A man arrested for riding in the backseat of his driverless Tesla got out of jail, bought a new one, and did it again

California Highway Patrol pulls over a Tesla.
California Highway Patrol tows away Param Sharma’s Tesla.

  • A San Francisco man said he’ll keep riding in the back seat of his Tesla after getting arrested for it, KTVU reports.
  • Param Sharma said he is “very rich” and will keep buying Teslas as his cars are impounded.
  • Tesla sells a feature called Full Self-Driving Capability, but it doesn’t make cars autonomous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A San Francisco man who was arrested for riding in the back seat of his Tesla as it drove on the highway says he’ll keep pulling the stunt after being released from jail – and he’ll keep buying more cars as they get impounded.

After getting booked on two counts of reckless driving, Param Sharma arrived for a Wednesday interview with Bay Area news station KTVU riding in the back seat of a Tesla again. But it wasn’t the same car that California Highway Patrol pulled him over in.

The day after being released from jail on Tuesday, he told the channel, Sharma bought a new Tesla Model 3 because his other was impounded. Also, he is “very rich,” he told KTVU.

“I have unlimited money to blow on Teslas. If you take away my Tesla, I will get another Tesla. That’s how it works,” Sharma said.

The California Highway Patrol said Tuesday it had arrested Sharma for reckless driving and disobeying a peace officer. The arrest came after videos circulated online of Sharma riding down the highway in the back seat. He had been cited for the same offense in April, police said.

The incident is just the latest to spark scrutiny around how some Tesla drivers abuse the company’s driver-assistance features. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened investigations into more than two dozen Tesla crashes, including a fatal incident in April that police said occurred with nobody in the driver’s seat.

Sharma told KTVU he bought a Tesla with the Full Self-Driving package, but seemed overly confident in the feature’s abilities. The $10,000 advanced driver-assistance system – a step up from the standard Autopilot feature – enables a car to automatically change lanes, navigate highway on-ramps and exits, and recognize stop signs and traffic lights.

But it does not make Teslas autonomous, and the company says drivers need to pay full attention when using it.

“It’s like a living room back here. I’m relaxing in luxury while Elon Musk chauffeurs me,” he told KTVU.

Even in its most advanced iteration, the Full Self-Driving system has major flaws. Tesla tells the software’s beta testers to be vigilant, as the feature may “do the wrong thing at the worst time.” In tests, Consumer Reports said Full Self Driving performed inconsistently and sometimes disengaged without warning.

Still, Sharma said he has no plans to stop riding in the back seat of his car, despite the clear dangers the stunt poses to pedestrians and other drivers.

“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,” he said.

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Lawmakers demand answers in fatal Tesla crash after Elon Musk and executives offer conflicting details

Texas Tesla Crash.
The remains of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed, killing two people, in The Woodlands, Texas, on April 17, 2021.

  • Lawmakers demanded answers Wednesday about a fatal Tesla crash after executives gave conflicting statements.
  • Elon Musk said autopilot wasn’t on, but a top Tesla exec said adaptive cruise control, an autopilot feature, was.
  • Rep. Kevin Brady and Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticized Tesla’s public statements about the crash.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lawmakers slammed Tesla’s public response to a deadly crash involving one of its Model S vehicles that killed two men near Houston, Texas, earlier this month following conflicting statements from the company’s executives.

“Despite early claims by #Tesla #ElonMusk, autopilot WAS engaged in tragic crash in The Woodlands. We need answers,” Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, tweeted Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said he was “disappointed” that Musk weighed in publicly at all, given that two federal agencies still have ongoing investigations into the incident.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Local authorities said following the crash that neither of the bodies they recovered were in the driver’s seat, prompting questions about whether the vehicle’s “autopilot” system – a suite of AI-powered driver assistance features – was engaged when the vehicle crashed.

Two days after the crash, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that early data obtained from the Model S showed “autopilot was not enabled,” and he doubled down on those claims in Tesla’s earnings call Monday, contradicting local authorities.

But in that same call, Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering Lars Moravy said that the vehicle’s traffic-aware, or adaptive, cruise control – part of the autopilot system, according to Tesla’s Model S owner manual – was engaged during the crash.

“Our adaptive cruise control only engaged when the driver was buckled in above 5 miles per hour. And it only accelerated to 30 miles per hour with the distance before the car crashed,” Moravy said, adding that the feature also “disengaged the car slowly to complete to a stop when the driver’s seatbelt was unbuckled.”

Moravy also pushed back on Texas authorities’ statements that no one was driving the car when it crashed.

