By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – Tesla Inc was sued on Wednesday in a proposed class action accusing Elon Musk’s electric car company of misleading the public by falsely advertising its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features.
The complaint accused Tesla and Musk of having since 2016 deceptively advertised the technology as fully functioning or “just around the corner” despite knowing that the technology did not work or was nonexistent, and made vehicles unsafe.
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.
“Tesla has yet to produce anything even remotely approaching a fully self-driving car,” Matsko said.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco seeks unspecified damages for people who since 2016 bought or leased Tesla vehicles with Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features.
Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It disbanded its media relations department in 2020.
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.
Remedies there could include suspending Tesla’s license in California, and requiring restitution to drivers.
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.”
Matsko, of Rancho Murieta, California, said he paid a $5,000 premium for his 2018 Tesla Model X to obtain Enhanced Autopilot.
He also said Tesla drivers who receive software updates “effectively act as untrained test engineers” and have found “myriad problems,” including that vehicles steer into oncoming traffic, run red lights, and fail to make routine turns.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has since 2016 opened 38 special investigations of Tesla crashes believed to involve ADAS. Nineteen deaths were reported in those crashes.
The case is Matsko v Tesla Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 22-05240.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)