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A lawsuit against Tesla from two Santa Barbara, California, brothers who claim Autopilot is false advertising is being allowed to proceed to its next phase after the automaker’s several attempts to have it dismissed.
Judge Thomas Anderle ruled earlier this week that Alexandro Filippini vs. Tesla, Inc. will be allowed to proceed and could be heard by a jury if an out-of-court settlement is not reached. In February 2020, case 20CV01141 was filed with the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Barbara, where Filippini, along with this brother, Iaian, claimed Tesla employees misrepresented the capabilities of the Model S sedan that they purchased in 2016. The brothers claim that they were told the vehicle was fully autonomous, the Santa Barbara Independent reported.
According to the lawsuit, the brothers had inquired with Tesla staff regarding the capabilities of the FSD Suite, indicating that they wished to work during their commute to their office. The salespeople reportedly “not discourage that intention,” according to the lawsuit, 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.”
Since the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving suites have been released, Tesla has always maintained that the systems are not capable of Level 5 Autonomy and that the driver is still required to pay attention to the road. In 2018, Tesla introduced Navigate on Autopilot and stated, “Drivers are responsible for and must remain in control of their car at all times.” The company has also created several thresholds that continue to stop irresponsible drivers if they are not paying attention to the road. When warnings that are displayed to the driver from the vehicle are not followed, the vehicle will automatically pull over, and Autopilot capabilities will be suspended for the duration of the drive.
The Filippinis realized after driving their vehicle for several days that their car was not fully autonomous. Tesla staff ensured the brothers that, over the coming years, the company would release updates to the Autopilot functionality that would increase the capabilities of the vehicle. Eventually, the vehicle would be full self-driving.
Tesla employees are more than knowing that the company’s vehicles are not Level 5 autonomous. However, it appears that the employees may have communicated that the vehicles would eventually be capable of fully autonomous driving.
Judge Anderle is allowing the case to continue based on the fact that the Filippinis have sufficiently stated their allegations of fraudulent behavior, and it sufficiently shows a violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act.