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Tesla Driver Arrested For Operating Car While In The Backseat

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A federal investigation has found that Autopilot was probably not engaged in the deadly crash of a Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S in Texas in which no one was found in the driver’s seat. However, it apparently is possible for Tesla vehicles to drive without anyone in the driver’s seat because someone has been arrested for operating one without being in the driver’s seat.

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Tesla driver arrested

According to Teslarati, the California Highway Patrol arrested Param Sharma on charges of reckless driving. CHP's social media post about the arrest attest that he allowed his Tesla Model 3 to drive along Interstate 80 without a driver behind the wheel. Sharma sat in the backseat while the car drove autonomously along the interstate.

Officers arrested him without incident and booked him on two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a Peace Officer. Authorities had his Tesla towed from the scene as evidence, and the incident remains under investigation.

Teslarati reported previously that the CHP was investigating reports of a man seen riding in a Tesla without a driver behind the wheel. The agency asked the general public to report such incidents, and then on May 10, it received multiple 911 calls about someone sitting in the backseat of a Model S without anyone behind the wheel. Sharma had been cited for a similar incident in April.

Investigation into Texas crash

In the previous incident involving what looked like a driverless Tesla crash, federal investigators now say it looks like Tesla was correct in saying that Autopilot was not engaged at the time of the crash. A Model S went off a road in the Houston area and hit a tree, bursting into flames. One person was found in the passenger seat, and another was in the backseat.

The National Traffic Safety Board said video shows both of the vehicle's occupants getting into the front seats not long before the accident. The agency also said it couldn't engage part of Autopilot on the stretch of road where it happened.

Investigators believe the driver was found in the backseat of the car because he was trying to open the door and get out to escape the flames. They suggest that the front door may not have been able to open or could have been obstructed. Ars Technica notes that Tesla uses IP-based electronic door locks that don't work if the car loses power, as would have happened in this wreck.

Tesla is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders' families.

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