Tesla Model 3 owner seeks class action over 'phantom braking'

·2 min read

A Tesla Model 3 owner who filed a lawsuit against the automaker Friday alleging unintended braking is seeking class action status.

The suit, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, said that a defect with Tesla's Autopilot system can cause the vehicle to brake suddenly and could reduce its market value.

The plaintiff's law firm, Bursor & Fisher in Walnut Creek, California, said in the complaint that Tesla knowingly sold defective vehicles to customers. The firm seeks $5 million in damages on behalf of the plaintiff, Jose Alvarez Toledo of San Francisco, as well as more Tesla owners to join a proposed class action.

According to the complaint, Alvarez Toledo experienced “the Sudden Unintended Braking Defect” several times since taking delivery of a new Tesla Model 3 in January 2021. Twice the vehicle “suddenly engaged the brakes and reduced his speed by about half.”

The glitch that “suddenly and unexpectedly (causes the vehicle to) come to a stop in the middle of the road” should be covered by Tesla’s Basic Warranty, which handles maintenance and repairs for four years or 50,000 miles, the complaint said.

The lawsuit alleges that Tesla knew about the defect from, “among other things, pre-production testing, consumer complaints, warranty data, dealership repair orders, and NHTSA investigations,” but has not recalled the vehicles or provided Alvarez Toledo with a repair or suitable replacement.

“These costs are significant, and no reasonable consumer expects to incur such costs,” the complaint said.

All Tesla vehicles come equipped with the automaker’s Autopilot advanced driver assistance system, which can steer, accelerate and brake automatically under driver supervision.

This is one of several lawsuits filed against Tesla this summer alleging problems with the Autopilot system. Between May 2021 and February 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received 354 complaints alleging unexpected brake activation in 2021 and 2022 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, according to the complaint.

NHTSA asked Tesla in August for information on its safety technology as part of an ongoing probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles that include Autopilot.

Meanwhile, Tesla is racing ahead to bring self-driving technology to the market. CEO Elon Musk said Monday at the 2022 Offshore Northern Shore conference in Norway that he hopes to have Tesla's Full Self-Driving (FSD) software, the $15,000 successor to Autopilot, in wide release in the U.S. by the end of the year.

“The problem is that Tesla is rushing these features to market when the technology is not yet ready and not yet safe,” the complaint said.

Neither Tesla nor attorneys for the plaintiff immediately responded to requests for comment Tuesday morning.