Tesla Inc. was sued by vehicle owners over claims its Autopilot AP2.0 feature is “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous” when engaged.
The suit details “Tesla’s deceptive rollout” of both the Standard Safety Features and its new Enhanced Autopilot, which were touted as safe and “stress-free” for the driver. Consumers report Tesla vehicles equipped with the new Autopilot AP2.0 “behaving as if a drunk driver is at the wheel,” according to the lawsuit, and the suit states that the automaker knew that its software was incapable of upholding its promises to purchasers.
Over-the-air updates were either not delivered, they claim, or degraded performance of their cars’ autopilots compared to the original version. It is said that 50,000 Model S cars are affected by the disputed updates.
The lawsuit, filed Apr. 19, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, states, “Unwittingly, buyers of affected vehicles have become beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous if engaged.”
According to the complaint, Tesla sold about 47,000 affected Model S and Model X vehicles in Q4 2016 and Q1 2017, and damages for each model would include the value of the standard safety features that do not exist in all the affected cars, plus the $5,000 premium cost of the nonfunctional Enhanced Autopilot feature that many customers also purchased
The lawsuit states that Tesla missed deadline after deadline that it gave purchasers. Regarding its Standard Safety Features which include automatic emergency braking, front collision warning, side collision warning and auto high beams, Tesla told consumers these features would be available by December 2016 and “roll out through over-the-air software updates,” but to date, only a dangerously defective Traffic Aware Cruise Control has actually come to fruition, according to the suit. The remaining features simply do not exist.
The lawsuit details accounts of three named plaintiffs who purchased affected Tesla vehicles for prices ranging from about $81,000 to $113,000. In each instance, when purchasers received their vehicles from Tesla, the Standard Safety Features and Enhanced Autopilot were non-functioning, despite Tesla’s website and marketing materials indicating that both features would be available in December 2016.
Tesla responded to the suit, slamming the credibility of the claims being made, stating:
“This lawsuit is a disingenuous attempt to secure attorney’s fees posing as a legitimate legal action, which is evidenced by the fact that the suit misrepresents many facts. Many of the features this suit claims are “unavailable” are in fact available, with more updates coming every month. We have always been transparent about the fact that Enhanced Autopilot software is a product that would roll out incrementally over time, and that features would continue to be introduced as validation is completed, subject to regulatory approval.
Furthermore, we have never claimed our vehicles already have functional “full self-driving capability”, as our website has stated in plain English for all potential customers that “it is not possible to know exactly when each element of the functionality described above will be available, as this is highly dependent on local regulatory approval.” The inaccurate and sensationalistic view of our technology put forth by this group is exactly the kind of misinformation that threatens to harm consumer safety.”