Backseat Autopilot Driving a Tesla Means a Night in Jail
According to Fox News station KTVU in Oakland California, 25-year old Param Sharma was arrested last Monday night for two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a peace officer after spotted driving on autopilot from the backseat of his Tesla. On Tuesday, he was released pending a court date on July 6th to determine what legal action(s) will be taken against him for violating California laws prohibiting driving while not physically behind the wheel.
The news reports that Sharma was traveling eastbound on I-80 across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toward Oakland, where California Highway Patrol investigators said the driverless Tesla was navigating through medium to heavy traffic at the time of his arrest.
Currently, Tesla is continuing with the development and tweaking of its autonomous driving system known as Full Self Driving (FSD). The legal ramifications of this and the arrest, is the distinction between true autonomous driving and that which is described as advanced driver-assistance system, or ADAS while operating under SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Level 2 conditions. The classification requires that a human driver must be ready to take the wheel at all times.
Reportedly, Sharma argues that he is not in violation because his long arms makes him capable of taking control of the wheel from the back seat should the need arise.
Sharma claims that his actions in his Tesla are not to show off, but to show that self-driving vehicles are not only the future, but the present as well.
Here is a Fox News YouTube Video of the Story
How Many Other Param Sharmas Are There Out On The Road?
From the news reports about Sharma’s arrest and release, it appears that Sharma will continue with his backseat autopilot driving in spite of safety experts pointing out that his actions are clearly unsafe and an accident waiting to happen (pun intended). It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” that demonstrates his intentions of further reckless endangerment whether he is willing to recognize or not that autopilot driving is not yet perfected.
The cause for concern here is not just one person doing this, but it is very likely there are quite a few---some of whom may be operating unseen behind tinted glass. Which begs the question, where is Tesla’s voice on this issue? Perhaps it seems to be a no-brainer, but Elon needs to respond.
Here is one response on Twitter in response to the news:
— Torque News (@torquenewsauto) May 12, 2021
If there is a need for further convincing of the seriousness of the matter, here is an informative article by Torque News writer John Goreham on “How Many Tesla Autopilot Deaths Would Have Occurred If Every Car In America Had Autopilot?”
Timothy Boyer is Torque News Tesla and EV reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily Tesla and electric vehicle news.