Lawsuit Alleges Defective Honda Driver-Assisting Safety System
A putative class action lawsuit has been filed alleging defects in the computerized driver-assisting safety systems in certain Honda vehicles.
The lawsuit alleges that Honda’s proprietary driver support suite, called “Honda Sensing,” has a defect that causes subsystems within it to malfunction dangerously while the vehicles are driven. Specifically, the suit claims the defect impedes the system’s ability to detect and respond to roadway conditions, causing malfunctions of the adaptive cruise control, the lane-departure system, and the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS). The complaint alleges the defect exists in 2016 to 2020 model year Honda Accords and 2017 to 2020 model year Honda CR-Vs.
The plaintiffs allege:
Despite its longstanding familiarity with the failures of the Honda Sensing system and the importance of functional driver-assisting safety systems, Honda continues selling and leasing vehicles equipped with Honda Sensing. Drivers have thus reported in droves that their vehicles’ Honda Sensing warning lights display without explanation, brakes deploy seemingly randomly, and parts of the system like adaptive cruise control malfunction. As a result, drivers are brought to abrupt halts in traffic, and trailing vehicles have to slam on the brakes or swerve dangerously out of their lanes to avoid a crash. According to public records, at least five collisions have already occurred, and more are likely absent a quickly implemented solution. Meanwhile, many drivers report suffering whiplash and soreness from experiencing the sudden braking in their vehicles. . . . Honda remains silent, however, and when asked by drivers and technicians trying to deal with the problem offers no solution, telling drivers and technicians that no repairs are available.
The named Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on behalf of themselves and all persons who purchased or leased a class vehicle in California, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Ohio.
As alleged in the complaint, the defect in Honda Sensing affected the named plaintiffs in ways such as the following:
Todd Collras purchased a 2018 Accord equipped with Honda Sensing. Shortly after purchase, Mr. Collras’s vehicle braked suddenly multiple times for no apparent reason, triggering the CMBS indicator to come on with the warning, “Collision Mitigation Braking System Problem. See Your Dealer” in the driver information interface. This sudden braking occurred when there were no vehicles close by and occurred more frequently when he switched lanes and while making turns. Keyes Honda inspected his vehicle and claimed the problem was due to a dirty sensor, which it cleaned. Subsequently, though, his vehicle continued to brake at random for no reason on at least 15 additional occasions. In about June 2020, multiple warning lights illuminated on the dashboard, including the CMBS warning light. Mr. Collras took his vehicle in to Honda Woodland Hills and again complained that at times, his vehicle braked on its own with nothing on the road, and a software update was performed. The service representative commented he had the same vehicle and experienced the same problem.
Robert Morse purchased a 2019 Honda CR-V with Honda Sensing. In October 2019, he was driving approximately 40 mph when his car suddenly engaged its brakes and slammed to a near-stop, without any traffic or obstruction in his vicinity. The next day, he took his vehicle to Bell Honda of Phoenix, which stated it was unable to duplicate the concern and could not detect any errors, and verified with the “Honda tech line” that Honda claimed not to know of any problem or have any resolution to the complaint. Later that month, Mr. Morse was again driving his vehicle in clear and unobstructed conditions when his car suddenly engaged its brakes and slammed to a near-stop, without any traffic obstruction in his vicinity. The next day, he took his vehicle to a different dealership to see if it had a solution. Two days later, he was again driving his car in clear and unobstructed conditions at approximately 50 mph when his car suddenly engaged its brakes and slammed to a near-stop, without any traffic or obstruction in his vicinity. The following day, he brought his vehicle to yet another dealership. Surprise Honda noted, “customer states on several occasions while drive [sic] any where [sic] from 40 mph to 55 mph the cmbs emergency braking system will activate for no reason he can figure out. The car will come to almost to a complete stop. The road each time was cear [sic] of cars in front or on side of vel [sic] weather was dry and no road construction. No direct sun light toward vel [sic] as well. No curse [sic] control turned on at all.” Surprise Honda also had no solution.
Joseph Russell purchased a 2018 CR-V. Within the first year of ownership, he began to experience the Honda Sensing Defect. He was driving at about approximately 50 mph in clear and unobstructed conditions when his vehicle suddenly engaged its brakes and slammed to a near-stop, with the warning message “BRAKE” flashing in the driver information interface. The “BRAKE” warning message was coupled with an audible beeping sound. Mr. Russell contacted Atamian Honda following the incident, which explained the CMBS system may have engaged because of the recent snowfall. Later, Mr. Russell was driving at approximately 35 mph in clear and unobstructed conditions when his vehicle for a second time suddenly engaged its brakes and slammed to a near-stop, with the warning message “BRAKE” flashing in the driver information interface. The “BRAKE” warning message was coupled with an audible beeping sound. Because of this abrupt braking, he was nearly hit by the vehicle driving behind him. Alarmed, he took his vehicle to Atamian Honda to complain of the problems he was experiencing. Atamian Honda inspected the vehicle, stated it was unable to duplicate the concern, stated it could not detect any errors, and claimed not to know of any problem or have any resolution to the complaint.
Martha Bustamante leased a 2019 Honda Accord equipped with Honda Sensing. In March 2020, she was driving on the highway when the vehicle abruptly braked for no reason with no vehicles close by, coming to a sudden and complete stop. In June 2020, her vehicle experienced the Honda Sensing Defect while driving on a local road, again coming to a sudden and complete stop for no reason. Each time, a light illuminated on the dashboard indicating a braking system malfunction. She contacted the dealership on several occasions and explained the problems she was experiencing, but was unable to arrange for an appointment at an acceptable time due to the schedule constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 2020, she experienced sudden unexpected braking on at least two additional occasions and, as a result, has stopped driving her vehicle.
Vincent Liem bought a 2017 Honda CR-V equipped with Honda Sensing. In or about October 2019, the vehicle’s brakes abruptly engaged with no warning while driving on a road that had a metal plate on the ground. Service representatives inspected the vehicle and claimed the problem was from dust on the front millimeter wave radar, which they cleaned off. However, the vehicle continued to experience the Honda Sensing Defect. Around the end of December 2019, the vehicle braked again without warning while being driven over a metal grate. Mr. Liem’s wife complained to the dealer and was told by the manager that this was new technology and there was nothing that could be done but to dust off the millimeter wave-radar, and that she needed to contact Honda. Ms. Liem opened a case with Honda and made multiple requests for corrective action, but was offered no remedy.
The complaint alleges violations of various state consumer protection and warranty laws, as well as unjust enrichment. The lawsuit seeks remedies including damages, attorney fees, and an injunction requiring Honda to disclose its knowledge of the defect and take corrective measures such as deactivating or removing Honda Sensing from vehicles until it can be modified to perform safely.
Currently, the case is in in the complaint stage.
The case is Kathleen Cadena, et al., v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc. and Honda Motor Co., Ltd., case number 2:18-cv-04007-MWF-PJW, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.