When Shawn Hudson bought a 2017 Tesla Model S for his long commutes to and from work, he invested $5,000 for the autopilot add-on, convinced that it would make his four-hour drives easier. He never thought the safety feature would send his car into the path of a disabled vehicle while going 80 mph.
Mr. Hudson survived the crash, but he suffers from severe and permanent brain and spinal injuries, according to a lawsuit he filed against Tesla.
The basis of his complaint is that Tesla often describes its autopilot as a driver assistance feature, indicating that drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Yet Tesla dealerships hawk the autopilot feature as more of a self-driving or autonomous technology that allows drivers to disengage and let the car do most of the driving, according to the complaint.
Mr. Hudson, a resident of Winter Park, Florida, was driving on the Florida Turnpike Oct. 12 when his Tesla collided with a Ford Fiesta that had been temporarily abandoned in the left lane. The Tesla was on autopilot mode at the time, and Mr. Hudson said his hands were on the wheel when the crash occurred.
“I was looking at my phone for a second,” Hudson said. “But never do I trust the car 100 percent, so I was looking up, looking down, looking up, looking down, and I’m looking up and a car’s disabled in the passing lane on the Turnpike,” he told the Orlando Sentinel.
He had driven his Tesla Model S nearly 100,000 miles before the crash occurred – ample time to become accustomed to autopilot and grow comfortable with its performance.
The complaint, filed Oct. 30 in Orange County’s circuit court, blames Tesla for strict liability, negligence, breach of implied warranty, misrepresentation, misleading advertising, and violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Mr. Hudson seeks damages for his injuries and all legal expenses.