Tesla Autopilot and DUI – Technology Is Not A Defense (Yet)


Tesla Autopilot and DUI - Technology Is Not A Defense (Yet)

With the autopilot feature that is built into Tesla, people get to experience a more convenient way of driving: by letting their car do all the work for them. But will it be worth it if you get a DUI?

It is still possible to get a DUI while driving a Tesla in autopilot mode. You can still be arrested for DUI by not keeping your hands on the wheel and driving while intoxicated.

Despite the fact that Teslas come with its self-driving features, this does not exempt you from getting a DUI. We’ll explain the ins and outs of the law and how it relates to driving drunk in a Tesla.

Why You Can’t Drink While Driving a Self-Driving Tesla

The purpose of Tesla’s self-driving feature is to enjoy the comfort of the car so you can be aided for a short period of time, NOT serve as a substitute for driving at all times.

It is still your job to ensure that you remain focused on traffic while keeping your hands on the wheel at all times. 

According to Don Hammond Law, Tesla’s autopilot feature is meant to supplement the person’s driving, not fully replace it. Driving under the influence of Tesla’s technologically advanced cars is still against the law throughout the country and can result in a DUI.

Can You Still Get a DUI If You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat?

There is no loophole when trying to get out of a DUI charge, especially when driving an autonomous vehicle. Please note that if you are not in the driver’s seat while under the influence of a self-driving Tesla, you can get in even bigger trouble with the law!

According to The Drive, “You will get in big legal trouble if you get caught with no one behind the wheel, much less an empty seat and a bunch of open hard seltzers.”

To avoid putting yourself in this predicament, make sure that you do two things:

  • Keep your hands on the wheel at all times, even during autopilot mode.
  • Avoid drinking and driving.

Making the right choices and being responsible behind the wheel is all it takes to not only ensure your safety, but also everyone else on the road.

Can Autonomous Vehicles Reduce Drunk Driving?

There has been a topic up for debate as to whether driving an autonomous vehicle will be able to reduce drunk driving accidents. The answer to this question is that it is a possibility.

According to Colo-Law, “Grey areas are still present as highway safety is concerned with those under the influence taking control of the self-driving vehicle, and how open container laws may change.”

Another factor that can validate this statement is that technically the driver would become the “passenger,” seeing as how they will no longer be operating the vehicle all the time. However, all of this can be negated if there is an increase in DUIs on the driver’s part. As of right now, the topic of this debate continues.

What Changes Will Be Made if DUI Laws Change?

The one thing that can fully change how DUI laws will adapt to autonomous vehicles is if they become 100% autonomous.

According to Life Safer, if the cars are running on full automatic power by themselves, the driver would not be considered an operator of the vehicle, which can lead them to have a drink behind the wheel. Should this evolve from Tesla vehicles to all future autonomous vehicles, then DUIs will cease to be an issue of the law.

There is still a way to go before this can happen across the country. So as of right now, just make sure you’re completely sober driving Tesla’s cars

Where Does the Blame Go for Autopilot Accidents?

One of the hardest decisions to make in terms of the law when someone gets into an accident with an autonomous vehicle is where the blame should go. It may seem like the driver should be held at fault for their inability to pay attention while driving, but this is not the case.

According to The Conversation, the biggest problem that surfaces when it comes to people being involved in autonomous vehicle accidents is who should be held legally liable for them. The blame can be divided between the following parties:

  • The driver
  • The car
  • The victim
  • The manufacturer

More research led primarily to the driver of the car by a study that was conducted by Columbia University. Dr. Xuan (Sharon) Di, an author that participated in the study, stated, “We found that human drivers may take advantage of this technology by driving carelessly and taking more risks, because they know that self-driving cars would be designed to drive more conservatively.”

The biggest factors that contribute to who should take the blame vary by state as well as how the accident occurred. As of right now. There is no one person-or business-that should be held responsible for any autopilot accidents.

Can the DUI Charge Stay in Place if Charged?

Despite the potential outcomes that can come out of obtaining a DUI, there is a 50/50 chance that the charge will be able to stay in place.

 According to The Next Web, the only way that a DUI charge can stick is if the lawmakers are able to provide sufficient evidence that the driver of the autonomous vehicle was in control while under the influence underneath Level 4 Autonomy.

The Levels of Autonomy

The outcome of the driver receiving a DUI is dependent on the Levels of Autonomy. Take a look at the breakdown of each of the levels below:

  • Level 0-displays the majority of the cars that can be on the road with full control by the driver without assistance from the vehicle.
  • Level 1-lane-keeping and cruise control are introduced through smaller forms of assistance.
  • Level 2-features Tesla’s autopilot and GM’S Super Cruise where the driver will step in and drive as needed.
  • Level 3-the vehicle will drive for the majority of the time, but will still need the human driver to assist as necessary.
  • Level 4-the car will still have a steering wheel, but it will almost be fully autonomous.
  • Level 5-the car is completely autonomous and does not require human intervention.

We are still a long way from reaching Level 5 of autonomy for all car manufacturers. With a better understanding of how each level functions, this will give a better idea for drivers to drive their car while still being aware of what is on the road.

Tesla Models with Autopilot

Tesla launched its first car with the autopilot feature back in October of 2014 with the Tesla Model S. After the growing success of this car, Tesla created other models that would soon follow in its place.

Take a look at the list of models that Tesla released for the autopilot feature:

  • Tesla Model 3
  • Tesla Model X
  • Tesla Model Y

As of today, every model that Tesla manufacturers are now autonomous vehicles that are equipped with complete self-driving capabilities. Every car has been equipped with advanced hardware through software updates that are designed to make functionality better over time.

Tesla’s Autopilot and DUIs: Not a Mix

Just because Tesla’s cars are built with the autopilot feature, does not mean that you can avoid breaking the law. Treat this car the same way you would treat any other vehicle: drive with safety and with caution.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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