Tesla reaches settlement in class-action Autopilot case

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A Tesla Model S that crashed into a parked firetruck on a Utah highway this month while in its Autopilot mode sped up prior to the accident, a police report says.

The driver of the vehicle, Heather Lommatzsch, 29, told police she thought the vehicle's automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the auto hit another vehicle. When that vehicle switched lanes, the Tesla automatically accelerated to its preset speed of 60 miles per hour, neglecting to detect a group of stopped vehicles ahead, police say.

The 29-year-old driver, Heather Lommatzsch, was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation after police say vehicle data shows she didn't touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash.

Lommatzsch did not return a voicemail message on Thursday.

She told police she was looking at her phone comparing different routes to her destination.

The driver of the firetruck told police he had injuries consistent with whiplash but did not go to a hospital.

Tesla said Friday it has agreed to make payments to customers around the world as part of a settlement to a class-action suit involving the electric carmaker's sometimes controversial Autopilot assisted-driving system.

Among those functions is automatic emergency braking, which the company says on its website is designed "to detect objects that the auto may impact and applies the brakes accordingly". "The marketing and advertising practices of Tesla, combined with CEO Elon Musk's public statements, have made it reasonable for Tesla owners to believe, and act on that belief, that a Tesla with Autopilot is an autonomous vehicle capable of 'self-driving'". Moreover, the vehicle's logs revealed that the Model X issued a number of alerts to the driver in the seconds preceding the crash, essentially instructing him to resume control of the auto. The most recent crash, in March, is being investigated by safety regulators.

Members who had already contributed a certain amount of $5,000 to get the enhanced Autopilot upgrade between 2016 and 2017 will receive compensation between $20 and $280.

But Tesla said previously that since rolling out its second generation of Autopilot, it has continued to update software leading to major improvements. However, Steve Berman, the lawyer of the company has not commented yet.

Tesla's Autopilot has been the subject of previous scrutiny following other crashes involving the vehicles. In that incident, the driver, Walter Huang, was killed when his Model X crashed into a barrier between Highway 101 and Highway 85, in Mountain View.

Earlier in May, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus in that investigation.

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