Can a drunk driver be charged in a self-driving car?

December 25, 2018 - 4:00 am

By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Police pulled over a drunk driver asleep behind the wheel of an autonomous car. Can they charge him with drunk driving?
When the driver of a self-driving Tesla Model S didn’t stop after police put on their lights and sirens, the police realized that he was passed out at the wheel, which was traveling 70 miles an hour.  

Police pulled in front of the vehicle and then slowed down to an eventual stop, causing the Tesla to come to a stop. So can the guy sitting in the driver's seat be charged with drunk driving if the car is driving itself? 

You betcha. Drunk driving laws say a person can be charged with drunk driving if he is in control of the vehicle while under the influence. He doesn’t have to be driving, which is why police regularly arrest people who are passed out in their cars with the keys in the ignition. 

No matter how good technology gets, there’s only so much you can do to prevent people from doing stupid and dangerous things behind a wheel, except to remind them that they’ll still face penalties.