Welcome to Tesla Motors Club
Discuss Tesla's Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, Cybertruck, Roadster and More.
Register

Attorney decides to test legality of texting while on Autopilot

ElectricTundra

P85D AP1
Feb 5, 2015
913
409
Tundra
I was having lunch with a couple of attorney friends the other day and asked their thoughts on the legality of texting while NOT driving. E.G., autopilot is handling the driving duties and you're just sitting in what was traditionally called the drivers seat. Note that this was a theoretical discussion — all three of us have been involved in writing legislation to ban texting while driving (and I'd like to ban any phone use including hands-free, but that's another topic).

One decided to explore this a bit more practically when he was driving home last night when he noticed a state trooper coming up behind him. He was already in auto pilot and so made a good show of holding his phone up quite high so that it was obvious he was using both hands to hold his phone and paying more attention to his phone than the road. As he desired he got pulled over. He carefully explained that he wasn't really texting while driving as he wasn't really driving. The car was driving.

He ended up spending nearly 30 minutes explaining to the trooper that the car really does have auto-pilot, showed him some videos, etc. He offered him a demo ride but that was turned down. He still ended up with paper and is unsure if he'll press the point in court. I'm guessing he will.
 

Cosmacelf

Well-Known Member
Mar 6, 2013
8,568
20,563
San Diego
There is no way the law will currently allow texting while autopilot. That attorney was a bit silly imho. Remember guys, autopilot is still in BETA AND DOES HAVE BUGS. While it hasn't happened to me on a freeway I did try out autopilot on a non divided street and it did indeed try to kill me by making a quick turn into oncoming traffic. You can relax, but you've got to be aware...
 

JonG

Banned
Aug 16, 2015
489
252
UK
And if your friend ever became seriously injured because a car on autopilot crashed into him, who would he go after? It's not the drivers fault by your logic.

To be honest your story doesn't stack up. Lawyers should know better, you've all been involved in writing legislation regarding texting while driving and yet your friend thought it would be fun to test this out? And you thought it would be fun to post on here?
 

GSP

Member
Dec 28, 2007
2,573
804
Anyone using Tesla's autopilot is driving.

When full autonomous operation is achieved, that would be the time to make this legal test.

GSP
 

BertL

Active Member
Aug 19, 2015
2,018
1,573
Carlsbad, CA
I agree the driver should be fully responsibility for everything that the vehicle does.

[PERSONAL OPINION ON]
I never pile on, but have to say something since this struck a personal chord: While everyone makes their own decisions and I'm generally OK with that, I'm saddened in this case someone (a lawyer) decided to "test the system" effectively using everyone's tax dollars and taking the time of a State Trooper, and potentially our burdened courts system, to try out a hypothesis. Hopefully there was not a more important thing the Trooper could have been doing with his time protecting the public, and the lawyer has to pay the ticket. The lawyer is ahead of the proper time to worry with this, as MS is not presently a fully autonomous car. Driving with both hands on a phone is not safe today; It is not what Tesla recommends with AutoPilot 7.0 Firmware where hands need to be ready to take the wheel if needed; and verges on the sort of crazy stuff like some of those YouTube videos that is causing Tesla to put more restrictions on what we capabilities we already have... I won't say any more on the subject -- again, everyone makes their own decisions and in this case the lawyer already has.​
[PERSONAL OPINION OFF]
 

WillinVA

Member
Dec 3, 2015
13
-1
NoVA
all three of us have been involved in writing legislation to ban texting while driving (and I'd like to ban any phone use including hands-free, but that's another topic).

You know whats more distracting than phones in a car? Kids. Should we ban them too? Talking on a phone handsfree is the same thing as talking to a passenger, maybe we should ban passengers while we at it. Ban everything!
 
  • Disagree
Reactions: M0DEL³

Jool

Member
Jun 26, 2015
285
6
San Diego, CA
Autopilot is a driving assistance feature, not a driver replacement feature.

Silly idea. Let's try to be a bit more responsible than that, please!
 

Beryl

Supporting Member
Feb 19, 2015
681
232
South of Houston
It is guys like him that cause trouble for everyone. So sad. to see.

Exactly. We know we are pushing the envelope by using autopilot at all since there are so few cars with this capability. Why do things that might have it banned until the top automakers catch up?

I wish Tesla could disable autopilot for these users individually.
 

JenniferQ

Supporting Member
Sep 13, 2015
1,260
514
San Diego, CA
You know whats more distracting than phones in a car? Kids. Should we ban them too? Talking on a phone handsfree is the same thing as talking to a passenger, maybe we should ban passengers while we at it. Ban everything!
Actually, studies have shown that it is NOT the same as having a passenger in your car, as the passenger in your car is capable of seeing what the driver is seeing and helping, of sorts, to monitor traffic while modulating the conversation when needed, as well.

Now, kids, they are a whole 'nother troublesome situation all on their own!

Log In - The New York Times
 

brec

Member
Aug 3, 2015
363
139
Reno & Las Vegas, NV
... He carefully explained that he wasn't really texting while driving as he wasn't really driving. The car was driving.

He ended up spending nearly 30 minutes explaining to the trooper that the car really does have auto-pilot, showed him some videos, etc. He offered him a demo ride but that was turned down. He still ended up with paper and is unsure if he'll press the point in court. I'm guessing he will.
Would not operation of a car in violation of safety instructions in its Owner's Manual, and use of a feature in violation of the safety instructions agreed to when the feature is enabled by the user, be chargeable with reckless driving?
 

Canuck

Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2013
6,125
5,470
South Surrey, BC
I was having lunch with a couple of attorney friends the other day and asked their thoughts on the legality of texting while NOT driving.

I find it hard to imagine that any lawyer who reads the restrictions on autopilot, which in essence require you to pay attention to driving and the road at all times, would opine that texting while driving was allowed. If so, he needs to go back to law school.

What that one lawyer did in front of a police officer is mind boggling, to say the least. Even if this lawyer fights the ticket and wins, a trial decision in traffic court means practically nothing when it comes to precedent case-law. You need an appeal court decision on this issue to have any binding authority. So if he wins, how does he appeal? He can't. And if he loses, is he going to run this up the ladder of appeal and risk significant costs at the appeal court levels? Good luck on that one.


I keep hoping that one day TMC will actually morph into a car forum instead of a forum of agendas tangentially related to a car.

Not today, apparently.

There's lots of those threads. But here's a hint for you, when you see a thread named "Texting while not driving ?" you may wish to pass on reading it, since it's not what you're looking for.
 
  • Like
Reactions: M0DEL³

MorrisonHiker

S 100D 2021.4.18.2
Mar 8, 2015
9,654
8,892
Colorado
I find it hard to imagine that any lawyer who reads the restrictions on autopilot, which in essence require to you pay attention to driving and the road at all times, would opine that texting while driving was allowed. If so, he needs to go back to law school.

Haven't you ever met a defense attorney? :wink:
 

brucet999

Active Member
Mar 12, 2015
2,683
1,493
Huntington Beach, CA
Interesting story, electric tundra, but I sense a bit of fiction to it. I cannot imagine a state trooper patiently enduring a half hour of videos and explanations based on the nonsense that the car was driving so texting rules did not apply.

Were this a true story, I think it would have been simply excuses ignored, quick issuance of a citation and driver signing promise to appear.
 

About Us

Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.

Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.


SUPPORT TMC
Top