- There is no exception for drunk driving and driverless cars. Being behind the wheel of a self-driving car is still driving, even though the operator isn’t touching any controls and may even be ignoring the roadway. Although in theory operating a self-driving car may be a safer alternative to driving drunk, it is still not legal. Operating a self-driving car while drunk is a crime and can lead to accidents and injury liability.
- Safety mechanisms rely on an alert driver. Under existing law, a self-driving vehicle in Nevada must include a safety system that will turn control of the vehicle over to the operator in the event that the car’s systems cease to function as expected. This means that the operator always needs to be ready to take control. Many of the accidents involving self-driving cars have featured situations where the driver was not paying attention to the road. A driver who is reading a book or sleeping can’t do anything in the event that the car’s sensors fail to detect a pedestrian. A drunk operator’s reaction times will be even slower than those fo a sober operator.
As the technologies in self-driving cars reach maturity it seems almost inevitable that there will come a time when actively driving a car will feel optional. For some it will be tempting to think of a self-driving car like a taxi. But thus far, the safety record of self-driving cars has left open doubts about how much drivers can rely on them without keeping an eye on what’s going on around the car. An important issue related to this is whether it will be safe to operate a self-driving car after drinking enough alcohol to be over the legal limit. The legal framework for self-driving cars is still in its infancy. Given the enormous complexity of a self-driving car’s technologies, lawmakers probably will be slow to allow fully autonomous vehicles to hit the roads. Nevertheless, many states, including Nevada, have adopted preliminary rules that provide guidance for driver-operators and the manufacturers of self-driving vehicles. There are two key reasons why “drunk operating” is not a legal option: