Ji Chang Son took delivery of a new Tesla Model X in August of last year. About a month later, as Mr. Son was turning into his driveway at his home in Orange County, California, he says the car suddenly leaped forward at a high rate of speed, crashed through the back wall of his garage, and ended up in his living room.
In the suit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, attorneys for Son claim 10 Tesla drivers have had their SUVs unintentionally accelerate while parking or driving their Model X slowly. Since only 16,000 Model Xs have been sold since the car debuted, the number of those that unintentionally accelerate is “staggeringly high” when compared with other cars on the road, the lawsuit claims.
Tesla emailed a statement to the news agency Reuters saying the company was not responsible for the crash.
“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 percent,” Tesla said in the statement.
Car maker Toyota faced similar allegations in 2010 when SUV and pickup owners filed a class action lawsuit against the company, claiming their vehicles suddenly accelerated. In 2013, the Japanese automaker paid $1.6 billion to settle the lawsuit. In 2014 the U.S. Department of Justice levied a $1.2 billion criminal penalty against the company.
Tesla advertises its Model X as being equipped with self-driving hardware which is “substantially safer” than human drivers, but Son and his attorneys claim the Model X has programmatic flaws.
“Tesla has been aware that (sudden unintended acceleration) events are occurring at a markedly high rate in the Model X, but has not, as of yet, explained the root cause,” the lawsuit reads. “This made it critically important for Tesla to design and implement an adequate fail-safe system to prevent or mitigate the consequences of SUA. Therefore, the Model X is defective. …”
The lawsuit was filed days after a clip went viral of a Tesla autopilot system predicting a collision. The autopilot feature in the car anticipated a crash and applied the breaks just before an SUV ahead of the Tesla was rear ended and flipped several times.