Could Self-Driving Cars Affect DUI Charges in the Future

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jan 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

Will the "autopilot" feature on select vehicles become so advanced that it effectively eradicates DUIs? It's an interesting but undercooked idea, seeing as the technology behind this feature does not seem to have been perfected quite yet. In a recent DUI case in California, a man offered up an explanation to police: it did not matter that he was admittedly inebriated at the wheel, he explained, because his Tesla was safely placed on autopilot. Although this will not prove a credible defense for the driver in question, it is worth investigating the possibility that self-driving cars might put an end to DUI charges through the means of safer, smarter (auto) driving capabilities.

Tesla is quick to praise its "full self-driving hardware" that operates at "a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver." Popular Mechanics writes, "The feature, which is comprised of eight cameras, twelve sensors, and a forward facing radar, has been at the center of both life-saving rescues and fatal crashes." Tesla must contend with a mixed bag with regard to publicity for this advancement. Its Autopilot feature has been blamed for a handful of crashes, some fatal, while another story saw a man suffering from a pulmonary embolism driven to the hospital, thanks to Autopilot. Now, it appears this is one of the first times Autopilot and DUI have merged together in the headlines.

Autonomous driving technology is still in development, with a long way to go before it can become a serviceable defense to drunk driving. However, if the technology becomes sufficiently sophisticated, perhaps drivers will have nothing to defend should they choose to drink before or during a car ride. Autonomous driving technology could foreseeably create an environment in which all drivers become passengers, eliminating the need for a driver or their sobriety. The idea presents as futuristic and Utopian, but is it a not-too-distant possibility? Perhaps. The amount of Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) (including emergency braking, backup cameras, adaptive cruise control, and self-parking systems) on the market experienced a 50 percent jump between 2014 and 2016. The public seems eager and excited about vehicular automation, which could push manufacturers to perfect and distribute these products at a faster rate.

That said, this technology is not fail-proof even when it becomes more advanced. Who is responsible then: the manufacturer or the driver who depended on the service created by the manufacturer?

In Georgia, the law is clear that the driver is fully responsible regardless whether he or she is using driver assist features such as Tesla's Autopilot, GM's Super Cruise, or any other manufacturer's assistive driving features.  

Furthermore, the implications from a legislative standpoint would be considerable. What would it mean for open container laws; would open container laws cease to be a legal issue. DUIs laws may change accordingly and DUIs themselves may become extremely rare or may cease to exist because -- under such a hypothetical -- drunk drivers would be able to punch in their destinations and be ferried home or to wherever. Only time and technology advancements will tell if this could become the reality on roadways. Always keep in mind that the law usually lags technological advancement.

Ultimately, those charged with a DUI in Georgia require a skilled legal representative to combat their charges and mount a defense in court. If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Georgia, immediately contact a Georgia DUI attorney for a free consultation on your case. Never face severe Georgia DUI Penalties without first speaking to our office. 

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Richard Lawson

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