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A man who was arrested after being discovered sitting in the back seat of a Tesla on a busy highway with no one behind the wheel has been released… and immediately pulled the same stunt again.
Param Sharma was arrested in San Francisco by California Highway Police on Monday, May 10, after receiving several calls from people reporting a seemingly driverless Tesla Model 3 on the Bay Bridge.
The 25-year old was charged with two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a police officer, and his Tesla was impounded.
But it seems like as soon as he had got out of custody Sharma headed straight to his nearest Tesla dealership, bought a new car and decided to do the exact same trick again. And he made no attempt to hide it either, showing up to a scheduled interview a day later with a local news station in the backseat of his new driverless Tesla.
Speaking to KTVU Sharma, an Instagram influencer also known as Lavish, who VICE once described as a ‘disgustingly rich brat,’ said, ‘I have unlimited money to blow on Teslas. If you take away my Tesla, I will get another Tesla.’
Sharma added that he thinks he’s driven around 40,000 miles in the backseat of his Tesla – that’s almost three times the average number driven by motorists in the US per year – explaining that he does it to prove that driverless cars aren’t as dangerous as people think. ‘I feel safer back here [in the back seat] than I do up there [in the driver’s seat]’ he said.
Given that, it’s maybe unsurprising this isn’t the first time Sharma has got into trouble with law enforcement for his antics – he was previously cited just a few weeks earlier on April 27 for back seat driving.
Tesla currently says vehicles driving in semi-autonomous mode must have someone in the driver seat at all times, with the company still working on making safe, fully driverless cars a reality. There have been six confirmed fatal accidents involving Teslas in autopilot mode, the most recent of which occurred in Norway last year when a driver using self-steering mode hit and killed a man standing at the side of the road.
But despite the controversy, Sharma believes that driverless cars will become the norm sooner than even Elon Musk might think. ‘I feel like by mid-2022 the backseat thing will be normal. And I think right now people are just taking it out of proportion.’
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