Case Claiming Tesla's Autopilot Is "False Advertising" Will Be Heard by a Jury

Tesla Model S on Autopilot 6 photos
Photo: Video screenshot
Tesla Model S driving with AutopilotTesla Model S driving with AutopilotTesla Model S driving with AutopilotTesla Model S driving with AutopilotTesla Model S driving with Autopilot
If anyone has the time to go through Elon Musk's tweets from the past five years or so and count how many times he promised full self-driving abilities were just around the corner - and it wasn't even a big corner - they might be surprised to notice they'll run out of fingers first.
The promise of full Level 5 autonomy has been a constant in the company's communication with the public ever since Autopilot was introduced in 2015. And except for earlier this month when Musk admitted that making a car drive itself isn't as simple as they once believed, the messages that came from Tesla were wildly encouraging in this direction for anyone owning or planning to buy one of their EVs.

Well, when your CEO is so openly brash about the subject, you can imagine this kind of attitude can drizzle down in the company's hierarchy all the way to the sales representatives. After all, if the company's number one says it's coming, who are you to apply some reason and question whether that's true or not?

This is basically the foundation of the case filed in February 2020 by two brothers from Santa Barbara, California, named Alexandro and Iaian Filippini. The two claim that back in 2016, they were sold a $120,000 Tesla Model S with the false promise that it was fully self-driving.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs told the Tesla representatives they were interested in working during their commute, something the sales representatives "not only did [...] not discourage, [but] they confirmed and encouraged plaintiffs’ expectations that the vehicle would be suitable for that purpose, sharing stories of driving 55 miles without having to touch any controls more than once or twice.” You may recognize Elon Musk's own rhetoric there.

After taking delivery, the brothers realized the car's AI system did not work as advertised, but they were told repeatedly that subsequent software updates would eventually enhance the vehicle's abilities. Five years since the two brothers bought their car and we all know where Tesla's self-driving ambitions sit - at a very strong Level 2, just like everyone else.

A judge decided the case can appear in front of a jury, but an off-court settlement is possible if the two parties are open to it and can find an agreement. Give the bad publicity an unfavorable ruling would bring to the company's ongoing efforts to push out the FSD suite, we assume that's the most likely outcome. On the other hand, even a settlement could encourage other owners to do the same thing, so it's a double-edged sword for Tesla.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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