Following accusations by a Korean celebrity that a Tesla car spontaneously drove through a wall, the carmaker has replied that the crash was entirely due to the man’s horrible driving.
In September, South Korean actor and singer Son Ji-chang (identified as Ji Chang Son in court documents) claimed he was parking his Tesla Model X SUV when the vehicle suddenly lurched forward into his living room.
In a lawsuit filed last week in California, Son claimed that the crash was due to “sudden unintended acceleration” and sought class-action status with other Model X owners.
In a nod to the car’s ability to sense and avoid crashes, the lawsuit also hinted that the Model X should not be allowed take actions that the car “knows will result in the collision with a fixed object.”
But Tesla contends its Model X was only dutifully following Son’s instructions to plough through his house.
“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 per cent,” said Tesla in a statement to Reuters.
Although most new cars are equipped with “black box” technology to record driver actions in the event of a crash, Tesla is unique for amassing vehicle data as detailed as whether a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel.
The data is collected to aid in research and design, but Tesla user agreements also reserve the carmaker’s right to use it to defend itself in court.
The term “sudden unintended acceleration” has a checkered recent history. Most famously, between 2009 and 2011 Toyota recalled more than eight million vehicles following widespread allegations that the vehicles were subject to unexpected acceleration.
But a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that most of the reported cases of “sudden unintended acceleration” were simply drivers stepping on the gas instead of the brake — with only a handful of incidents being due to pedals getting stuck on floormats.
“There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas,” wrote the Department of Transportation in a 2011 statement.
In June, another California-based Model X owner, Puzant Ozbag, similarly claimed that his Model X spontaneously accelerated through a parking lot and into a wall.
In that case, too, Tesla reviewed vehicle records and reported that the actual culprit was Ozbag jamming his foot down on the accelerator.