Late last week, a Tesla driver fell asleep in his car around 5:30 p.m. on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge. He was spotted by motorists, and when police arrived on the scene (and, probably, woke him up) he tried to get out of trouble by claiming that his Tesla was on Autopilot, the vehicle’s proprietary, but still in-development, autonomous driving technology. Unsurprisingly, the excuse didn’t work.
He was found to have twice the legal blood alcohol level and was arrested for a suspected DUI. In the subsequent tweet, the San Francisco division of the California Highway Patrol was not amused, though it did throw him some serious shade: “Car towed (no it didn’t drive itself to the tow yard).”
Australia’s National Transport Commission brought up the question of whether or not automated vehicles should change drunk driving laws last year, as Inverse previously reported. In its initial report, it suggested that laws against driving under the influence should no longer apply. However, the Australian government has yet to change any laws as a result.
Meanwhile, in the United States, while lawyers have made some attempt to sift through the laws on the books to figure out whether someone could get a DUI in a self-driving car, there’s no question about where the law currently stands: You can 100 percent be charged with drinking under the influence while in an autonomous vehicle.
Besides, one point worth keeping in mind here is that if an autonomous car is operating correctly, there really shouldn’t be any reason for the police to pull it over on suspicion of driving under the influence. A self-driving car isn’t going to swerve between lanes just because its occupant is drunk. It’s certainly possible the car’s software could malfunction, but it’s far more likely that the human is going to be blamed for any reckless driving the police might see, especially if they are found to be intoxicated.
“Hopefully a self-driving car would be operating safely enough not to draw the attention of law enforcement,” Christopher Coble, an attorney, wrote in a blog post, “but if you’re pulled over while drunk in an autonomous vehicle, it’s probably going to be on you.”
And if your car is stopped in the middle of a busy bridge at rush hour and you’re sitting in it passed out? It’s definitely going to be on you.
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