Tesla sued: Woman wants $300k for crashing on Autopilot while reading phone

Tesla accused of negligence for selling a car, in this case a Model S, that failed to function as advertised.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

A Utah woman who crashed her Model S into a stationary firetruck in May is suing Tesla for damages, claiming she was informed that in Autopilot mode the car would automatically brake if it detected an obstacle in its path.

The woman, Heather Lommatzsch, has alleged that Tesla salespeople told her this when she bought the Model S in 2016, but that before the crash the Tesla "failed to engage as advertised".

In an interview with South Jordan police after the crash, Lommatzsch admitted she was looking at her phone before the collision, and witnesses said the Tesla didn't brake or attempt to avoid the crash.

Lommatzsch was taken to hospital with a broken right foot, according to police, but her lawyers have said she has sustained "severe and permanent injuries" and are seeking $300,000 in compensation for those injuries, as well as damages.

Her lawyers allege Tesla was negligent for failing to test the Model S to "avoid the risk of it suddenly and without warning, failing to function as advertised and represented in its auto-pilot capacity".

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The lawsuit also accuses Tesla of knowing the Model S was "unreasonably dangerous while operating in pilot mode".

According to Tesla's account given to police based on data from the vehicle, the driver misused Autopilot, driving for periods in excess of one minute and only touching the steering wheel after a visual alert.

"About one minute and 22 seconds before the crash, she re-enabled Autosteer and Cruise Control, and then, within two seconds, took her hands off the steering wheel again. She did not touch the steering wheel for the next 80 seconds until the crash happened; this is consistent with her admission that she was looking at her phone at the time," Tesla wrote.

"Contrary to the proper use of Autopilot, the driver did not pay attention to the road at all times, did not keep her hands on the steering wheel, and she used it on a street with no center median and with stoplight-controlled intersections."

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