What happens when an officer pulls over a self-driving car? Can the officer charge anyone with a DUI in a self-driving Tesla? Some Scholars have written about this and I thought we might review this issue. Tesla automobiles have an autopilot feature. It is not truly self-driving as Tesla has referred to it as semi-autonomous driving. Other car companies have also tried developing autopilot technology.
California Highway Patrol Charge Driver With DUI in a Tesla.
In January 2018, in San Francisco, a person in a Tesla car had an alcohol level twice the legal limit. The Tesla’s operator received a DUI. Tesla has instructed drivers using autopilot to maintain consciousness while driving. Also, Tesla tells drivers using autopilot to keep their hands on the steering wheel. In this arrest, the driver explained that the Tesla was on autopilot to the California Highway Patrol. Even with the driver’s explanation, the officer arrested and charged the driver with DUI. The California Highway Patrol tweeted that the car did not drive itself to the tow yard.
Will Florida Officers Charge Drivers With DUI in a Tesla?
Florida law prohibits an intoxicated driver from being in actual physical control of a vehicle. The car does not need to be moving at the time of a DUI arrest. Florida only requires that the vehicle is capable of being moved. The case law discusses the location of the keys and whether or not the car is operable. Under this broad definition of driving that includes the capacity of physical control of the car, it is highly unlikely the operator of a self-driving car would beat a DUI on that defense. It is probable that the court would find the driver was in actual physical control of the vehicle. Hence, some cars equipped with these automatic driving features have contracts that require the user to keep hands on the steering wheel even when the vehicle is in autopilot mode.