It was only a matter of time. Drivers have been looking for loopholes to get out of traffic tickets since the dawn of the automobile. There was the Arizona woman in 2006 who sought to get out of a ticket for driving in the HOV lane, citing her unborn child as the “second person” in the vehicle. (It didn’t work.)
This time, a Tesla Model X driver in the Netherlands is attempting to get out of a ticket for distracted driving while using a mobile device by claiming that his car was in autonomous driving mode, therefore he wasn’t distracted driving. It was the second time that the man had been stopped for distracted driving.
“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,” reads the transcript from the district court of Central Netherlands. “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.”
As it turns out, judges in the Netherlands aren’t gullible, either, so the man’s “the car was driving” defense has fallen flat, and his fine of 230 Euros ($261). Tesla itself has a code of driver responsibility for vehicle owners using Autopilot that stipulates that drivers must pay attention at all times, even when using autonomous mode. Tesla vehicles feature a system of safety alerts that require drivers to apply force to the steering wheel or press a button on the wheel for Autopilot to stay activated. It’s sometimes referred to as “Autopilot nag,” and it’s there to ensure that drivers aren’t tempted to let their attention drift (or sleep) while using autonomous mode.
It’s not the first time that Tesla’s autonomous mode has been used to try and get out of a trouble spot. In January of 2018, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) found a drunk driver passed out in his Tesla on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge who proceeded to explain to the officer that the car was on auto-pilot, so he wasn’t operating it under the influence.
The highway patrol officer was unimpressed and proceeded to arrest the driver and charge him with suspicion of driving under the influence. The officer arranged for the car to be towed, and later noted on Twitter that “No, it didn’t drive itself to the tow yard.”