Is driverless technology as safe as Tesla claims?

Since the introduction of their self-driving vehicles, Tesla has been hit with bad publicity over supposed shortcomings in their driverless technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently completed a review of a Florida accident that killed a Model S owner. The investigation focused on Autopilot technology introduced in 2015 for cars to maintain a set speed and course on a highway and make automatic lane changes.

This past January, U.S. regulators concluded that no specific defect existed, in spite of its failure to recognize a truck crossing in front of the car. Still, the damage was done. Tesla was looking forward to change the narrative by releasing their first, widely affordable electric car.

However, a lawsuit by three of their customers serves as a haunting reminder of Autopilot’s growing pains. An attorney for the plaintiffs filed the complaint on April 19 in U.S. District Court alleging that the company knowingly sold them vehicles with Enhanced Autopilot technology that was not only unusable, but also lacked standard safety features.

At an extra charge of $5,000 that increased prices to between $81,000 and $113,000, buyers served as beta testers. However, they claim that the technology being tested was substandard and made the vehicle dangerous once engaged. Software enhancements introduced in 2016 were intended to:

  • Transition from one freeway to the other
  • Exit the freeway as the car neared the destination
  • Self-parked when near a parking spot
  • Summoned to and from the driver’s garage

According to the car owners, those software updates have yet to be fully activated while others do not work properly. In addition, automated collision avoidance, automatic emergency braking systems and other “Standard Safety Features” scheduled to be transferred via wireless updates have either not arrived or contained defects.

The owners want Tesla to buy back their vehicles, including a full refund for costs associated with software classes, return of the Autopilot premium charge, restitution for unused service packages, and punitive damages.

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Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne is an accomplished lawyer who practices in state and federal courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. He brings more than 30 years of experience and a long record of success to each case. His law practice is distinguished by careful preparation and thorough analysis of each case...

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