“Through further investigation of the vehicle and accident remains, we inspected the car with NTSB and NHTSA and the local police and were able to find that the steering wheel was indeed deformed,” he said, “leading to a likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash and all seatbelts post crash were found to be unbuckled.”

Despite misleading and unverified claims about the autopilot’s capabilities and possible safety advantages, the feature doesn’t make Tesla vehicles fully autonomous. At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot, and the National Transportation Safety Board has called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.

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Tesla said it’s likely somebody was in the driver’s seat during a deadly Model S crash in Texas, contradicting local law enforcement

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk again denied that the Tesla that crashed in Texas on April 17, killing two people, was on Autopilot.
  • A Tesla exec added it was likely that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.
  • This contradicts statements made by local law enforcement.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Monday that the Model S that crashed just outside Houston, Texas, earlier this month, killing two people, wasn’t on Autopilot – and that any suggestion otherwise was “completely false.”

Lars Moravy, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, added that he thought it was likely someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the deadly crash, contradicting local law enforcement.

On April 17, a Tesla Model S skipped over a curb, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames, killing two people.

A Harris County constable told local TV station KHOU on April 18 that investigators were “100% certain that no one was in the driver seat driving that vehicle at the time of impact.” A senior Harris County officer said on April 19 that witnesses had suggested nobody was driving the vehicle earlier in its journey.

Tesla’s electric vehicles come with Autopilot, a feature that allows the cars to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically. Tesla tells drivers using Autopilot to remain in the driver’s seat with their hands on the steering wheel – but earlier this month, Consumer Reports showed it was possible to turn on Autopilot with nobody in the driver’s seat.

Musk previously said that Autopilot was not being used at the time of the crash. Two days after the crash, he tweeted: “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled.”

Read more: The electric car boom is coming to wipe out auto dealer profits. Consolidating into ‘super dealers’ may be their only way to survive.

During Tesla’s earnings call Monday, Musk said that “there were really just extremely deceptive media practices where it was claimed to be Autopilot but this is completely false.” He didn’t reference any specific media reports.

Moravy said that Tesla had been working with local authorities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the crash.

“The steering wheel was indeed deformed so we’re leaning to the likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash,” Moravy said.

“All seatbelts post-crash were found to be unbuckled,” he added. Tesla’s Autopilot only works when seatbelts are buckled in.

Moravy said that Tesla was unable to recover the data from the vehicle’s SD card at the time of impact, but that the local authorities were working on that.

“We continue to hold safety in a higher regard and look to improve products in the future through this kind of data and other information from the field,” he added.

Tesla also sells its full self-driving software (FSD) as a $10,000 one-off add-on, which it plans to release widely in 2021. FSD allows cars to park themselves, change lanes, and identify both stop signs and traffic lights.

Neither Autopilot nor FSD makes a Tesla car fully autonomous.

At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot, and the National Transportation Safety Board has called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.

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Elon Musk says Tesla will double its Full Self-Driving software’s beta program. It comes amid news that Ford’s Mustang Mach-E is eating into Tesla’s US sales.

Tesla
A Tesla supercharger station at Burbank town center.

  • CEO Elon Musk said Tesla would double a beta testing program for its Full Self-Driving software.
  • “Still be careful, but it’s getting mature,” Musk said.
  • The news comes amid reports that a Ford rival is eating into Tesla’s lead in the EV market.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday said the carmaker would double a beta testing program for its self-driving software. The news comes amid reports that Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E seems to be eating into Tesla’s lead in the electric vehicle market. 

On Twitter, Musk said:“If you want the Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta downloaded to your car, let us know.”

The beta drivers will be testing version 8.2 of the company’s Full Self-Driving software, said Musk. Last week, the CEO said version 8.1 “normally drives me around with no interventions.” The next version will be “a big step change beyond that.”

“Still be careful, but it’s getting mature,” he added on Friday. 

Musk also said he expected the beta program to be “probably” 10 times larger by the time the company tests its version 8.3 software. Version 8.3 has “literally ~1000 improvements” from the previous version, he tweeted, adding it “will take time to QA internally before release probably in two or three weeks.”

Tesla has an ever-growing number of electric vehicle rivals, and while Ford sold only 3,739 of the new SUVs in February, Tesla’s share of the US electric-car market fell to 69% in the same month. This was down from 81% in the prior year, a Morgan Stanley report found. What’s more, the Mustang accounted for nearly all of Tesla’s market-share losses, the bank said. 

Tesla’s beta testers will be trying out the company’s Full Self-Driving software. One beta user posted a video of his Tesla driving 358 miles, from Los Angeles to Silicon Valley, without the driver intervening. 

The company had plans to launch the autopilot software as a subscription service this year. Musk said this month that it would “for sure” launch before July. 

