Sometimes technology that’s meant to increase automobile safety and prevent accidents can instead malfunction and risk causing accidents. The complaint for this class action brings suit against Mazda Motor Corporation (MMC) and Mazda Motor of America (which does business as Mazda North American Operations, or MNAO), claiming that their Smart City Brake Support or Smart Brake Support systems are defective and can malfunction.
The Nationwide Class for this action is all persons or entities who bought, leased, or own a model year 2018-2020 Mazda vehicle with a Smart City Brake Support or Smart Brake Support System in the US. A Florida Subclass has also been proposed.
The Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) or Smart Brake Support (SBS) systems in question are found in certain 2018-2020 Mazda vehicles. They use a feature called i-Activsense, which is meant to include active and pre-crash safety technology to help prevent collisions. A forward-sensing camera (FSC) is placed near the rearview mirror as part of the system.
The idea, the complaint says, is for the system to “alert the driver [to] a possible collision using the warning indications on the display panel and a warning sound if the front radar sensor and the FSC determine that there is the possibility of a collision…. If the systems deem a collision unavoidable, the automatic brake control is activated to reduce damage.”
However, the complaint alleges that the system can malfunction: “Upon information and belief, when overheated, the FSC malfunctions and improperly activates the SCBS and/or SBS systems and slows down or stops the vehicles despite the absence of a legitimate trigger or chance of collision….” When this occurs, the driver can’t accelerate or maintain the vehicle’s speed, putting the vehicle at risk for rear-end collisions and other accidents.
The complaint alleges that Mazda knows about the defect because of complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and elsewhere online, including in Mazda forums. According to the complaint, Mazda admitted in December 2018 that the FSC has poor heat radiation performance, but it has not issued a full technical service bulletin on the unwanted braking problem.
Car companies have a responsibility to monitor customer complaints for potential safety problems. The complaint claims that Mazda has “knowingly, actively, and affirmatively concealed the existence, scope, and nature of the Braking Defect to increase profits by selling more Class Vehicles, avoid expenses associated with recalling and repairing the Defect in Class Vehicles, and avoid negative publicity associated with the Defect.”
Customers are thus left to take their vehicles in for repair and attempt to figure out the fixes with service personnel and pay for repairs on their own, the complaint claims. Still, the complaint claims that representations in warranty information and maintenance schedules indicate that the systems are meant to last for the useful life of the engine or vehicle and should not require maintenance.