A California judge has diverted a class action lawsuit brought by a group of Tesla owners to individual arbitration. The Austin-based automaker is the subject of several ongoing trials and investigations over the Autopilot driver assistance feature, however, this particular case will no longer be handled by the court.
US District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, California, issued the decision on Saturday, Reuters reported. The decision states that four Tesla owners, who wanted to bring a class action lawsuit against the company, had agreed to arbitrate any legal claims against it while purchasing the electric cars on the brand's website.
Gilliam also dismissed a fifth plaintiff’s claim – this owner wasn’t bound by the arbitration agreement but he apparently waited too long to sue, the report stated.
The ruling doesn’t signal an end to Tesla’s woes. The plaintiffs' lawyer, Andrew Kirtley, said that he was prepared to file thousands of arbitration cases for Tesla customers. The owners are accusing Tesla of false advertising concerning its Full-Self Driving (FSD) technology, for which they paid thousands of dollars over the past few years.
FSD is a Society Of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 2+ driver assistance system, which by definition means that it does not make Tesla EVs fully autonomous, contrary to what the terminology might sound like to some owners. Tesla has reiterated that its driver assistance systems require full driver attention and preparedness for intervention.
There’s another Autopilot-related case against Tesla ongoing in California. The trial started last week, and prosecutors have argued that Tesla knowingly installed faulty Autopilot systems in its cars, causing the death of Model 3 owner Micah Lee and injuring two of his passengers.
Lee’s Model 3 apparently veered off the highway in California at 65 miles per hour and struck a tree, got engulfed in flames, and caused his death. The defense lawyers representing Tesla counterargued that Lee was driving under the influence of alcohol and that Autopilot was disengaged when the vehicle hit the tree.