A Tesla Model X driver in the Netherlands tried to use Autopilot as a defense in court to get out of tickets for driving while using a mobile device.
A judge has ruled against him confirming that the driver is responsible even when driving with Tesla’s Autopilot on.
The situation involved not one but two tickets that the Model X driver received on two separate occasions last month.
According to the ruling released yesterday in the district court of Central Netherlands, the driver argued that the Autopilot was driving (translated from Dutch):
“At the hearing, the driver stated that he disagrees with the sanction imposed because he was not the actual driver, but his Tesla Model X was. According to the man, the electric car drives through an Autopilot system. The software ensures that the car can steer and brake itself, without requiring intervention by a person. That is why the car, and not he, must be regarded as the actual driver.”
In his decision, the judge disagreed with the Tesla Model X driver.
The court even cited Tesla’s statement about driver responsibilities while on Autopilot (translated from Dutch):
“The subdistrict court does not follow that reasoning. The Road Traffic Act stipulates that the driver of a motor vehicle is the person who drives the motor vehicle or the person who is deemed to have driven the motor vehicle under his immediate supervision. In this case it was the man who determines where the car goes and how the car should act in emergency situations. That makes him the actual driver. In addition, the subdistrict court refers to a quote from the Tesla Nederland website. “When using Autopilot, the driver must always pay attention and stay active and be ready to intervene at any time.”
The driver even admitted that he was forced to regularly grab the wheel in order to keep Autopilot activated.
The court wrote in its decision:
“Moreover, the man has stated that, if the driver is on the driver’s seat, he must regularly grab the steering wheel as the car would otherwise signal and after three signals the Autopilot system switches itself off.”
Tesla has a system of alerts that regularly makes the driver apply force to the steering wheel or press a button on the wheel in order for Autopilot to stay activated.
It’s often referred to as “Autopilot nag” and it aims at making sure that drivers are paying attention.
It’s not the first time a Tesla owner has tried to get out of a problem using Autopilot.
Earlier this year, a Tesla driver passed out allegedly drunk in his Model S on the Bay Bridge and he told the police that it was OK because the car was on Autopilot.
We often state this, but it’s worth repeating, Tesla Autopilot is only a level 2 driver assist system under its latest update.
Drivers should use the system for convenience on the highway, but they should always remain attentive and be ready to take control at any time.
As the system improves and Tesla implements more autonomous capabilities, drivers might be able to gradually reduce their monitoring responsibilities at some point.
But for now, please don’t even think about it and don’t use it as an excuse to get out of trouble. There’s actually precedent for it now… in the Netherlands at least.