Another Tesla driver has found themselves in the hot seat — this time for ‘driving’ a Model 3 from the car’s backseat. This is yet another example of Tesla’s Autopilot technology being called into question, following other reports of people getting the feature to work without anyone in the driver’s seat.
Autopilot is the driver-assistance technology that allows Teslas to operate semi-autonomously. It can be used for assisted steering, acceleration, braking, and staying in a lane. Tesla tells its customers that Autopilot should only be used when someone is behind the wheel and paying attention to the road, but recent events have suggested that there are ways to bypass these safety requirements. This past April saw two men killed in a Tesla accident, with authorities saying that no one was behind the wheel at the time of the crash. Shortly after that, Consumer Reports was able to make a Model Y operate in Autopilot mode even while sitting in the front passenger seat.
Now, one Instagram influencer has been arrested for ‘driving’ a Tesla while riding in the backseat of it. The individual in question is 25-year-old Param Sharma, and one quick look at his Instagram account paints a clear picture of his character. Sharma has multiple photos of himself surrounded by $100 bills, gold watches, and often calls his followers “poor low class peasants.” On Wednesday, May 12, San Franciso news outlet KTVU reported Sharma’s arrest. He was found riding in the back of a Tesla Model 3 with no one else in the car, clearly going against any normal operations Tesla has outlined for Autopilot. Sharma was released from jail on bail just one day later, and right away, was back the same antics. In one of his most recent posts, Sharma says, “They threw away my last Tesla so I ****** around and got another one” — accompanying the text with a video of himself, once again, riding in the back of a moving Tesla.
What This Could Mean For Autopilot Going Forward
While Sharma is blatantly going against any safety precautions or recommendations Tesla promotes for Autopilot, it does raise more concern that people are quickly finding ways to outsmart the system. There’s no doubt Sharma’s reckless actions are to blame in this incident, but if other Tesla owners see Sharma pulling off stunts like this, what’s to stop them from doing the same? Even if the vast majority of Tesla drivers use Autopilot as intended, it is worrying that it’s seemingly so easy to manipulate.
There have been numerous suggestions on how Tesla can prevent situations like this from happening. The company could add weight sensors in the driver’s seat, eye sensors to make sure someone is actively looking at the road, or a myriad of other things. It’s possible people like Sharma would find ways to overcome these barriers, too, but anything to try and stop behavior like this would be great to see.
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