Waymo CEO, John Krafcik, in January said Tesla’s software can’t compete with Waymo’s autonomous software. Tesla’s building cars with assisted driving, while Waymo’s building cars that don’t need drivers at all, he said. 

“So no Tesla is not a competitor at all. They’re a car company making a driver assist system. We’re a company making a fully autonomous driver,” Krafcik said.

Musk shot back on Twitter, saying Tesla had “better AI hardware and software than Waymo.” 

 

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Elon Musk says Tesla’s ‘full self-driving’ subscription is ‘for sure’ launching at some point before July, marking a slight delay

Elon Musk
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO.

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company’s “full self-driving” subscription should “for sure” launch before July.
  • This marks a slight delay. Musk tweeted that Tesla was taking some more time to build out the software.
  • FSD is currently available in beta for a one-off $10,000 fee. The subscription price isn’t yet known.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Elon Musk said Monday that subscriptions for Tesla’s “full self-driving” (FSD) feature should be available in the second quarter of 2021 – a slight delay from his earlier prediction.

In response to a Twitter user who asked when the electric car company’s FSD subscription was launching, Musk replied: “Q2 for sure.”

The price of an FSD subscription isn’t known, but Musk said that “buying FSD will still be a better long-term deal than subscription.”

FSD currently costs a one-off $10,000 and is available in beta form to some drivers. It does not make a Tesla car fully autonomous.

It is an add-on to Tesla’s Autopilot – which can brake, accelerate, and steer automatically – and allows cars to park themselves, change lanes, and identify both stop signs and traffic lights. The company released a beta version to some Tesla owners in October. 

The subscription, which allows drivers to pay for Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system in installments rather than the whole package at once, has faced numerous delays

Musk said in Tesla’s third-quarter earnings call in October that the company would release the feature to the public by the end of 2020, per The Verge.

But this got pushed back. Musk tweeted in December that the “full self-driving” package will be rolled out as a subscription in early 2021. Now it looks like it could be postponed until mid-2021, judging by Monday’s tweet.

In a separate tweet, Musk said the reason behind the delay of FSD was that Tesla was taking more time to improve AI in the software.

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Elon Musk promises 3 free months of Tesla’s ‘self-driving’ software for vehicles delivered in the final 3 days of 2020

FILE PHOTO: Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk dances onstage during a delivery event for Tesla China-made Model 3 cars in Shanghai, China January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk dances onstage during a delivery event for Tesla China-made Model 3 cars in Shanghai

  • Elon Musk said in a tweet Tuesday that Tesla vehicles delivered in the final three days of 2020 will receive three free months of the company’s “full self-driving” software option.
  • “Delivery & docs must be fully complete by midnight Dec 31st,” Musk said.
  • Tesla plans to release the driver-assistance system — which does not give the car full autonomy — as a subscription service in early 2021, and released a beta version to some Tesla owners in October.
  • The company has taken heat for overstating the capabilities of the technology, and its predecessor, Autopilot, has been blamed for a spate of accidents, sometimes fatal.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Newly minted Tesla owners who receive their vehicles this week, before 2020 is over, will get a surprise holiday bonus: three free months of the company’s forthcoming “Full Self-Driving” driver-assistance system.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the news in a tweet Tuesday, promising that “all Tesla cars delivered in the final three days of the year” are eligible, and adding that “delivery & docs must be fully complete by midnight Dec 31st.”

Tesla previously announced plans to release its long-awaited FSD technology, currently a $10,000 add-on, in early 2021 as a subscription service. The company released a beta version to some customers in October.

Tesla’s vehicles come standard with Autopilot, a predecessor to FSD that can brake, accelerate, and steer automatically, while FSD adds capabilities that allow vehicles to park themselves, change lanes, and recognize stop signs and traffic lights.

But neither technology gives Tesla’s vehicles full autonomy, despite some misleading claims by the company.

Read more: Elon Musk’s move to Texas is a publicity stunt that reveals how Tesla is maturing as an automaker

Following the beta release, the top US safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that “no vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself.”

Early videos of the FSD beta in use showed how far the software still has to go, with numerous recordings depicting situations where drivers had to intervene suddenly to keep vehicles from crashing or breaking traffic rules.

Autopilot has also faced criticism for what critics say is a misleading name. It has been blamed for crashes involving inattentive drivers in the past, and the NHTSA has investigated Autopilot’s role in more than a dozen traffic incidents in the past four years, some of them fatal.

Musk has made – and failed to deliver – on a series of aggressive promises around when Tesla hopes to achieve full autonomy, but the company’s software remains far ahead of competitors.

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