Many bad decisions can be made when you are drunk, and trying to allow Tesla’s Autopilot to drive you home is one of them. Even though Tesla aims to eventually be the world’s first fully autonomous and self-driven vehicle, it should not be assumed that the car can drive home a drunk person in a pinch.
Tesla has issued numerous warnings that Autopilot is not meant to replace a licensed driver, so it continues to be illegal even to start the car when one has consumed over the legal limit of alcohol. Any person found to be operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is subject to being charged with a DUI.
There are many things to consider when determining the role of Tesla’s Autopilot. Since it is billed as a way to have cars drive themselves eventually, it is important to understand its current limitations under the law. Continue reading to learn more about what will happen if you try to use Autopilot to get you home after a night of drinking.
Can Autopilot Drive You Home Drunk if You Are Not in the Driver’s Seat?
The technical answer to this question is, yes, Autopilot can theoretically drive you home if you are drunk, providing you input the proper route information into the navigation system. However, this does not make it legal.
No jurisdiction in the world currently permits a Tesla to drive itself without a conscious and fully capable driver sitting at the controls of the vehicle at all times. With DUI laws continuing to strengthen around the country, one must think twice about assuming they can ask a Tesla to do the work of getting them home.
Is it Safe to Have Your Tesla Drive You Home?
This question has been asked countless times since driverless technology has come on the world stage. With millions of hours of testing now completed, we do have statistics that seem to highlight the reality that self-driving cars are safer than those driven by a human.
In fact, we now know that self-driven cars get in an accident about once every 1.75 million miles. For human drivers, that number decreases to only about 435,000 miles. This would seem to allude to the fact that it is much safer for a driverless car to drive home a drunk person than it would be for that same intoxicated person to be at the controls him or herself.
What Does the Law Say?
The issue here is not what is safer – driverless vehicles or vehicles driven by a human. At the core of this topic is DUI laws themselves. Such legislation is written to ensure that a legally drunk person is never permitted to operate a motorized vehicle, self-driven or not.
Since self-driven cars still must be controlled at all times by a human driver, that precludes any person who is over the legal limit in terms of blood alcohol to operate a Tesla. There is no documented case of a drunk individual having a DUI conviction overturned because they thought it was ok to have their self-driving car take them home.
Who Should be Blamed?
Another way to look at this issue is to see where the blame lies when an autonomous vehicle happens to get in an accident. There are three parties at play here:
- The driver
- The Artificial Intelligence software
- The vehicle manufacturer
Each of these parties has a role to play in an accident. Drivers do have a reasonable expectation of a safe vehicle when they engage the Autopilot system on a Tesla. There is no denying that. Tesla has made countless claims about how safe their vehicle is.
At the same time, it is well documented that a capable and properly licensed driver must remain at the controls at all times. This is why each accident involving a driverless car must be examined on a case by case basis. When it comes to a drunk remaining at the control of the vehicle, however, the law has been and remains very clear on this issue.
What is Autopilot Designed to Do?
If you think that Autopilot can get you home when you’re drunk, you need to first look at the system’s function in the first place. The key to really understanding this issue is to distinguish the innate differences between Autopilot itself and the deeper issue of fully self-driving technology.
Let us begin with a summation of what Autopilot is designed to do for you:
- It will keep your vehicle in its proper lane – Autopilot is constantly using a series of sensors to make sure you do not drift out of your lane.
- It is meant to make sure that your vehicle is centered in the lane – The same technology will work to keep your car centered. This will keep your car from swerving, which is something that drunk people are known for doing. That does not mean you should rely on it when you have a few too many drinks at the after work happy hour.
- It helps prevent you from colliding with another vehicle – When you are traveling at a high rate of speed, it is often difficult to notice if a car has suddenly stopped up ahead. Autopilot can sense that for you and help you avoid an accident. This is one of the main features that Tesla has touted ever since its creation.
In essence, Autopilot is your assistant behind the scenes. For example, you will not even notice it working if you can keep your vehicle in its proper lane. However, you might occasionally start to drift into the next lane. That is when Autopilot kicks, gives you a nudge, and pushes you back in the right direction.
Fully self-driving technology is already here as well. Here are some items that it can do for you when completely enabled:
- It can change lanes on your behalf – based on the destination data and prevailing traffic on the road, this feature will change lanes when necessary to ensure that that the vehicle is ready to make the final turns necessary to get you safely to your endpoint.
- It will stop at red lights and stop signs – It will do this even if you fail to engage the brakes. This is why drunk people might be tempted to think that they can just use this feature to get them home. Do not make this mistake.
- The system can effectively get the vehicle from onramp to offramp based on the journey input into navigation. Again, this does not give someone the license just to input a destination, sit in the back seat, and then wait to arrive safely at home.
Fully self-driving technology sounds great on paper, but it is not quite a reality as of yet. While it is true that you can use these features on your Tesla, it is still required that you sit in the driver’s seat and are ready to take over when something goes awry. You cannot obviously be expected to do that if you are drunk.
Whenever the Autopilot feature on Tesla is engaged, the driver still has full responsibility for the operation of the vehicle. It never reverts to technology. Any individual who is legally drunk should never operate a car, even if they attempt to program in a destination and allow Autopilot to do the driving for them. This is a recipe for disaster, and it should never be done.