Tesla is sued over Autopilot and Elon Musk’s self-driving predictions

Illustration depicting several red Tesla sedans on a black background.
Artwork by Alex Castro/MovieBeat

A lawsuit filed in San Francisco by a Tesla owner claims the automaker and its CEO/Technoking Elon Musk are “deceptively and deceptively” marketing the advanced driver assistance features Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” that are available as paid add-ons (via automotive news).

The filing claims that Tesla and Musk “deceived and misled consumers regarding the current capabilities of its ADAS [advanced driver-assistance system] technology and representing that it was perpetually on the verge of perfecting this technology and finally delivering on its promise to produce a fully self-driving car”, and that “contrary to Tesla’s repeated promises that it would have a fully self-driving car within months or a year, Tesla was never close to achieving that goal.

The plaintiff, Briggs Matsko, says he spent $5,000 on the package in 2018, like many Tesla drivers who paid thousands of dollars for the upgraded Autopilot. This was sold as a precursor to “Full Self-Driving” technology, a $15,000 add-on software that is still not ready to ship. Matsko is seeking class action status for the lawsuit, while the company is already facing another class action lawsuit targeting “phantom braking incidents” that have plagued Teslas’ adaptive cruise control features for years.

The lawsuit calls out Tesla’s feature terminology, including the name “autopilot,” as well as Elon Musk’s public statements and tweets regarding the perpetually unfinished fully autonomous driving system. He specifically mentions Musk’s claim that self-driving cross-country travel in the United States will be made by 2018, and his 2019 claims of putting a million robotaxis on the road, saying, ” In a year, we’ll have over a million cars with full self-driving, software…everything.

The road trip was eventually put on hold indefinitely, with Musk admitting he would need a specialized route to work and saying he preferred the Autopilot team to focus on safety features. Robotaxis have not become a reality.

As for Full Self-Driving, the lawsuit supports its fraud allegations using this 2016 video released by Tesla – and still featured on its website – apparently demonstrating a Model X leaving a garage, driving through a city, dropping off the “driver” , then automatically find a parallel parking space to pull into. Apparently, ex-Tesla engineers who were there for the production of the video claimed that the car used a pre-mapped, 3D-mapped route – a technology not built into any production Teslas.

The lawsuit also shows that not only is full self-driving and autopilot flawed, but also dangerous. It points to incidents like the 2018 accident where a Model X on autopilot crashed into a concrete barrier in California, killing the driver, or another where a Tesla on autopilot crashed into the back of a stopped fire truck, prompting a federal investigation.

Matsko’s lawsuit says he is seeking “an injunction prohibiting Tesla from continuing its deceptive and misleading marketing of its ADAS technology, the return of the money plaintiff and class members paid for the technology that Tesla promised but never delivered, and all available damages, including punitive damages to punish Tesla for years of using misleading and misleading marketing to ultimately establish itself as a dominant player in the electric vehicle market.

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