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Law firm claims Tesla is falsely advertising what its Autopilot software can do

Published Mar 22nd, 2017 2:43PM EDT
Tesla Model S
Image: Ena/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The law firm of Hagens Berman is angling to bring a class action suit against Tesla for exaggerating the extent to which the company’s self-driving software is fully autonomous. Originally spotted by Electrek, Hagens Berman has a new page up on its website where it argues that Tesla owners who paid a $10,000 premium for the company’s self-driving software were misled and didn’t get what they paid for.

Specifically, Hagens Berman claims that Tesla is advertising Autopilot 2 features that aren’t yet operational, thereby hoodwinking buyers in the process. The firm further alleges that Tesla is fraudulently charging customers a premium for “full self-driving” software that is anything but.

“The AP2 was also supposed to include safety features such as automatic emergency braking, collision warnings, lane holding and active cruise control,” the law firm claims, “but these features remain unavailable, despite being available on AP1 cars.”

The firm adds:

Hagens Berman believes that consumers have the right to reimbursement for the premium price they paid for what they thought was a “full self-driving” automobile. According to the firm’s investigation, Tesla charged consumers high prices for vehicles that it claimed had “full self-driving capability.” Those claims now appear to be false.

As Electrek points out, Tesla’s ordering page for both the Model S and the Model X do tout a “Full Self-Driving Capability” but there is a bold section that qualifies the feature by stating that the software is “dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval.”

While it’s true that Tesla’s AP2 software still has a number of planned features that drivers can’t take advantage of just yet, Elon Musk has said that a big update is slated to roll out to consumers sometime this month.

All that said, I really can’t imagine this class action lawsuit gaining much traction. Even if we push aside the allegation that Tesla is purposefully misleading consumers, Tesla owners are incredibly loyal to the Tesla brand and are generally more willing to give the company the benefit of the doubt in situations like this.

To this point, a recent survey from J.D. Power found that even Tesla owners who encounter any number of issues with their vehicles still love them.

J.D. Power’s press release reads in part:

Problems associated with Tesla Model S and Model X have little influence on the overt affection owners have for these cars and the brand, according to a J.D. Power report released today titled “Tesla: Beyond the Hype.”

“Tesla owners see themselves as pioneers who enjoy being early adopters of new technology,” said Kathleen Rizk, director, global automotive consulting at J.D. Power. “Spending $100,000 or more on a vehicle that has so many problems usually would have a dramatically negative effect on sales and brand perception. Right now, though, Tesla seems immune from such disenchanted customers.”

It will be interesting to see if Tesla continues to enjoy this type of treatment once the Model 3 rolls out.

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.