Consumers who buy a new car these days expect to have all the latest technology at their fingertips, and things can get messy when automakers don’t follow through on their promises. That seems to be the case with Tesla, which is facing a class action lawsuit after buyers of its vehicles said that the Enhanced Autopilot AP 2.0 software and Standard Safety Features weren't working.
The class says this loss of functionality could be dangerous if a driver isn’t aware of the issue and relies on the features.
“Unwittingly, buyers of affected vehicles have become beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous if engaged,” the lawsuit says.
Failing to deliver
Class members paid up to $5,000 to have the features included in the vehicle they bought. Enhanced Autopilot AP 2.0 was touted as a “safe” and “stress-free” tool for drivers, but owners say that it has made driving more dangerous.
Further, the lawsuit states that Tesla has failed to follow through on its promises regarding Standard Safety Features, which include things like automatic emergency braking, front collision warning, side collision warning, and auto high beams. The company allegedly told consumers that the updates would be available by the end of last year, but the plaintiffs say most have yet to be released.
“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. . . Tesla sold these vehicles as the safest sedan on the road. What consumers received were cards 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,” said attorney Steve Berman, who is representing the plaintiffs.
"Smoke and mirrors"
The complaint provides accounts from consumers who claim that their vehicles acted erratically. One consumer describes two extreme cases on opposite ends of the spectrum.
“[You] can be sailing along at 50 mph and the radar spots [an approaching] bridge and immediately slams on the brakes. . . The other extreme is that you approach a stoplight with a car already stopped, and the Tesla doesn’t apply the brakes at all. It’s really a pretty scary experience,” the driver said.
“When consumers received these pricy vehicles, it became clear that Tesla’s marketing was all smoke and mirrors. And Tesla knew when it made these promises that it didn’t have the capabilities to follow through on its deal. It knowingly deceived tens of thousands who put their faith in these cars and in Tesla,” Berman added.
The complaint estimates that approximately 47,000 affected Model S and Model X vehicles were sold in the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. The suit seeks to reclaim economic losses for plaintiffs who paid a premium price for the Standard Safety Features or the Enhanced Autopilot. The class is being represented by consumer-rights class-action law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.
Editor's note: This story is about a class-action lawsuit. If you are among the class of consumers described in the suit, you may eventually be eligible to participate in whatever compensation the court awards, if any. Unlike what many people think, you do not "join" a class action -- you are either in the class covered by the action or you are not.
Often, consumers included in an award do not need to take any action, as the defendant is required to contact them directly. In other cases, the court and the attorneys who brought the case will issue instructions when the case is settled.
Please see our Class Action Guide for more information.