Tesla Agrees to Settle Class Action Suit Over 'Essentially Unusable' Autopilot Feature

By AJ Dellinger on at

Telsa agreed this week to a settlement in a class action lawsuit filed against the company by buyers of Tesla vehicles who alleged the company semi-autonomous, assisted driving feature was “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous.”

The terms of the agreement, which have yet to be approved by US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, will require Tesla to place more than $5 million (£3.7 million) into a settlement fund. The fund will provide Model S and Model X owners with compensation for the faulty feature, according to Reuters.

As with most class action suits, the agreement won’t pay out a whole lot to the actual members of the class. Reuters reported Tesla owners bought or leased cars with Enhanced Autopilot between October 2016 and September 2017 will be eligible receive between $20 (£15) and $280 (£210) in compensation — a small fraction of the $5,000 (£3,700) they paid for a feature that was “completely inoperable,” per the complaint.

When the class action suit was first filed back in April 2017, Tesla vigorously fought back against the charges, calling them “disingenuous,” “inaccurate,” and “sensationalist.” The company seems to have changed its tune since then, calling the settlement an attempt to “do right by those customers” in a statement to The Verge.

The company stated it has made “major improvement in Autopilot functionality” since rolling out the second generation of the feature in 2016 but acknowledged it “became clear that it was taking us longer to roll out these features than we would have liked or initially expected.”

While the Autopilot class action suit applies only to Tesla customers in the United States, the company said if the settlement is approved, it will extend the compensation plan to “all customers globally in the same way.”

Autopilot has been one of Tesla’s signature features, a calling card that the company has played up considerably. The company has claimed the feature can reduce crash rates by 40 per cent—a statistic that has been challenged recently. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stated “the probability of an accident with autopilot is just less.” Consumer advocacy groups have started pushing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla for “deceptive and unfair” practices while marketing Autopilot.

Despite lofty claims and promises of new features, Tesla has failed to deliver on much of the promise of Autopilot. The feature has at times gone months without updates and has come under fire recently for potentially playing a role in accidents, including being active during at least two crashes that resulted in the death of the drivers.

Telsa has recently made promises to improve upon Autopilot. On Twitter, Musk admitted that Autopilot “certainly needs to be better” and said the company works “to improve it every day.” The CEO also committed to releasing quarterly safety updates for the feature during Telsa’s most recent earnings call. [Reuters, The Verge]


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