Tesla has come under fire once again for its controversially named Full Self-Driving driver-assist feature.
Despite what the name alludes to, FSD doesn’t enable a car to drive on its own. The feature can handle certain situations but requires a driver to monitor things at all times and to always be ready to correct mistakes.
Tesla has made advancements with the feature over the years, including in November finally offering it in unfinished “Beta” mode to all Tesla owners in North America that have bought the feature (previously only select owners received the Beta). However, enough disgruntled owners have banded together to file a class-action suit accusing Tesla of misleading the public by falsely advertising its self-driving technology. They argue FSD doesn’t offer full self-driving capability and that some cars equipped with it have been involved in crashes. They also cited several times when Tesla or Musk stated that full self-driving capability would be available within a year or two via over-the-air updates, only for that to never materialize.
The class action was filed in September, and CNN reported this week that Tesla’s lawyers have since argued that failing to deliver FSD’s lofty goals doesn’t constitute a fraud, and that the suit should be dismissed.
“Mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud,” Tesla’s lawyers wrote in a Nov. 28 court filing, according to CNN.
Tesla also cited that the plaintiffs agreed to an arbitration clause when ordering their cars that such claims shouldn’t be tried in public courts or in class-action lawsuits, and that the plaintiffs weren’t really harmed by the fact a true self-driving car hasn’t been delivered, as additional reasons the suit should be dismissed, according to CNN.
However, plaintiffs have spent money based on Tesla’s name for its system and the promise that it would indeed offer full self-driving capability. FSD cost $5,000 when launched in 2016, but Tesla raised the price to $10,000 in 2020, and again to $12,000 earlier this year, and finally to $15,000 in September. The company also made FSD available as a subscription last year.
FSD is an extension of Autopilot, which is Tesla’s standard driver-assist feature and is essentially an adaptive cruise control that can also steer itself in a single lane. FSD adds additional functionality, including the ability to automatically overtake slower vehicles, automatically react to traffic lights and stop signs, and handle some parking situations. It also has a Summon feature that brings the car to the driver in parking lots, though the driver needs to remain in sight of the vehicle.
Tesla first started offering FSD in 2016, initially as a hardware package that the company said would receive necessary software updates over time to deliver the promise of true self-driving capability. CEO Elon Musk said at the time that he expected a Tesla to be able to travel from Los Angeles to New York “without the need for a single touch” on the steering wheel as soon as 2017.