard. Other previous crashes involving the Autopilot have been investigated. In each case, Tesla has been found to not be at fault, but the company still receives an enormous amount of press and criticism for each incident.

Tesla lawsuit
Photo courtesy South Jordan, UT PD

The media frenzy around Tesla crashes in which the Autopilot was activated have prompted the all-electric car company to begin reporting its Autopilot crash statistics publicly, with the aim being to show the world that Autopilot makes driving safer. With quarterly updates, the reporting has the potential to alter people’s perceptions of automated driving systems and could prompt other automakers with self-driving cars to be equally transparent.

“Since rolling out our second generation of Autopilot hardware in October 2016, we have continued to provide software updates that have led to a major improvement in Autopilot functionality,” the company outlined.

Tesla’s Autopilot allows for adaptive cruise control and lane keeping. It can automatically change lanes without requiring any driver input beyond putting on the turn signal. It can transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when the destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot, and be summoned to and from a garage.

Tesla continues to stand by its claim that all of its vehicles “have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”


Where Tesla Autopilot Truly Shines

Tesla Autopilot Review — 2 Months Later

1st Real Drive With Tesla Autopilot (Including A Few “Warning Shots”)

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

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