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Can you get a DUI with Tesla Autopilot? While some may think being in a car equipped with Tesla Autopilot means they don’t need to worry about their intoxication levels, this isn’t true. Tesla’s Autopilot is far from being an autonomous driving system, and Tesla operators need to be as sober as anyone driving a car. 

A red 2021 Tesla Model S driving down a highway.
2021 Model S | Tesla

How does Tesla’s Autopilot work?

Tesla’s Autopilot is a semi-autonomous driving system. This means that while it has some advanced capabilities, it still requires an operator to oversee it. This may mean making minor adjustments on the highway, or navigating a turn or curve that the Tesla Autopilot doesn’t see. 

Tesla’s Autopilot feature has eight cameras that give the Tesla a view of the surroundings of the vehicle. Tesla’s website states that Autopilot allows your vehicle to “steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane.” It does note that the Autopilot doesn’t make the vehicle autonomous, and the vehicle still requires “active driver supervision.”

Full Self-Driving is another Tesla misnomer. While it sounds like it would be – well, fully self-driving, it’s just another, more advanced, semi-autonomous driving system. Full self-driving also requires a person to be in charge of the vehicle at all times. 

People have tried to drive their Teslas while intoxicated

Unfortunately there are people who drive while under the influence. Yet some people believe that this is okay as long as Tesla Autopilot or Full Self-Driving is in control. This simply isn’t true. 

In 2018 a man in San Francisco was arrested after being found passed out in his stopped Tesla – in the middle of the Bay Bridge. When asked what had happened, he said that he’d engaged Autopilot. Clearly saying that Autopilot was in charge didn’t help him.

And on July 30, 2021, a Tesla driver in Norway was filmed sleeping in his Tesla. Safeguards in place to make sure a driver is in control of the vehicle worked, and the Tesla slowed down and pulled over. Fellow motorists were unable to wake the man up. When police arrived they determined that he was drunk, according to Electrek.

You can still get a DUI with Tesla Autopilot

Tesla Autopilot, as well as Full Self-Driving and other semi-autonomous driving systems, should not be used alone. Anyone operating a vehicle must be maintaining the vehicle and be able to override it if necessary. 

Because these driving systems are not meant to be fully autonomous, you won’t be able to have a few drinks and say that Autopilot was driving you home. It’s still illegal to drive while intoxicated, even with Autopilot. Just as with any other car, you must be sober enough to drive it.

The risk of driving under the influence is serious, not just for you and your passengers, but for other motorists on the road. Be safe and smart. Don’t rely on a driving system to get you home safely. Obviously you shouldn’t drive under the influence at all, even if you’re in a Tesla. 


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