The 2017 Tesla Model S sedan in autopilot mode suddenly began to accelerate on its own as it headed off the highway off the ramp, ran off the road and crashed into a tree, according to a lawsuit filed by the driver.

Tesla’s autopilot mode, which the electric car maker claims allows its vehicles to steer, accelerate and stop automatically in their lanes, is “at best running,” the lawsuit said.

Christopher Hinze of Washington is seeking an unspecified amount of compensation from Tesla for liability, negligence and breach of warranty.

His federal suit says Hinze suffered “catastrophic” injuries, including broken and broken vertebrae and chest pain from the June 20, 2020 crash while driving his friend’s Tesla. The injuries required emergency spinal fusion surgery and weeks of hospitalized recovery.

“This is not an isolated incident,” David Wright, a lawyer with McCune Wright Arevalo LLp in Southern California, said in an interview Thursday.

The lawsuit alleges that, unlike some other Tesla crashes involving the autopilot feature, Hinze “actively and knowingly maintained active vehicle surveillance, including keeping his hands behind the wheel,” as Tesla recommends when the car exits the roadway.

Hinze activated a turn signal and the car merged into an exit lane, heading for the fork from Interstate 495 to Route 123, which includes a “significant curve,” the suit said.

“Based on Tesla’s views on the autopilot function and its performance during the journey so far, (Hinze) reasonably expected that the vehicle would be able to successfully navigate the transitional road between the two highways and continue its journey,” it said. in a suit.

But in a fraction of a second at the beginning of the curve, Hinze realized that Tesla would not slow down and make a turn.

Although Tesla says its autopilot doesn’t mean “autonomous” and that drivers should actively monitor the vehicle, Tesla’s website says the product “allows your car to steer, accelerate and stop automatically within its lane.”

“Although fully autonomous driving can still be ambitious, Tesla designs, manufactures and markets Model S features as technologically advanced, albeit intermediate, steps on the road to fully computerized driving,” the suit added.

“Even the most successful and sophisticated computer companies in history – Microsoft and Apple among them – regularly release computers and software with bugs, bugs and unexpected problems that cause their computers to crash, malfunction or malfunction,” it said. in the claim. continues.

But software and hardware errors or problems “increase exponentially when a computer controls a half-tonne moving machine capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 4 seconds,” the suit continued.

“Our main concern, as always, is to make sure that the vehicles on our roads are safe and that they work the way consumers expect them to perform and the way Tesla imagines they will perform,” he said. Wright.

Tesla did not respond immediately on Thursday to an email requesting comment.

The complaint alleges that many car crashes and “perhaps more than 20 deaths are due” to Tesla’s autopilot system, and notes several cases in which Tesla drivers were killed when the system was activated, including in the bay area.

One of the most notorious cases involved a man from San Mateo driving his Tesla Model X on autopilot on Highway 101 in Mountain View, when the car turned left and hit a damaged attenuator in a crash at approximately 70 mph, killing the driver. The car’s battery also caught fire after the accident.

Following an investigation into the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board criticized the driver for playing a game on his cell phone with his hands behind the wheel when the car crashed. He also blamed Tesla for designing an autopilot system with “inefficient monitoring of driver engagement, which facilitates driver complacency and inattention.”

This month’s lawsuit says Tesla CEO Elon Musk boasted about the autopilot’s capabilities, saying at a recent conference that “substantially full autonomy” could be achieved “with the hardware that Tesla has today. “With some software improvements.

“The dark side of the system, however, is that Tesla’s autopilot system is in the process of working at best,” the suit added, “and has a history of dangerous and even fatal consequences for its users.”

Lawsuit: Tesla autopilot feature accelerated on its own, causing crash

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