Tesla is facing a class-action lawsuit over its Autopilot semi-autonomous system, which the plaintiffs are arguing was deceptively marketed and failed to deliver on promised capabilities. In response, Tesla's lawyers are claiming that Autopilot's stunted development is a "failure" not a "fraud," CNN reports.
“Mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud," the automaker's attorneys wrote in a November court filing.
Tesla and Elon Musk have repeatedly promised features for Autopilot that have either materialized years after promised deadlines or not at all. The chief executive of the company was telling customers that it'd be ready for coast-to-coast hands-off drives back in 2017, a goal that still seems distant today.
The lawsuit alleges that not delivering promised features amounts to fraud, as Tesla customers have paid up to $15,000 for software that still cannot do what the company said it would do back in 2016. That "Full Self-Driving" package is still in beta today, requiring complete driver attention as the car attempts to drive itself based on camera input alone. Some videos of the system in action are frightening, featuring cars driving on the wrong side of the road, not noticing pedestrians, or pulling into intersections. Clearly, that is a long way from what the term "Full Self-Driving" implies, a fact that will certainly be relevant to the case.
Per CNN, Tesla says for its part that consumers should be aware of the limitations of the system at purchase and that the company's legal language is clear. The promises of Musk, therefore, aren't promises so much as goals. Whether or not that's enough to defeat the lawsuit remains to be seen, but Tesla is also seeking to get the case thrown out on the grounds that customers sign a binding arbitration agreement upon purchase. Such agreements often forbid pursuing class-action lawsuits.