Tesla Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Fatal Crash Involving Autopilot
A Utah driver who crashed her Tesla Model S into a stopped fire truck at a red light earlier this year when her car was in Autopilot mode has sued the automaker saying she was told by Tesla salespeople that the car would stop on its own in Autopilot mode if something were in its path. According to an NBC news report, Heather Lommatzsch claimed in her lawsuit that she bought the Model S in 2016 and salespeople at the time told her all she needed to do was touch the steering wheel occasionally while using the Autopilot mode.
Autopilot Didn’t Stop the Car
Lommatzsch said she tried to brake when she saw the stopped cars, but that the car’s brakes did not work. The accident occurred May 11 in the Salt Lake City suburb of South Jordan. Lommatzsch suffered a broken foot and was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation for failure to keep a proper lookout. The fire truck’s driver also sustained injuries, but wasn’t hospitalized. Tesla officials cited the police report, which said Lommatzsch was looking at her phone when the accident occurred.
Data taken from her car showed it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds before crashing into the fire truck. Lommatzsch claimed she suffered serious personal injuries and substantial medical bills. She is seeking at least $300,000 in damage. This crash in Utah is one of several Tesla accidents that have drawn attention to its Autopilot mode, the company’s semi-autonomous system designed to keep a vehicle centered in its lane at a set distance from vehicles in front. The system can also guide the cars to change lanes automatically.
Is Tesla Misleading Consumers?
This incident is just one example of Tesla misleading consumers when it comes to its Autopilot feature. Consumer Reports has already urged Tesla to change the name “Autopilot” because it misinforms consumers and leads them to believe that this is an autonomous feature. After several accidents involving Autopilot, Tesla issued statements that drivers cannot count on Autopilot to do their jobs and that they should be alert at all times even when the vehicle is in Autopilot mode.
So, if the Autopilot is not an autonomous or even semi-autonomous feature, Tesla should get rid of the name “Autopilot” and make it very clear to consumers what it can or can’t do. Automakers should never put products in the market that are not ready for primetime. Manufacturers of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles especially should do their due diligence when it comes to testing these vehicles before putting them on the road.