Tesla lawsuits mount up as drivers claim against faulty autonomous tech

Published: November 2, 2018

Updated: November 30, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The dangers present in the infancy of autonomous vehicle technology has been highlighted again. A Florida man claims the autopilot on his Tesla failed to see a disabled car on a highway and caused a collision. The result was permanent injuries for the Tesla owner and a lawsuit filed against the carmaker on Tuesday.

Shawn Hudson filed a lawsuit in the state court in Orlando, saying Tesla was misleading in the competency of the autopilot safety on his Tesla Model S. This case follows a similar lawsuit files against the company in Utah.

It raises another question about autonomous vehicles. Over the next few decades, many predict autonomous vehicles will be in complete control of vehicle operations. As drivers transition to occupants, many problems face the technology.

Insurers are debating liability for driverless vehicles, while the viability of the technology will be questioned after every injury of fatality occurring in driverless cars. Recent cases also highlight how vehicle owners may seek compensation directly from manufacturers of in-car systems when those systems cause a collision.

In a press conference, Hudson’s attorney said Tesla is overestimating its technology and giving drivers a false sense of security when using the autopilot. Because of this, drivers are unprepared and don’t have time to react when a road problem happens.

The company says, “‘We told you, we’re going to drive you … Don’t worry about the road, watch it, but we’re also going to put this giant 20-inch screen right here with Web-browsing capabilities so you can be distracted the entire time … but if you crash, that’s your fault,”’ said attorney Mike Morgan.

Malfunction

Hudson makes a 2-hour commute to Fort Pierce for work and says he chose the Model S because of the autopilot feature, which allowed him to do some work during the journey. He says he had his hands on the wheel but was also using his mobile device as the car travelled at 80 miles per hour (125kph).

“I was looking up, looking down, looking up, looking down, and I look up and the car is disabled in the passing lane,” Hudson said. “When you’re travelling that fast, it’s like hitting a wall.”

Tesla says there is no data to suggest the autopilot feature malfunctioned. The company adds driver should always ensure they have control of the vehicle, even with autopilot on. However, the unnamed spokeswoman says there is no way for Tesla to see the log data from the car as it is not transmitted.

“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,” the spokeswoman said.