Tesla settles Autopilot class-action lawsuit with Model S, Model X owners

Tesla Model S and Model X buyers who brought a lawsuit against Telsa had their day in court — and it looks like they’ve won. On Thursday, Tesla agreed to settle with the buyers who said the optional Autopilot driver assistance system was “essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous,” Reuters reported.

Relying on what they claimed was misrepresentation by the company, the buyers spent $5,000 for automated emergency braking, side collision warning, and the Autopilot software. In the lawsuit, the owners said the features were “completely inoperable.”

The settlement agreement refers to the time delay in activating the Autopilot features but does not address the issue of safety raised by the claimants.

In a company statement Tesla said, “Since rolling out our second generation of Autopilot hardware in October 2016, we have continued to provide software updates that have led to a major improvement in Autopilot functionality.” Tesla said it would compensate “all customers globally in the same way,” even though only U.S. customers brought the lawsuit.

The winners won’t get much in financial compensation if the settlement is accepted. According to Reuters, customers in the suit who paid for the Autopilot upgrade during 2016 and 2017 will receive from $20 to $280. Telsa will put $5 million-plus in a fund to compensate the buyers and pay lawyers’ fees.

The customer lawsuit was the “only known court challenge” of Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance suite, the article notes.

The settlement offer is not the final word on the case, however. Filed late Thursday in San Jose federal court, the settlement must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman.

The lawsuit was filed in San Jose, California in 2017 by six Tesla Model S and Model X owners from California, Colorado, Florida, and New Jersey. In filing as a class action, the Tesla buyers wanted to represent a class consisting of all buyers in the United States.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk have said Autopilot use results in 40 percent fewer crashes than humans driving without the driver-assistance system.

There have been only a few fatalities involving Teslas or other cars using self-driving technology, but those that have occurred have drawn scrutiny. Consumers and regulators question whether the technologies are sufficiently advanced at this time for use — or even testing on public roads.

Drivers in some cases have demonstrated too much reliance on the emerging technology, despite warnings from manufacturers that they should to pay attention and keep their hands on the steering wheel to take over when needed.

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