Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist feature is not only flawed, but causes cars to steer erratically when it is engaged, according to a class-action lawsuit that has been filed on behalf of three Tesla owners. According to a USA Today news report, the lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Jose seeking class-action status. Tesla has dismissed the lawsuit as a “disingenuous attempt to secure attorney’s fees posing as a legitimate legal action.” Tesla also said in a statement that the lawsuit misrepresents many facets of its systems.
The Case Against Autopilot
The lawsuit alleges that Autopilot and other safety systems have simply not lived up to what they were marketed to be. It says owners were told systems, such as automatic braking and collision avoidance, were going to be flashed to cars through over-the-air updates by December, but the updates did not come as planned. Instead of this cutting-edge technology, vehicle owners say they were given a “dangerously defective” Traffic Aware Cruise Control system and limited front collision warning that lacks the automatic braking function.
Plaintiffs say they also found that the Autopilot did not work in the way that Tesla promoted it. One owner said the Autopilot in his Model S sedan operated in an unpredictable manner, sometimes veering out of lanes, lurching, suddenly slamming on the brakes for no reason and failing to stop or slow down when approaching other vehicles or obstacles. Tesla in its defense has said that it has made vehicle owners fully aware that the Autopilot system is “evolving.”
Fatal Crash Involving Autopilot
Tesla’s Autopilot technology came under harsh scrutiny after a May 2016 fatal car accident in Florida where the vehicle owner was killed after a big rig made a turn in front of the car. The car, which was traveling at about 80 mph at the time, failed to recognize the turning big rig and collided. After that crash, Tesla warned owners that the Autopilot is merely a driver-assist feature and not a fully driverless feature.
So, they cautioned, drivers must be ready to take over from Autopilot at a moment’s notice and must keep their hands at the wheel at all times. Consumer Reports criticized Tesla for its explanation saying that the name “Autopilot” should be removed because it misleads consumers and gives drivers a false sense of security and giving them the idea that they can take their hands off the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated the Autopilot feature after that fatal crash, but determined that it was not at fault.
Are We Ready for Driverless Cars?
The question here is: How safe are autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles? Are they ready for primetime? Or should automakers and other developers of this technology be required to remove these vehicles from the market until they are fully developed. As auto defect attorneys, we are deeply concerned about the safety of those who travel in these vehicles and others who may be endangered by erratic vehicles.
If you were injured in a car accident, our Sacramento auto accident lawyers at the Demas Law Group P.C., can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Call us at (916) 444-0100 for a free consultation.