The Tesla Autopilot abuser who was arrested for reckless driving earlier this week after sitting in the back seat of his electric car while it was on Autopilot has been released. He’s now riding around in the backseat of a new Model 3 after boasting that he’s so wealthy that he can afford a new Tesla every time the cops arrest and release him.
“I’m rich as (expletive). I’m very rich,” 25-year old Param Sharma said to San Francisco’s KTVU on Wednesday. “I’ll just get a new Tesla every time. I have unlimited money to blow on Teslas. If you take my Tesla away, I will get another Tesla.”
Sharma was arrested on Monday after a video of him riding in the backseat of his all-electric Tesla on Interstate 80 went viral. He’d been arrested twice in the last two months.
Sharma was charged with two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a police officer after his arrest on Monday. He was later released, and legal experts say that if his activities continue, the Judge will threaten him with further punishment.
“What I think you’ll see is his first court date is the judge give him a very stern warning and say, ‘You are not to drive unless you’re in the driver’s seat of your vehicle. And if you do, we’re gonna put you back in jail,’” Steven Clark, a Santa Clara County-based legal analyst, told KTVU. Sharma isn’t bothered because he says every time he’s arrested and released, he’ll just buy a new car.
The dangers of driving a Tesla on Autopilot without actively operating the vehicle are important, and they can cause a variety of problems for different people. To begin with, the car’s driver is abusing Autopilot. Tesla does not have a Level 5 autonomous driving program, and the company has never said that its vehicles can be driven without the driver’s supervision. Drivers must be alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times, according to the company’s website.
The company’s Autopilot Frequently Asked Questions page states:
“Yes. Autopilot is a hands-on driver assistance system that is intended to be used only with a fully attentive driver. It does not turn a Tesla into a self-driving car nor does it make a car autonomous.
Before enabling Autopilot, you must agree to “keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times” and to always “maintain control and responsibility for your car.” Once engaged, if insufficient torque is applied, Autopilot will also deliver an escalating series of visual and audio warnings, reminding you to place your hands on the wheel if insufficient torque is applied.”
Misuse of Autopilot is also risky to other vehicles, pedestrians, and anyone else who is near a public road. The driver must also maintain control and supervision of the car, and Autopilot is not capable of driving on city streets without assistance.
Finally, Tesla and other companies trying to tackle fully autonomous or even semi-autonomous driving face a significant risk. An accident caused by the driver’s lack of supervision or accountability could result in significant setbacks in the pursuit of autonomy. Although regulations in the United States and other countries are still strict, reckless use of any semi-autonomous driving capability could cause even more delays in legislation or regulations that ease the restrictions on assisted driving.
Sharma is scheduled to appear in court on July 6th, and he has confirmed that he will enter a not guilty plea. You can view the full KTVU FOX video clip here.