Tesla slapped with class action lawsuit over phantom braking problem


A Tesla owner from San Francisco filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the electric vehicle company over a phantom braking problem that he claims has turned “a safety feature into a frightening and dangerous nightmare.” The lawsuit was first reported by Reuters.

The lawsuit was filed by San Francisco resident Jose Alvarez Toledo in federal court in the Northern District of California. In the complaint, Toledo estimates that there are “hundreds of thousands” of Tesla customers that could seek to join his class action suit against the company.

The lawsuit accuses Tesla of fraudulently hiding the safety risks associated with the company’s Autopilot driver assist system, breaching its warranties, unfairly profiting from Autopilot, and violating California’s unfair competition law. Toledo is seeking punitive damages.

“Many Tesla owners have reported significant, unexpected slow-downs and stops due to the false engagement of their Class Vehicle’s braking systems, even though no objects were nearby,” the lawsuit reads. “When the Sudden Unintended Braking Defect Occurs, they turn what is supposed to be a safety feature into a frightening and dangerous nightmare.”

The lawsuit comes as Tesla faces a federal investigation into its phantom braking problem, which first surfaced last fall. Those reports emerged just as Tesla was forced to roll back version 10.3 of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software, the company’s advanced driver assist system, because of issues with forward collision warnings and unexpected braking.

After the rollback, the number of complaints actually increased substantially, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration receiving at least 107 from November to January, compared with only 34 in the preceding 22 months, according to The Washington Post.

In February, NHTSA began investigating incidents involving Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles after receiving 354 complaints. And in May, the agency fired off a 14-page “request for information” letter to Tesla, in which it updated its complaint tally to 758.

NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation opened a “preliminary evaluation,” which is the stage before the agency could issue a formal recall and covers approximately 416,000 vehicles. To date, there have been no reports of crashes, injuries, or fatalities as a result of this issue.

The problem may be traced to the decision last year by Tesla to remove radar sensors from new Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. The decision came after Tesla CEO Elon Musk publicly expressed a desire to rely exclusively on cameras to power the company’s advanced driver assistance system.