Elon Musk's Tesla sued over ‘misleading’ Autopilot advertising

A class action suit has accused carmaker Tesla and Musk of deceptively advertising its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features as fully functioning or "just around the corner" when this was not the case.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco by a Tesla owner claims the automaker has been “deceptively and misleadingly” marketing the Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” advanced driver assistance features since 2016. 

Briggs Matsko, the named plaintiff, said Tesla did this to "generate excitement" about its vehicles, attract investments, boost sales, avoid bankruptcy, drive up its stock price and become a "dominant player" in electric vehicles, despite knowing that the technology was not yet there. 

"Tesla has yet to produce anything even remotely approaching a fully self-driving car," Matsko said.

Matsko reportedly spent $5,000 for the Enhanced Autopilot package in 2018, which was sold as a precursor to “Full Self-Driving” tech, a  $15,000 software add-on package that is still not ready to ship. 

Tesla has said Autopilot enables vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes, while Full Self-Driving lets vehicles obey traffic signals and change lanes. It has also said both technologies "require active driver supervision," with a "fully attentive" driver whose hands are on the wheel, "and do not make the vehicle autonomous."

The lawsuit filed quotes Tesla’s features terminology, including the name “Autopilot,” as well as Elon Musk’s public statements and tweets regarding the Full Self-Driving system, such as his 2019 claims about putting one million robotaxis on the road, saying, “A year from now, we’ll have over a million cars with full self-driving, software... everything.”

The filing also makes a reference to a 2016 video released by Tesla and still featured on its website, which seems to show a Model X leaving a garage, driving through a city, dropping off the “driver,” and then automatically finding a parallel parking spot to wedge itself into. 

The plaintiff seeks unspecified damages for people who since 2016 bought or leased Tesla vehicles with Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features, making the case that the advertising is not only misleading but also dangerous. 

The lawsuit followed complaints filed on July 28 by California's Department of Motor Vehicles accusing Tesla of overstating how well its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) worked. Since 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened 38 special investigations of Tesla crashes believed to involve ADAS, which have led to nineteen deaths. 

Last month, Musk has said he wants self-driving technology to be ready by the end of this year, with a wide release in the US and Europe dependent on regulatory approval, despite the concerns of safety experts. 

Despite the safety concerns surrounding autonomous driving systems, many governments around the world have gone ahead with approvals for tests of ADAS systems, or even driverless cars and buses. The UK itself has begun testing the first fully-autonomous bus in Scotland and approved legislation to avoid drivers of autonomous vehicles being considered responsible for crashes.  

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