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Tesla Hit with Class Action Over 'Dangerous' Model S Autopilot Software

Three individuals have filed a proposed class action lawsuit in California against Tesla, Inc. alleging the tech-centric automaker’s much-vaunted autopilot feature ostensibly included with its new Model S vehicles is “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous.” The plaintiffs’ 44-page lawsuit, citing missed deadlines, unavailable features and resulting economic damage and physical danger, contends the Model S Enhanced Autopilot software is not only unsafe, but that Tesla lied to purchasers about the timeline of its rollout to the public.

“Rather than deliver safe and advanced autopilot features, Tesla has delivered software that causes vehicles to behave erratically,” the case claims. “Contrary to what Tesla represented to them, buyers of affected vehicles have become beta testers of half-baked software that renders Tesla vehicles dangerous if engaged.”

The complaint claims Tesla, which does business as Tesla Motors, Inc., promised customers that its autopilot’s “active safety technologies, including collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking” would be available in December 2016 through over-the-air software updates. The plaintiffs—who the complaint says hail from Colorado, Florida and New Jersey—claim that in the months since the December deadline came and went, Tesla has unlawfully been taking orders for its autopilot-included Model S vehicles under undeliverable and misleading promises. What’s more, the autopilot features that have rolled out—“a dangerously defective Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) and a limited front collision warning (with no auto-braking)”—are inadequate and could cause serious injury, the lawsuit alleges.

“The remaining features—which are standard on many cars costing less than half the cost of a new Tesla—are absent,” court documents read.

The complaint notes the three plaintiffs were delivered their Model S vehicles—for which purchase prices ranged from more than $81,000 to more than $113,000— at varying times in December 2016. Each individual claims that despite forking over a $5,000 premium per car for the Enhanced Autopilot, the vehicles arrived on their doorsteps with the feature non-functioning and unsafe to use.

In a statement released Wednesday, Tesla argued the proposed class action was merely a duplicitous cash-grab masquerading as legitimate legal action and that the facts put forth by the lawsuit are totally fabricated. Tesla’s full statement as published by Business Insider can be read below:

"This lawsuit is a disingenuous attempt to secure attorneys’ fees posing as a legitimate legal action, which is evidenced by the fact that the suit misrepresents many facts. Many of the features this suit claims are ‘unavailable’ are in fact available, with more updates coming every month. 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. Furthermore, we have never claimed our vehicles already have functional ‘full self-driving capability’, as our website has stated in plain English for all potential customers that ‘it is not possible to know exactly when each element of the functionality described above will be available, as this is highly dependent on local regulatory approval.’ 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."

Tesla was previously hit with a proposed class action on December 30, 2016 from a Model X owner who claimed a “sudden unintended acceleration event” while the vehicle was in park sent the car through a wall separating his living room from his garage.

The full complaint can be read below.

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