Tesla Full Self-Driving’s prolonged release doesn’t make it a “fraud,” the company said in a motion to dismiss a case.
Tesla is currently involved in a class-action lawsuit from a few Autopilot and Full Self-Driving customers and has recently filed a motion to dismiss the case with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. In that motion, a statement was made by Tesla’s attorneys that may have been taken out of context by some media reports.
Teslarati obtained a copy of the motion, and here is what we found.
After some background information on FSD, Tesla noted that each of the plaintiffs purchased a vehicle, and “all but one allegedly purchase the FSDC package.” (FSDC is an acronym for full self-driving capability.)
“Plaintiffs knew at the time of purchase that their cars were not completely autonomous. And they knew that the timeline towards more complete autonomy was contingent upon numerous factors, including software development and regulatory approval. Yet now they sue Tesla, complaining that their cars are not completely autonomous.”
The document noted that four out of five of the named plaintiffs have valid arbitration agreements with Tesla that should be enforced and cover all of their claims. The one plaintiff who opted out “advanced a consolidated complaint riddled with defects, and that should be dismissed.”
The plaintiff “sued too late–five years after he purchased his vehicle and the optional software package, well after any of his claims accrued. All of his claims are time-barred and should be dismissed. Moreover, the hundreds-of-paragraph, narrative complaint fails to support a single cognizable legal theory. The Complaint makes no mention of the parties’ written contract or Tesla’s car warranty. It instead cherry-picks numerous statements allegedly made by Tesla and attempts to manufacture claims for fraud and breach of warranty.”
Tesla’s attorneys made several statements, including that headline-worthy one regarding FSD and failure. However, the attorneys never claimed that FSD is a failure. In the document, the attorneys pointed out that the complaint “identifies no statement that Tesla made that was fraudulent.”
Additionally, it added that no there was no statement made that Tesla’s vehicles, including those equipped with the FSDC package, were fully autonomous at the time of the Plaintiff’s purchase. Tesla’s website also made it very clear that those vehicles were not.
Tesla’s attorneys noted that the plaintiff allegedly researched Tesla’s online and public statements and reviewed them before buying his vehicles. The labels of “Autopilot,” “Enhanced Autopilot,” or “Full Self-Driving Capability” didn’t mean that the vehicles were fully autonomous. Tesla’s attorneys also noted that Tesla’s user manuals plainly showed this as well.
“Nor would any reasonable consumer purchase a Tesla vehicle with the belief that it is fully autonomous based solely on these labels,” the attorneys said.
Instead, each of the plaintiffs alleged that they “decided to purchase [his or her] vehicle and the ADAS packages after researching, reviewing, and relying on Tesla’s online and other public statements.”
The plaintiff’s “assertion that Tesla promised the vehicles were already fully autonomous when they were sold rings hollow,” the attorneys stated.
“His assertion that Tesla promised to release completely autonomous capabilities ‘within a reasonable time after,’ his purchase fares no better.”
“No allegations show that Tesla promised that the FSDC package would enable full autonomy within a specified period of time. Many of the statements quoted in the Complaint did not even concern the FSDC package,” the attorneys said, adding that this makes it irrelevant to the plaintiff’s claims.
“In addition, the quoted statements were also often accompanied by and subject to the qualifier that a release of fully autonomous capabilities to the general public would require government approval, a variable over which Tesla had no control, and that any regulatory clearance would require a vast amount of data to show that completely autonomous driving is significantly safer than human driving.”
The attorneys cited another federal court that said similar statements “do not constitute fraud” because they indicate that Tesla wasn’t making the absolute representation the Plaintiff said he was.
“Same here. Especially under the heightened Rule 9(b) standard, no allegation suggests that the aspirational statements that Tesla did make were, somehow, false when made. See Richardson, 2000 WL.”
“To the contrary, allegations in the Complaint demonstrate that Tesla has been constantly improving its ADAS technology by releasing software updates, with a goal of achieving more and better autonomy capabilities in the future.”
“Mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud.“
In reference to the above statement, the attorneys pointed out that the courts often rejected the argument that a plaintiff can prove the fraudulent intent by pointing to Tesla’s “subsequent failure to perform under the agreement.”
Since launching the software in 2015, Tesla has made a lot of progress toward FSD and autonomous. Tesla has had two AI Day events explaining the technology being developed and used. And Tesla has since launched an FSD Beta testing program, and you can read the recent Tesla FSD Beta news here.
Disclosure: Johnna is a $TSLA shareholder and believes in Tesla’s mission.
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