Tesla on self-driving claims: ‘failure to realize long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud’

Tesla defended itself in a lawsuit over its self-driving claims brought by a customer by saying that “mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud.”

In September, we reported on a Tesla owner filing a class-action lawsuit against Tesla over “allegedly misleading the public regarding its Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving Capability (‘FSD’) technology.”

Since 2016, Tesla has claimed that all its vehicles produced going forward have “all the needed hardware” to become self-driving with future software updates.

However, the automaker has yet to deliver on the promise, and over the last few years, some owners have started to doubt Tesla’s ability to deliver at all – leading to the lawsuit now.

Last week, Tesla filed to have the lawsuit dismissed, which resulted in a rare comment from the automaker about not having delivered on self-driving yet.

In the motion to dismiss obtained by Electrek, Tesla argues that its failure to deliver on the goal doesn’t constitute fraud:

“Mere failure to realize a long-term, aspirational goal is not fraud.” 

Calling Tesla’s advertisement that its vehicles will become self-driving a “long-term, aspirational goal” is the most cautious description of the goal from the automaker to date. But the approach will make it difficult for the plaintiffs.

They need to prove that Tesla intentionally misled customers into thinking they were buying vehicles that would become self-driving. They would need to prove that Tesla knew it couldn’t deliver on the promise, which could be difficult to do.

Tesla never promised a specific timeline for delivering on the goal, but CEO Elon Musk previously said that Tesla would achieve self-driving in 2020. The goal has been delayed several times.

In the motion to dismiss, Tesla argues that the complaint actually shows that Tesla has been working toward the goal of self-driving:

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.

Tesla also references several comments made by the company and CEO Elon Musk that constituted warnings that there will be issues bringing self-driving to market.

In addition, from early on, Tesla made clear that “there will still be a significant time gap, varying widely by jurisdiction, before true self-driving is approved by regulators.”

The company ends its argument by saying that “the Complaint identifies no specific timeline promised by Tesla to release fully autonomous capabilities to the general public.”

Electrek’s Take

It’s interesting that at least Tesla admits failure to achieve the goal because I’ve seen them moving the goalpost as of late.

Musk went from mentioning “1 million robotaxi on the road by the end of the year” to “1 million people with FSD Beta by the end of the year” to “anyone who bought FSD will get access to the Beta in North America by the end of the year.”

Tesla has now achieved that last version of the goal, but that’s so far from the original goal that it’s not in the same league.

On top of what we hear about a new sensor suite potentially coming, things are not looking great on the FSD front. As I have said for a long time, Tesla should at least offer refunds to those who bought the FSD package.

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