Tesla self-driving claims parked in court

Judge gives green light to lawsuit over autonomous ambitions

Tesla is facing a lawsuit over claims made about its self-driving technology after a US judge rejected the company's motion to dismiss the case.

Although Judge Rita Lin dismissed some of the claims, the order [PDF] clears the way for disgruntled Tesla owners to pursue action based on the company's increasingly specific boasts about what its cars are capable of and the cross-country driving abilities that are forever just around the corner.

Judge Lin's order states that the claims "may go forward to the extent they rely on representations regarding the car's hardware and imminent cross-country driving abilities."

The order is a setback for Tesla, which had compared the claims to a bed sheet company getting the thread count wrong. Not so, according to the order. "Tesla did not recite the same lie time and time again; instead, it allegedly lied about its progress incrementally and with increasing specificity over time."

The company and its boss, Elon Musk, have certainly made grand claims about its self-driving technology over the years. According to the second amended complaint, Musk claimed in 2016 that a Tesla car would be able to drive itself from Los Angeles to New York "by the end of next year without the need for a single touch."

It hasn't happened yet.

As the years roll by, the claims become ever more specific. The order states: "For example, in April 2017, Musk allegedly said that Tesla owners could sleep while their cars drove in about two years."

Judge Lin did not rule on the merits of the claims of the plaintiff, Thomas LoSavio, who had bought himself a Tesla in 2017, expecting that the wunder-tech would eventually be implemented as per the company's claims. In an amended complaint [PDF] in 2022, it was stated that "contrary to Tesla's repeated promises that it would have a fully self-driving car within months or a year, Tesla has never been remotely close to achieving that goal."

The case hinges on a few specifics, one of which is that the hardware built into LoSavio's car was not capable of full automation. The order states: "LoSavio plausibly alleges that he reasonably believed Tesla's claims that it could achieve self-driving with the car's existing hardware and that, if he diligently brought his car in for the required updates, the car would soon achieve the promised results."

Sadly for LoSavio, that also hasn't happened.

Tesla is under intense scrutiny over its Autopilot technology. Last year the company attempted to remotely patch the software in more than two million vehicles as part of a recall following a damning investigation into the system's safety.

In May 2024, the effectiveness of that fix was called into question by authorities.

The case number is 22-cv-05240-RFL in the US District Court of the Northern District of California. Tesla's response is due by June 19.

The Register asked Tesla to comment but did not receive a response. ®

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