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EV/AV Report: Tesla taken to court over accusations of repair monopolizations; while self-driving vehicles struggle to navigate at dawn and dusk

Toronto, Ontario — In this weekly electric and autonomous vehicle report, United States District Judge Trina Thompson has ruled that Tesla owners are allowed to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the automaker over accusations of repair monopolizations; while researchers from the University of Central Florida have found that autonomous vehicles struggle to perform at dawn, dusk and while turning.

Automotive accusations

United States District Judge Trina Thompson in San Francisco has ruled that Tesla owners are allowed to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the automaker over an alleged monopoly on repairs and parts access.

While the lawsuit had been previously dismissed in November, Thompson has since given the go ahead for plaintiffs who claim that Tesla coerces them into paying high prices and enduring long wait times for repairs.

According to Drive Tesla Canada, the plaintiffs also claim that Tesla leveraged the threat of voided warranties to dissuade them from seeking independent repair services.

From a legal standpoint, the lawsuit alleges that Tesla’s practices violate both the federal Sherman antitrust law and the California antitrust law. Drive Tesla Canada further noted that “the plaintiffs argue that Tesla’s refusal to open enough authorized service centres, combined with designing vehicles that require proprietary diagnostic and software updates, effectively creates a repair monopoly.”

Furthermore, “Tesla is accused of restricting original equipment manufacturers from selling parts to anyone other than Tesla, limiting consumers’ access to necessary components.”

While Tesla’s legal team has dismissed the lawsuit as being based on an “illogical theory,” arguing that it is counterintuitive for the company to intentionally degrade its repair and parts services, Judge Thompson found substantial evidence supporting plaintiff claims, highlighting Tesla’s practices of coercion and monopolization.

The lawsuit combines five separate complaints from vehicle owners who have paid for Tesla repairs and parts since March 2019.

The plaintiffs seek a variety of remedies, including injunctive relief to dismantle Tesla’s alleged monopolies, reimbursement for overpaid services and parts, and orders for Tesla to make its repair manuals and diagnostic tools available to independent repair shops at reasonable costs.

Low-vision liabilities

The University of Central Florida has found that autonomous vehicles are involved in fewer accidents than cars driven by humans; however, the vehicles are more prone to accidents in specific driving scenarios such as at dawn, dusk and when turning.

The university specifically found that during low-light conditions, self-driving vehicles were five times more likely to have an accident than a human-driven vehicle.

Similarly, while turning, self-driving vehicles were nearly two times more likely to get into a collision.

Researchers Mohamed Abdel-Aty and Shengxuan Ding compared accident data collected from 2,100 autonomous vehicles and 35,133 human-driven vehicles from 2016 to 2022.

Comparatively, the two found that autonomous vehicles were less likely to be involved in accidents when performing routine driving tasks, such as when maintaining lane positions and adjusting to the flow of traffic.

Moreover, autonomous vehicles were also shown to be safer when they were hit from behind or from the side.

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