Tesla backseat driver was arrested then released; now he says he is back at it

The Tesla driver who has been spotted driving his Model 3 from the backseat several times in the Bay Area over the last few weeks has been arrested.

But he has already been released and claims to be back at it.

Last week, Electrek put a new Tesla owner on blast for being filmed in the Bay Area on several occasions driving on the highway while being in the backseat of his vehicle.

It goes against Tesla’s instructions on how to use Autopilot, but more importantly is considered dangerous driving and illegal.

After we reported on the incident, several other media picked up the story and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) announced that they were investigating the situation.

Yesterday, we reported that the driver in question is Param Sharma, who goes by Lavish P and a few similar names on social media.

Last night, CHP announced that they arrested Sharma in a public statement:

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) today announced it has arrested 25-year-old Param Sharma for reckless driving of a Tesla while in the backseat on Interstate 80 (I-80) in the Bay Area. Sharma was arrested without incident and booked into Santa Rita Jail on two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a Peace Officer. The Tesla was towed from the scene for evidence and this incident remains under investigation.

On May 10 at approximately 6:34 p.m., the CHP’s Golden Gate Division Communications Center received multiple 9-1-1 calls regarding an individual seated in the backseat of a Tesla Model 3 without anyone seated in the driver’s seat. The vehicle was reported to be traveling eastbound on I-80 across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toward the city of Oakland.

An Oakland CHP motor officer at the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza located the Tesla, confirmed that a single occupant was seated in the backseat, and initiated an enforcement stop. The officer observed the individual move into the driver’s seat. The occupant then brought the Tesla to a stop on the shoulder of I-80 eastbound just west of Powell Street, where the officer arrested Sharma.

Prior to this arrest, members of the public had captured video of someone resembling Sharma operating his vehicle in the same reckless manner, and the CHP’s Oakland Area had cited Sharma on April 27 for similar behavior.

The safety of all who share our roadways is the primary concern of the CHP. The Department thanks the public for providing valuable information that aided in this investigation and arrest.

The statement revealed that he had been cited before for a similar dangerous driving habit.

KTVU reported today that Sharma has been released and the local news station managed to speak to him.

He reportedly said that he is already back at driving from the backseat, which he claims is not dangerous:

“Sharma spent the night in Santa Rita Jail. By Tuesday evening he was out. He gave KTVU an interview where he said his driving isn’t dangerous and boasted that he got home by doing what we’ve come to know him for: riding in the backseat of a car. He said he made the trip in a friend’s self-driving Tesla, while the pair sat in the back.”

Sharma added:

“I’ve been brake-checked before really hard, and the car stopped. The car came to a complete stop. Elon Musk really knows what he’s doing and I think people are tripping and they’re scared.” 

The whole incident is leading to even more misinformation about Tesla Autopilot in the media.

KTVU wrote in their report about the interview with Sharma:

“Tesla introduced the Level 5 autonomy technology five years ago, but it isn’t foolproof.”

Tesla has never released a level 5 autonomous system.

Autopilot and its features are and always have been considered level 2 driver assist as the driver is responsible for the vehicle and needs to be ready to take control at all times, which is obviously not possible from the backseat.

Tesla does sell a “Full Self-Driving Package,” which the automaker says will eventually lead to level 5 autonomous driving through future software updates.

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Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

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