After arrest, backseat Tesla driver says, ‘I trust my car autopilot’ more than others on the road

National and World

The Tesla owner who was recently arrested for riding in the back of his car in the San Francisco Bay Area with no one driving

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KRON) — The Tesla owner who was recently arrested for riding in the back of his car in the San Francisco Bay Area with no one driving is defending his actions, saying they were perfectly safe.

Param Sharma, 25, was arrested Tuesday by the California Highway Patrol without incident and jailed on charges of two counts of reckless driving and disobeying peace officers.

“I had to spend time in jail. They were like, ‘Why are you in jail?’ I was just sitting in the wrong seat of the car and then spent the night in jail,” Sharma said. “I got out the next morning and went home in a self-driving car.”

Sharma said the car was on full-self driving mode while he was cruising through the Bay Area during rush hour traffic. He said the Tesla was following the car in front of him since there was so much traffic ahead.

Sharma said what he did shouldn’t be considered illegal.

“That’s the thing. I don’t think that should be illegal because the way the car is driving is very safe,” he said. “So as long as the car is safely operating, it doesn’t matter what seat you’re sitting in.”

But Nick Josefowitz, chief policy officer at SPUR, a Bay Area public policy organization, doesn’t agree.

“Mr. Sharma is absolutely endangering himself and everybody around him. It is unconscionable what he’s doing,” Josefowitz said. “Carmakers should not allow that cars to be driven from the back seat. They should require people to be attentive and monitor the vehicle at all times.”

Sharma said he trusts his car on autopilot more than others on the road.

“I feel safer in the back seat than I do in the driver’s seat, and I feel safer with my car on autopilot,” he said. “I trust my car autopilot more than I trust everyone on the road.”

Sharma was also cited on April 27 for similar behavior, according to the CHP.

Sharma said he started in 2018 in his Model X, which had tinted windows. He added that he’s “been doing this” for two years and no one ever knew.

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