Can You Still Be Arrested For a DUI in an Automated Vehicle?

Does the car of the future need a driver? If so, can that driver be arrested for drinking and driving?


This may seem like a strange question. After all, who do you know that drives around in an automated car anyway? Probably nobody. However if Michigan continues on it’s current path towards being one of the automated vehicle capitals of the US, that could change in the very near future. Strange or not, though, the question stands. Could you be arrested for a DUI in an automated vehicle in Michigan? The answer may surprise you.

When you think of a driverless car, what do you envision? A vehicle with no one inside that quietly goes about it’s errands, like Google’s fleet of Street View cars? Or do you envision a taxi-style vehicle, with no human driver behind the wheel, but an ever rotating cycle of passengers in the back as people are shuttled to and fro throughout the day? Who know what the future holds, but currently the former is far more likely than the latter. So why, you may wonder, are we asking about DUIs when there is no driver behind the wheel?


After Joshua Brown was killed in a Tesla S last month, the production company was in a hurry to point out that autopilot only went so far. The car was able to pilot itself, they say, but the human back-up driver was still required to sit in the driver’s seat, with their hands on the wheel. Why? Because someone had to provide assistance for the autopilot when it was confused or unable to make a decision with the given data.

Who will be responsible if something happens? The car, or the human inside it?


So if an auto pilot car still needs a human driver behind the wheel, who is really in charge of the vehicle? The autopilot software? Or the human back-up driver? It may not seem like it matters, in the grand scheme of things, but from the perspective of a drunk driving arrest, it could be huge for us Michigan drivers!


Imagine this… You are out with friends at the bar and you have a few too many drinks. Because you realize that you’re not in a good place to drive, you call a Lyft and a driverless car arrives to pick you up and take you home. You climb in, tell the car where to take you and then doze on in your seat while you’re driven home. Suddenly you wake with a start. There is a bright light shining in the car window and someone is knocking on the glass, telling you to wake up. Squinting past the glare, you realize that your vehicle has been pulled over and you’re talking to a police officer.


You’re drunk, there’s no denying that. But that’s exactly why you called for a ride. Which makes your choice a smart one, not a bad one. So are you now going to be punished for doing exactly what you were trying to avoid? A tricky situation indeed. Join us next time as we break down the issue of vehicle control and driver responsibility, and unpack the subject of DUIs and automated vehicles.


Until then, if you or a loved one are accused of drunk driving in a regular vehicle (because we know that automated vehicles aren’t privately owned yet) call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled DUI defense attorneys have decades of experience defending the people of Michigan against drunk driving charges and OWI accusations. We have earned our clients many successful results over the years, and we can help you too.

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