Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Markets | By Otis Pena

Tesla Model S Autopilot 'Sped Up' Before Crashing Into Utah Firetruck

Tesla Model S Autopilot 'Sped Up' Before Crashing Into Utah Firetruck

Tesla has paid out $5 million to settle a 2017 class action lawsuit that originally alleged that the Autopilot feature shipped in 2016 in the company's cars was "essentially unusable and demonstrably unsafe".

Electric automaker Tesla says it has reached a settlement with buyers of its Model S and Model X cars who claimed the vehicles' autopilot function was unsafe and unusable.

The Tesla owners said they had paid an extra $5,000 to have their cars equipped with the Autopilot software, which promised to provide additional safety features, but in fact was "completely inoperable", according to the complaint.

The police report, which was obtained Thursday through an open records request, provides detail about the vehicle's actions immediately before the May 11 crash and the driver's familiarity with its system.

Police speculated that a auto in front of the Tesla changed lanes and the vehicle accelerated to regain speed without noticing the stopped cars ahead. Lommatzsch, who according to auto data did not touch the steering wheel for more than a minute before the crash, suffered a broken ankle.

The 29-year-old driver, Heather Lommatzsch, was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation after police say vehicle data shows she didn't touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash.

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Responding to the letter, a Tesla spokesperson issued the following statement: "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". She told police she was looking at her phone and comparing different routes to a destination.

Tesla has said it repeatedly warns drivers to stay alert, keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicle at all times while using the Autopilot system. Tesla says the system is not created to avoid a collision and warns drivers not to rely on it entirely. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has employed an investigation team to Utah for investigating the case.

But Tesla said previously that since rolling out its second generation of Autopilot, it has continued to update software leading to major improvements. Neither Tesla nor Seattle attorney Steve Berman, who represented the plaintiffs, would comment Friday.

Prior to this accident, in January, on a Southern California freeway, Model S hit a parked truck.

The burden now falls on the FTC to investigate "Tesla's unfair and deceptive practices so that consumers have accurate information, understand the limitations of Autopilot and operate their vehicle safely and without endangering themselves or other drivers, passengers or pedestrians on the road", the groups asserted in a news release. However, the agency said that the regulators have not yet assessed its effectiveness. While Model S banged on the semi-truck in Florida which killed its driver.

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