We covered claims of sudden acceleration in Tesla’s vehicles quite extensively at Electrek this year, which is why we are not surprised to see that the issue being taken to court after a new accident. In September, we published a report based on several reported events of sudden acceleration, especially in the Model X (like the one pictured above), and we concluded that all concrete evidence, including a third-party review of the vehicle logs in one case, points to user mistakes – pressing the accelerator instead of the brake pedal to be precise.
Now a Model X owner has filed a lawsuit against Tesla in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California and he is seeking class action status based on other previously reported cases of alleged autonomous acceleration events in Tesla’s vehicles.
Tesla responded to the suit quite strongly in a statement claiming that not only the vehicle was not at fault, but also that the owner, a famous actor and singer in South Korea, “threatened to use his celebrity status in Korea to hurt Tesla unless [the company] agreed to make a financial payment and acknowledge that the vehicle accelerated on its own.”
In the suit, Ji Chang Son claims that when pulling into his driveway in September, his Model X accelerated on its own into his garage. He wrote in the suite (via Reuters)
“The vehicle spontaneously began to accelerate at full power, jerking forward and crashing through the interior wall of the garage, destroying several wooden support beams in the wall and a steel sewer pipe, among other things, and coming to rest in Plaintiffs’ living room,”
We reached out to Tesla for a comment. The company sent us the following statement based on the logs from the vehicle:
“We take the safety of our customers very seriously and conducted a thorough investigation following Mr. Son’s claims. The evidence, including data from the car, conclusively shows that the crash was the result of Mr. Son pressing the accelerator pedal all the way to 100%.”
The accident happened in September and Son informed Tesla before he filed the suit, but the company is painting a picture of a hostile situation between the two parties before the suit:
“Before filing his class action lawsuit against Tesla, Mr. Son had threatened to use his celebrity status in Korea to hurt Tesla unless we agreed to make a financial payment and acknowledge that the vehicle accelerated on its own. However, the evidence clearly shows the vehicle was not at fault. Our policy is to stand by the evidence and not to give in to ultimatums.”
As we highlighted in our report on similar cases, it is interesting that in every single one of the accidents that we researched, the alleged sudden unintended acceleration events occurred at a moment when the driver would have been about to press on the brake pedal to bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
Son’s accident appears to have happened in similar circumstances since he was slowly moving toward his garage while the door was opening.
We also noted that while everything points to user mistakes in the cases we looked into, it is still strange that so many of them happened in the Model X in such a short period of time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are approximately 16,000 crashes occurring each year in the US due to drivers mistaking the accelerator for the brake pedal. We have seen at least 6 reports of unintended acceleration in the Model X despite the vehicle being only in relatively small numbers on the road.
It also happened in the Model S:
There are some possible explanations like the fact that the Model X is insanely fast for an SUV and therefore, a lot less forgiving if someone was to press the wrong pedal. The “creep mode” or lack thereof could also have something to do with it.
Tesla has been trying to protect against pedal misapplication. The company wrote in the statement in response to Son’s lawsuit:
“For example, the vehicle will cut motor torque in cases where the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal are simultaneously pressed. Furthermore, current Tesla software uses the Autopilot sensor suite to distinguish potential pedal misapplication events from normal cases when a driver intentionally presses the accelerator pedal. In cases of unambiguous pedal misapplication, the vehicle cuts torque to mitigate the effects of the driver’s error.”
Those are interesting actions, but it’s always a tricky thing to override driver inputs even if it’s to protect the vehicle and its passengers.
In his lawsuit, Son alleges product liability, negligence and breaches of warranty, and seeks unspecified damages, according to Reuters.