A few weeks ago, a California man passed out drunk in his Tesla Model S
while attempting to drive across the San Francisco Bay Bridge. According
to the report by SFGate, the man fell asleep in bumper to bumper traffic
whereupon other motorists on the road called law enforcement for help.
Then, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) arrived to evaluate the situation
and determine what was going on. In an apparent attempt to defend himself,
the driver—according to CHP—claimed the car had been “set
on autopilot.” However, the officer arrested the driver and charged
him with suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), and towed his car. It was subsequently revealed that the man had a BAC
level that was more than twice the legal limit.
Tesla did not confirm that the driver had actually engaged in autopilot
system, although it has in the past used driver date in accident investigations.
The system is designed to get a driver’s attention if it encounters
and detects a challenging situation and forces the car to a stop if a
driver does not respond. In recent years, Tesla rolled out an update whereby
drivers have to touch the steering wheel at least once every two minutes
for the autopilot feature to remain on.
What Happens in the Future?
The incident above invites us to ask questions about driver responsibility
in the dawn of autonomous vehicles. In the future, will it be legal to
get in our cars while intoxicated, and let them take us home?
Possibly—but for now, you will be charged with a DUI if you allow
your autonomous vehicle to drive you. Tesla’s autopilot system is
not considered fully autonomous. The company has made it clear that drivers
using autopilot should remain alert and be aware of their vehicle’s actions.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Southern California,
contact our Ventura DUI attorney at
The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert and request a
free consultation today.