Splendora, TX – Five Texas law enforcement officers have filed a $20 million lawsuit against Tesla alleging the company falsely advertised the safety of its Autopilot software.
The five officers were involved in a traffic stop on the Eastex Freeway near East River Road on Feb. 27 when a Tesla Model X with Autopilot engaged crashed into them, KPRC reported.
According to the lawsuit, the Tesla was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour when it crashed into two patrol units, shoving the patrol cars into the five officers and the driver they had pulled over, Insider reported.
The five officers are seeking damages for the injuries and permanent disabilities they suffered in the crash, according to KPRC.
Four of the officers were Montgomery County Precinct 5 deputy constables, and the fifth was a Splendora police officer, KHOU reported.
“All of them had orthopedic injuries – neck and back,” their attorney, Tony Buzbee, told KHOU.
The lawsuit alleges the collision is one of at least 12 incidents since 2018 in which Tesla’s Autopilot system was linked to crashes involving first responders who were out working active scenes with their emergency lights activated, according to KPRC.
Buzbee said the government recently asked Tesla to hand over information about all crashes involving first responders and Teslas that were operating on Autopilot when they crashed.
“Apparently, the defect that exists is when the police lights are flashing, it makes the Tesla on autopilot not detect the vehicle,” Buzbee said.
The lawsuit alleged Tesla has falsely advertised the safety of its Autopilot software by claiming the software is able to execute driving functions better than human drivers, Insider reported.
“You’ve probably seen that Elon Musk and Tesla have proudly touted Teslas on autopilot are safer than your everyday driver, that Tesla’s on autopilot there are fewer accidents than they are otherwise,” Buzbee told KPRC. “But what we’ve learned is that this information is misleading.”
According to the lawsuit, Tesla’s Autopilot software was “completely unable to detect the existence of at least four vehicles, six people and a German Shepherd fully stopped in the lane of traffic,” Insider reported.
Although Tesla is aware flashing lights negatively impact the software’s ability to recognize pedestrians and cars, they’ve done nothing to fix the problem, the lawsuit alleged.
“So we know how deadly the problem can be,” Buzbee told KHOU. “Tesla has a defect in that Autopilot, and this case seeks to correct it.”
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is investigating the cases involving Teslas on Autopilot crashing into first responders, said most of the crashes occurred at night while police were using emergency lights, traffic cones, and flares, Insider reported.
By filing the lawsuit, the five officers said they hope “to hold Tesla accountable, and force Tesla to publicly acknowledge and immediately correct the known defects inherent in its Autopilot and collision avoidance systems, particularly as those impact the ongoing safety of our nation’s first responders,” according to the filing.
The driver behind the wheel of the Tesla that hit the five officers was taken into custody for driving under the influence, Insider reported.
The officers also filed a lawsuit against Pappas Restaurants for allegedly overserving the driver prior to the crash.
“We have only just received this complaint and will be conducting an investigation into its allegations,” Pappas Restaurants general counsel Anna Marchand told KPRC. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers involved. We want to thank the Montgomery County constables for all they do for our community.”
Tesla does not have a media relations department and has not responded to requests for comment, KHOU reported.