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Can you get a DUI in a self-driving car?

It’s been just over a year since was charged with a DUI while intoxicated behind the wheel of his self-driving Tesla. As more vehicles have adopted self-driving safety assist features as standard, the realty of many Americans owning self-driving cars is getting closer.

However, some are questioning whether the technology will lead to inattentive or impaired drivers. But, if the car is self-driving will that even matter anymore?

What counts as “operating” a vehicle?

Even those who don’t have self-driving technology, ought to know why the man with the self-driving car could be charged with a DUI. Why? Because you could be charged for the same reason.

In Texas, operating a vehicle means that you can readily “exert personal effort” to control the car. Under these vague provisions, you could be charged with a DUI for sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys placed in the ignition if your BAC is over the legal limit.

In the case of the Tesla driving on autopilot, although the vehicle is intended to do the work for the driver, there could be situations in which it fails. Drivers need to be able to take action in case a malfunction, accident or hazard requires them to take over the vehicle manually. Also, a person who is under the influence could still choose to make poor driving decisions that endanger others.

Is being drunk dangerous with assist features?

Many vehicles are not self-driving yet, however automated safety assist features are becoming standard in newer car models. These features can typically:

  • Sense a hazard ahead and slow down or stop to prevent a rear-end collision
  • Alert the driver and correct the vehicle if it drifts over lane markings
  • Detect and alert the driver when there is an object in their blind spot

However, these features are not full-proof. Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol could still slip or hydroplane in poor weather conditions, turn into another vehicle or small motorcycle at an intersection, miss a stop sign and more.

How should I handle DUI charges?

Whether your car has self-driving technology integrated into it or not, you could still face DUI charges if you are behind the while intoxicated. Always test your blood alcohol level or wait until you are sober to get on the road.

For those who have already learned this lesson the hard way, you can negotiate the outcome of your charges by recruiting an experienced Criminal Defense lawyer. The Maddox Law Firm attorneys know that self-driving technology is presenting courts with potential changes to traffic laws that have been in use for decades.

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