A California man who was repeatedly snapping driving in the rear seat of his Model 3 Tesla while it was on autopilot has been arrested for reckless driving.
Param Sharma, 25, was held overnight in Santa Rita jail on Monday after a police officer spotted him in the backseat as he entered the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza in Oakland on Monday.
California Highway Patrol were alerted to Sharma’s stunts after someone posted a video of him in the rear of his Model 3 Tesla earlier this month. They also received multiple calls about a similar car on Monday.
Sharma allegedly jumped into the front seat after he was pulled over and the officer made his way to the window.
He was charged with two counts of reckless driving and disobeying a Peace Officer.
‘It’s not something we see often, and we’re hoping this doesn’t become a trend,’ the California Highway Patrol told DailyMail.com.
It’s illegal in California for autonomous vehicles to operate without humans behind the wheel.
The Tesla Autopilot is intended to assist a fully attentive driver and is not fully autonomous or a ‘self-driving’ car. Before enabling Autopilot, a driver must agree to ‘keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times’ and to always ‘maintain control and responsibility for your car.’
Param Sharma, 25, was held overnight in Santa Rita jail on Monday after a police officer spotted him in the backseat as he entered the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza in Oakland on Monday
California Highway Patrol were alerted to Sharma’s stunts after someone posted a video of him in the rear of his Model 3 Tesla earlier this month
Highway Patrol officers also received multiple calls about a similar car on Monday before arresting Sharma
Despite his actions being both dangerous and illegal, Sharma appeared to get a kick out of being caught on camera and sported a wide grin as he was snapped being overtaken by a fellow driver in Berkeley on May 4. A video of the incident was later posted to YouTube.
In another picture, taken at a toll plaza to the San Francisco Bay Bridge on May 3, he could be seen with his foot resting on the steering wheel while he sat comfortably in the rear.
Once Sharma was released after his arrest on Monday, he bragged that he would get home using the same method for which he was arrested – sitting in the backseat of a Tesla while the autopilot was engaged. This time though, he was in a friend’s car and the pair were seated in the back, he said.
‘I’m gonna go in the back seat right now. You feel me? I’m waiting for my car to charge,’ Sharma told KTVU.
Sharma also told KTVU that his antics were not to show off, but to prove that self-driving cars were not just part of the future, but the present.
On his Instagram page, Sharma has posted a series of photographs of himself from the backseat while the car is in motion. In one image, his leg is up on the center console as he relaxes in the back.
Param Sharma, 25, was arrested on Tuesday but he said he will continue his antics
Sharma puts his foot on the center console while the autopilot feature of his Tesla takes him to where he wants to go
Sharma is riding in the backseat of his Tesla while the car drives on Interstate 80 on Interstate 80 in the Bay Area
He also doesn’t believe that what he is doing is dangerous.
‘I’ve been brake-checked before really hard, and the car stopped,’ Sharma told KTVU. ‘The car came to a complete stop. Elon Musk really knows what he’s doing and I think people are tripping and they’re scared.’
There have been at least five crashes involving Teslas while the autopilot function was engaged which resulted in investigations by the National Transport Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The most recent crashed happened on April 17 in Texas when two friends took a new Model S ‘out for a spin,’ and the car veered off of the cul-de-sac and plowed into trees then caught fire.
An NTSB report says there was no one in the driver’s seat.
Two friends died in a Tesla crash in mid April in Texas after the vehicle smashed into a tree and burst into flames with ‘no one in the driver’s seat’
In mid-March, a Tesla Model Y hit a patrol car in Lansing, Michigan while driver had the vehicle’s advanced driver-assistance system, known as Autopilot, Michigan state police told the Washington Post.
Despite the scrutiny after the crashes, Tesla, delivered nearly half a million vehicles in 2020, said it expects that figure to rise more than 50 percent this year, the Washington Post reported.
And the company’s stock has been on a tear, rising more than 350 percent over the past year.
‘The rate of growth will depend on our equipment capacity, operational efficiency and capacity and stability of the supply chain,’ the company said in its quarterly letter to investors.
Factories in Berlin and Austin, Texas, are on track to start producing this year, and the company said production of its Semi will start in 2021. Also, first deliveries of the new Model S should start shortly.
Timeline of fatal crashes tied to Tesla Autopilot
January 20, 2016 in China: Gao Yaning, 23, died when the Tesla Model S he was driving slammed into a road sweeper on a highway near Handan, a city about 300 miles south of Beijing. Chinese media reported that Autopilot was engaged.
Joshua D. Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio died in an Autopilot crash in May 2016
May 7, 2016 in Williston, Florida: Joshua D. Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio died when cameras in his Tesla Model S failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky.
The NTSB found that the truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way and a car driver’s inattention due to overreliance on vehicle automation were the probable cause of the crash.
The NTSB also noted that Tesla Autopilot permitted the car driver to become dangerously disengaged with driving. A DVD player and Harry Potter movies were found in the car.
March 23, 2018 in Mountain View, California: Apple software engineer Walter Huang, 38, died in a crash on U.S. Highway 101 with the Autopilot on his Tesla engaged.
The vehicle accelerated to 71 mph seconds before crashing into a freeway barrier, federal investigators found.
The NTSB, in a preliminary report on the crash, also said that data shows the Model X SUV did not brake or try to steer around the barrier in the three seconds before the crash in Silicon Valley.
Crash scene photos show the wreck on March 23, 2018 in Mountain View, California
March 1, 2019 in Delray, Florida: Jeremy Banner, 50, died when his 2018 Tesla Model 3 slammed into a semi-truck.
NTSB investigators said Banner turned on the autopilot feature about 10 seconds before the crash, and the autopilot did not execute any evasive maneuvers to avoid the crash.
April 17, 2021 in Houston, Texas
A Tesla smashed into a tree and burst into flames in Texas, resulting in the deaths of two men – the car’s owner Doctor William Varner, and his pal Everette Talbot.
Police had said it was apparent that there was no one in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash in the wealthy The Woodlands neighborhood of Houston, on April 17.
But Tesla had refuted police’s claims, saying a deformed steering wheel suggested that someone was likely in the driver’s seat.
Varner, 59, and Talbot, 69, both died in the fatal crash when the Tesla Model S – bought second-hand off eBay in January – smashed into a tree and burst into flames.
Dr. William Varner, 59, and Everette Talbot, 69, both died in the fatal crash when the Tesla Model S smashed into a tree and burst into flames