Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Business | By Kate Woods

Consumer Groups Ask Feds to Launch Probe into Tesla's Autopilot

Consumer Groups Ask Feds to Launch Probe into Tesla's Autopilot

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.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that a truck driver's failure to yield the right of way and a auto driver's inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation are the probable cause of the fatal May 7, 2016, crash near Williston, Fla.

Lommatzsch did not return a voicemail message on Thursday.

It is notable that Tesla has refused to agree to one of the seemingly reasonable requests of the plaintiffs - that it reimburse them the cost of the system - another pointer that the company is rapidly running out of money. She told police she was looking at her phone and comparing different routes to a destination. Online court records do not show an attorney listed for her.

The driver who was sitting in the firetruck when it was hit suffered a minor injury consistent with whiplash, according to the report, while Lommatzch broke her ankle.

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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 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 risky".

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is investigating the May 11 crash.

Class members, who paid an extra $5,000 to get the Autopilot upgrade between 2016 and 2017, will receive between $20 and $280 in compensation.

"Since rolling out our second generation of Autopilot hardware in October 2016, we have continued to provide software updates that have led to a major improvement in Autopilot functionality", the company said, adding that the settlement would be offered to customers worldwide. However, Steve Berman, the lawyer of the company has not commented yet. In that incident, the driver, Walter Huang, was killed when his Model X crashed into a barrier between Highway 101 and Highway 85, in Mountain View.

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The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog are calling on the Federal Trade Commission "to investigate dangerously misleading and deceptive advertising and marketing practices and representations made by Tesla Motors Inc. regarding the safety and capabilities of its Autopilot feature".

Meanwhile Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to complain about news coverage of vehicle crashes that may have been caused by the Autopilot system.

Earlier in May, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida.

In 2016, Tesla introduced an upgrade to its Autopilot system that is created to assist drivers with actions such as lane changing, lane identification and parking.

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