Can you get a DUI in a driverless car?

On Behalf of | Jun 21, 2017 | DUI, Minnesota News |

Self-driving cars might be some way off being the norm, but that doesn’t stop us speculating at just how good life might be thanks to fewer accidents, less congestion and road rage becoming a thing of the past as we sit back and let the drone take us home.

Driverless Car

And what’s more, no longer will we have to take it in turns to nominate a designated driver for a night t or have to splash out on taxis, we can just get into our car and get dropped off right by our door as we sleep it off in the back – or can we?

One of the biggest questions regarding this game changing technology that is expected to hit our roads in the next couple of years is: who is really in control of the vehicle, the driver or the software?

When a driver was killed while using Autopilot mode back in 2016 the car’s manufacturer, Tesla, was quick to point out that the vehicle’s Autopilot feature requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, and that drivers, “need to maintain control and responsibility for [the] vehicle,” before stating that: “Autopilot is getting better all the time but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert.”

A stark president to say the least and something which might have a bearing on any new vehicles that are set to be launched in the coming years which increasingly rely on technology over human interaction.

Although still very much in their infancy most driver-less cars still require some kind of human involvement when it comes to operating the vehicle and will often notify the operator that he or she is responsible for its safe operation. An attempt to avoid legal liability in case of an accident maybe, but it could have a huge bearing when it comes to a DUI.

But one of the most critical issues to be tackled by any new regulations that are brought in is the issue of drinking. Self-driving cars could potentially eradicate drunk driving—which would be fantastic; but it also raises some very real questions when it comes to the law.

Drinking and Using Driverless Cars

Obviously, as it stands, you are not allowed to drink and then drive a car, so what about if you drink and then get into a self-driving car? The car might be intelligent enough to drive you home, but will it have the sense to prevent you from posing a threat to yourself and other road users if you are under the influence?

The issue is more about whether you are still legally responsible for the car, even if you are not technically behind the wheel. Under the current law a person could get a DUI for letting the car drive them home, as long as the person has the ability to control the car – even if they don’t take the car off of auto-pilot.

Take Florida for example. Currently the law only requires a person to be “driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle” at the time they are under the influence so their normal faculties are impaired. The way the law is written allows the state to charge a person with a DUI even if they’re not driving the car – they just have to be in actual physical control of one.

As it stands, there is nothing on the statute book that specifically covers driver-less cars, but with advancements in technology, that is something that will probably have to change pretty quickly, especially when it comes to DUI cases; as minor offenses and parking violations might soon become a thing of the past if driver error is no longer a factor.

Drunk driving charges are serious, and can have a huge impact on your life. If you’ve been charged with a DUI, contact an experienced DUI attorney today by calling 612-688-2299.



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