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Can autopilot absolve you from a drunk driving charge?

Modern technology can do a lot of things -- but it can't help you avoid a drunk driving charge.

A driver out in California apparently tried to claim absolution from a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) because he was letting his Tesla operate on autopilot. Police found the driver passed out behind the wheel on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tested at twice the legal limit.

While Teslas are remarkable pieces of innovation, their autopilot features are still in their infancy, technology-wise. As one spokesman for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said, "Autopilot requires full driver engagement at all times."

Even though it may be a long time before there are cars on the road that are able to drive entirely without human guidance, there have already been a number of accidents involving Teslas and their autopilot function. All of them seem to have come about because the human drivers have relied too hard on their autopilot features -- in defiance of the manufacturer's instructions. No driver should rely on a car's autopilot to get them home safely when they've been drinking.

In addition, Texas law doesn't leave much room for doubt about how a case like that would fare in court. Under the law, anyone who is operating a vehicle in a public space while intoxicated is guilty of a DWI. Whether your hands are on the wheel or not, as long as you're the person controlling the car, you're guilty.

Drunk driving charges have the capacity to utterly upend your life. A single DWI conviction will leave you facing jail time and heavy fines. If you've been charged, make sure that you take steps to protect your legal rights.

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