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Tesla faces lawsuit from vehicle owners over autonomous driving claims

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday rejected Tesla’s request to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Elon Musk’s electric car maker of misleading owners into believing their vehicles could soon have driving capabilities autonomous.

The proposed nationwide class-action lawsuit accused Tesla and Musk of falsely advertising Autopilot and other self-driving technologies since 2016 as working or “just around the corner,” tricking drivers into paying more for their vehicles.

U.S. District Judge Rita Lin of San Francisco said the owners could sue for negligence and fraud, as long as they relied on Tesla’s representations about the vehicles’ hardware and their ability to travel across the United States. United from coast to coast.

Without ruling on the merits, Lin said that “if Tesla meant that its hardware was sufficient to achieve high or full automation, the (complaint) clearly alleges sufficient falsity.”

The judge rejected other requests.

Tesla and its lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for Tesla vehicle owners did not immediately respond to similar requests.

The case was led by Thomas LoSavio, a retired California lawyer who said he paid an $8,000 premium in 2017 for the fully autonomous driving capabilities of a Tesla Model S, believing it would make driving more sure if his reflexes deteriorated with age.

LoSavio said he is still waiting for this technology six years later, with Tesla remaining unable “even remotely” to produce a fully autonomous car.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for people who, since 2016, have purchased or leased Tesla vehicles with Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and Fully Self-Driving features.

Tesla has for many years been the subject of federal investigations into whether its self-driving technology may have contributed to fatal crashes.

Federal prosecutors are separately examining whether Tesla committed securities fraud or wire fraud by misleading investors about its vehicles’ self-driving capabilities, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Tesla said Autopilot allows vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake within their lane, and fully autonomous driving allows vehicles to obey traffic lights and change lanes.

But he acknowledged that neither technology makes vehicles autonomous nor excuses drivers from paying attention to the roads.

The case is In re Tesla Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Litigation, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 22-05240.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by David Gregorio)

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