Technology Tesla Customers Sue Over 'Dangerous' And Non-Functioning Autopilot Software

08:26  21 april  2017
08:26  21 april  2017 Source:   Forbes

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Tesla Customers Sue Over ' Dangerous ' And Non - Functioning Autopilot Software . {{article.article.images.featured.caption}}.

“We have always been transparent about the fact that Enhanced Autopilot software is a product that would roll out incrementally over time The three customers suing Tesla , who paid between ,000 and 3,000 for their vehicles, had been told the functionality would be ready by December 2016.

A decal advertising Tesla's Autopilot feature on a window of a company showroom in London. © A decal advertising Tesla’s Autopilot feature on a window of a company showroom in London. A decal advertising Tesla's Autopilot feature on a window of a company showroom in London. As Tesla gears up to roll out its first widely affordable electric car, disgruntled Tesla owners who say the company let them down by selling vehicles with a semi-autonomous driving system that isn’t functional and creates safety issues are suing Elon Musk’s unconventional automaker. Tesla called the lawsuit “disingenuous.”

The complaint filed on April 19 in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, by three Tesla owners says the company knowingly sold them vehicles with “Enhanced Autopilot” technology that can’t be used and that lacked standard safety features. In all, about 47,000 vehicles were built and sold in the fourth quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017 in that condition, according to the complaint.

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Buyers, who paid a $5,000 premium over the standard vehicle price, became “beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous if engaged,” according to the complaint, filed on behalf of three customers by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro. Recent software updates that were part of Tesla’s AP2.0 resulted in cars “behaving as if a drunk driver is at the wheel” when Autopilot is engaged, the suit said, citing a customer report.

Tesla dismissed the lawsuit as 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.” Some features mentioned in the suit as unavailable have been released and more updates are arriving every month, the company said in a statement.

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“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,” Tesla said. “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.”

When first introduced in 2015, Autopilot allowed cars to maintain a set speed and course on the highway and even make lane changes automatically. In October 2016 Tesla said it would upgrade Autopilot with enhancements including the ability for a car to “transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when your destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot and be summoned to and from your garage,” according to Tesla’s website.

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Drivers have "become beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous The company constantly improves the features via over -the-air software updates that are automatically rolled out to customers . Tesla 's Autopilot technology came under fire last year when a

Those features haven’t been fully activated and others no longer work properly, according to the complaint. The three customers suing Tesla, who paid between $81,000 and $113,000 for their vehicles, had been told the functionality would be ready by December 2016. Likewise, “Standard Safety Features,” including automated collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking systems that were to be available in December 2016 through wireless updates either haven’t arrived yet or have defects, according to the suit.

“Tesla has endangered the lives of tens of thousands of Tesla owners across the country, and induced them to pay many thousands of dollars for a product that Tesla has not effectively designed,” Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, which represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Tesla sold these vehicles as the safest sedan on the road. What consumers received were cars without standard safety enhancements featured by cars costing less than half the price of a new Tesla, and a purported ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ that operates in an erratic and dangerous manner.”

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Along with Autopilot upgrades, Musk also vowed that Teslas sold with a new hardware suite of cameras, sensors, sonar and new computing power, would eventually gain true self-driving capability through over-the-air software updates. The timing for when that will happen remains unclear, though he has said that Model S sedans Model X crossovers built since late last year already have the proper hardware to support that capability.

Enhanced Autopilot visualization © Enhanced Autopilot visualization Enhanced Autopilot visualization The owners suing Tesla want the company to buy back their vehicles, “including a full refund for the software putative class members purchased; return of the premium paid for the Enhanced Autopilot, if purchased, over the cost of the same model without Enhanced Autopilot; restitution for purchase of service packages that will go unused as to cars bought back,” as well “punitive damages for Tesla’s knowing fraud that garnered it illicit profits for a product suite that does not exist and put drivers at risk.”

For months, Tesla CEO Musk has taken to Twitter to answer questions about the timing of Autopilot updates, such as an exchange on March 12 about planned enhancements.

Tesla will announce quarterly results on May 3, and is preparing to have its Model 3 sedan, priced from $35,000, into production later this year. Nearly 400,000 people are waiting to take delivery of one of the new vehicles, and a successful launch and production ramp-up is critical to Tesla’s hopes of becoming a true mass-market automaker. Investor support for the company has been so strong that Tesla this month passed General Motors to become the most valuable U.S. automaker, based on its share price. As of April 19, Tesla’s market value was $49.6 billion compared with $50.3 billion for GM.

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In January, U.S., regulators concluded a review of a Florida accident that killed a Tesla owner who was using Autopilot at the time of the crash. The investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined there was no specific defect in the Autopilot system, despite its failure to recognize a truck that crossed in front of the driver’s Model S.

Tesla Settles Aurora Lawsuit

In a separate development, Tesla confirmed the settlement of a lawsuit it filed against Sterling Anderson, the former head of its Autopilot program, Chris Urmson, the former head of Google’s Self-Driving Car project, and their company Aurora Innovation.

Tesla had claimed Aurora was inappropriately recruiting members of its team and that Anderson had proprietary Tesla information, that Tesla didn’t detail. Aurora had said the suit was meritless.

As part of the settlement, “Anderson’s contractual obligations to Tesla will remain in place and will also be extended to Aurora, with additional specific protections being added to ensure there are no further violations,” Tesla said. It also creates a process for Tesla to recover proprietary information it believes was taken from the company and for Aurora’s computer systems “to be subject to ongoing audits to monitor for any improper retention or use of Tesla’s property,” although it is unclear what if anything was taken. Aurora also agreed to pay $100,000 to Tesla as part of the settlement.

Anderson, in a Medium.com post, said “no material Tesla confidential information exists on our personal computers or company systems” and that “there is no evidence that anyone at Aurora has used or has access to Tesla confidential information.”

“Today, less than three months after filing (and even before we were permitted to file a response) Tesla has withdrawn its claims, without damages, without attorney’s fees, and without any finding of wrongdoing,” Anderson said. “We have even agreed to reimburse the cost of a future audit to demonstrate the integrity of Aurora’s intellectual property.”

The suit had been filed in the California Superior Court of Santa Clara County.

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