Driver who slammed her Tesla into a firetruck sues the carmaker over Autopilot feature

(ABC NEWS)- The woman who crashed her Tesla into a firetruck while the car was in autopilot mode is suing the electric carmaker, alleging the feature is defective and that the company’s marketing is misleading, the driver’s lawyer said.

“They [Tesla] need to go away from autopilot to assisted driving,” Jeffery Metler, the driver’s lawyer, told ABC News. “Because right now Tesla is not ready for autopilot. So they’re trying to lay the blame at the feet of the drivers, which is what they’ve done for every crash.”

Tesla has previously said Autopilot is an advanced driver-assistance system and not a self-driving system. But the website’s Autopilot section states: “All Tesla vehicles produced in our factory, including Model 3, have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.”

Tesla issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, saying, “When using Autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times. Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents.”

Tesla also issued a statement to ABC News, saying, “the feedback that we get from our customers shows that they have a very clear understanding of what Autopilot is, how to properly use it, and what features it consists of.”


The accident involving Metler’s client, Heather Lommatzsch, is one of several recent crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot feature. In March, Walter Huang, a 38-year old engineer at Apple, died after his Model X crash. In an unusual move, the company released details in a blog post defending Autopilot’s safety record, drawing ire from the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB), which told reporters, “NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla.”

Then in June, a Tesla sedan in Autopilot mode crashed in Laguna Beach, California, resulting in minor injuries. The NTSB has launched at least three investigations into accidents related to Tesla’s Autopilot function.

“They claim it’s an autopilot car,” Metler added. “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.”

Lommatzsch, 29, says she crashed her Tesla S on May 11 while in Autopilot mode into the stopped firetruck in South Jordan, a Salt Lake City suburb.

She also says she was on phone at the time of the crash.


She is suing for at least $300,000 in damages.



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