Tesla Model 3 dashboard in Autopilot testing with IIHS [CREDIT: IIHS]
Another Tesla owner whose car crashed while Autopilot was engaged has sued the automaker claiming false advertising
In September, a woman whose Tesla crashed into the back of a stationary fire truck at speed while driving on Autopilot in Utah sued the automaker with similar claims.
On Tuesday, Florida resident Shawn Hudson sued Tesla after his Tesla Model S crashed into the back of a Ford Fiesta that had been left in the middle of a traffic lane on the Florida Turnpike, according to a report in ArsTechnica.
"Through a pervasive national marketing campaign and a purposefully manipulative sales pitch, Tesla has duped consumers ... into believing that the Autopilot system it offers with Tesla vehicles at additional cost transport passengers at highway speeds with minimal input and oversight," the lawsuit claims.
Hudson reportedly bought the Model S because it has Autopilot, which he planned to use on his two-hour daily commute to work at a car dealership.
When he visited a Tesla store to learn about the system, "Tesla's sales representative reassured Hudson that all he needed to do as the driver of the vehicle is to occasionally place his hand on the steering wheel and that the vehicle would 'do everything else,'" the lawsuit claims.
That claim is similar to the one that Utah owner Heather Lommatzsch made in her September suit against the company. After that suit was announced, her attorney, Jeffery Metler, told ABC News, "They put out a message that’s not consistent. That leaves the public relying on the safety of the cars but I don’t think the technology is to the point that people can safely rely on it."
Consumer Reports tests Tesla Model 3 braking [CREDIT: Consumer Reports]
Both suits point out a banner headline on the Autopilot page of Tesla's website proclaiming; "Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Cars," followed by the explanation, "All Tesla vehicles produced in our factory ... have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver." It also features a video of a driver sitting with his hands in his lap while the car is driving.
Independent data has been unable to confirm whether Autopilot is any safer than human drivers.
Experts say such systems are not designed to react to stationary objects at high speed, which has resulted in at least three of the accidents involving Autopilot.
When the IIHS tested such systems earlier this year, it concluded that adaptive driver assistance systems such as Autopilot do not constitute self-driving systems.
Even the owner's manual of the Model S says that, while Autopilot can be engaged at speeds above 50 mph, the system has difficulty identifying stationary objects including stopped cars," alleges Hudson's attorney, Mike Morgan.
Tesla has issued a statement in response to Autopilot accidents, saying that it makes Autopilot's capabilities and limitations clear to owners and drivers:
"When using Autopilot, it is the driver’s responsibility to remain attentive to their surroundings and in control of the vehicle at all times. Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, and Tesla goes to great lengths to provide clear instructions about what Autopilot is and is not, including by offering driver instructions when owners test drive and take delivery of their car, before drivers enable Autopilot and every single time they use Autopilot, as well as through the Owner’s Manual and Release Notes for software updates."
Following several of the accidents, Tesla has issued statements blaming drivers for not following its warnings and using its data logs to show how long the driver had waited to touch the steering wheel before the accident. In several cases the time was over a minute. Expert studies have shown that accident rates rise dramatically if the driver's eyes leave the road for more than two seconds and that that adaptive driving assistance features such as lane assistance (included with Autopilot) actually increase the rate of accidents and near misses for drivers using cell phones.