Tesla faces class-action lawsuit over Autopilot’s phantom braking problem

Tesla is facing a new proposed class-action lawsuit over the phantom braking problem that has been plaguing Autopilot for years now.

Back in November of 2021, Electrek released a report called “Tesla has a serious phantom braking problem in Autopilot.” It highlighted a significant increase in Tesla owners reporting dangerous phantom braking events on Autopilot.

Phantom braking is a term used to describe when an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) – or a self-driving system – applies the brakes for no good reason. The system can be falsely detecting an object on the road or anticipating a collision that won’t actually happen and apply the brake to try to avoid it.

Obviously, phantom braking is something you want to avoid since it can create accidents if someone is following too closely behind you.

This issue is not new in Tesla’s Autopilot, but our report focused on Tesla drivers noticing an obvious increase in instances based on anecdotal evidence, but it was also backed by a clear increase in complaints to the NHTSA. Our report made the rounds in a few other outlets, but the issue didn’t really go mainstream until The Washington Post released a similar report in February 2022. A few months later, NHTSA opened an investigation into the matter.

Now Tesla is facing pressure regarding the phantom braking issue from another front as a Tesla owner in California has filed for a class-action lawsuit.

Reuters reports:

A California owner of a Tesla Model 3 sued the electric vehicle maker in a proposed class action over cars suddenly stopping for non-existent obstacles, calling it a “frightening and dangerous nightmare,” according to the lawsuit.

Jose Alvarez Toledo, a Model 3 owner in San Francisco, filed the lawsuit, which is seeking to represent all Tesla owners with Autopilot, in federal court in the northern district of California.

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 is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for expenses to repair vehicles, diminished value of Tesla cars, and a refund of the added cost attributed to the Autopilot features.

It’s not the first time that Tesla owners have turned to a class action to make the company pay for mishandling features inside their vehicles. Last year, Tesla agreed to pay owners $625 each over battery throttling after a class-action lawsuit.

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