A man who had been seen multiple times on Bay Area roads happily sitting in the backseat of his Tesla while it drove him places on Autopilot has been arrested by California Highway Patrol. But it sounds like no lessons have been learned.
25-year-old Param Sharma was arrested Monday, as the CHP reports, on two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a peace officer, and he spent one night in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin as a result. What's worse, as KTVU reports, is that Sharma sounds totally defiant and unapologetic about the whole thing, insisting that self-driving cars aren't just the future, they're here and we should use them.
"I’m gonna go in the back seat right now. You feel me? I’m waiting for my car to charge," Sharma tells the station. He also claimed that he rode home from jail in the backseat of a friend's Tesla, while both he and his friend sat in the back with the car driving itself.
SFist reported on the sightings of a man in the backseat of his driverless Tesla late last week, following a post to the Tesla subreddit on Reddit last Monday, and subsequent other social media evidence of this scofflaw behavior. Multiple people included the license plate on the Tesla as well.
While Tesla, the company, has said that a driver is required to be in the seat to enable the Autopilot feature, Consumer Reports has confirmed what many Tesla owners already knew — the cars don't actually have a way to check if anyone is in the driver's seat.
Both Tesla and many experts and lawmakers insist that the robot-driving technology is still too new, and it is far too dangerous to allow people to do this without their own hands on the wheel and a foot near the brake.
A recent fatal crash in Texas involving a Model S was believed by law enforcement to have occurred without anyone in the driver's seat. But a preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board has found that Autopilot was likely not at engaged and that security footage showed a man getting into the driver's seat shortly before the crash, which occurred not far from the home the car had just left.
Sharma's arrest on Monday evening occurred on I-80 near Emeryville, and the CHP said it had already cited him once before for backseat-riding in a Tesla. Apparently, Sharma was cited for reckless driving on April 27, and continued riding across the Bay Bridge and all over the Bay Area while in the backseat for two weeks before his Monday arrest.
CHP officers at the scene say they observed Sharma climbing into the driver's seat from the back before he pulled over to the shoulder for the traffic stop.
"The safety of all who share our roadways is the primary concern of the CHP," CHP Oakland said in a statement. "The Department thanks the public for providing valuable information that aided in this investigation and arrest."
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. See the full press release at the link below. https://t.co/BCSLQR5QVD pic.twitter.com/85OawnfN5p— CHP Oakland (@CHPoakland) May 12, 2021