There are no self-driving cars on the market as of January 2023, but there are several vehicles on the market that have advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and they have automatic tasks that include acceleration, braking, and even steering. And the features are improving with newer models to include lane changing and hands-free cruise control. These vehicles utilize a mix of advanced sensors, artificial intelligence, cameras, and radar to automatically perform functions without a human operator.
A car is considered fully autonomous when it drives without requiring any human intervention during the journey itself. Intervention is still required at the beginning and often at the end, depending on the level of automation (we’ll discuss this in a bit).
If you operate a vehicle with ADAS in Texas, you may wonder whether you can still get a DWI and, if so, what your rights are.
Can I Be Arrested If I Operate a Vehicle with ADAS While Drunk?
Yes, you can. There are presently six levels of vehicle autonomy. Here they are:
Level 0 vehicles have 0% driving automation, which means they must be fully operated by a driver. Most vehicles on the road today fall into this category.
If the driver is legally intoxicated, meaning he or she has a blood alcohol (BAC) of .08 or higher, or has lost control of his or her mental and physical faculties, the driver can be charged with DWI. With Level 0 vehicles, all of the operation responsibility lies with the driver.
Level 1 vehicles have a driver support system in the form of steering or braking assistance, but not both. As a result, a driver must operate the vehicle at all times, and be ready to assume control of the assisted function.
Level 2 vehicles also leave most of the responsibility to the driver. Vehicles like the ones built by Tesla boast active driving assistance, which means both steering and braking assistance are provided. In certain situations—for example, when the vehicle is on the highway—the auto-driving feature is fully activated. However, the driver is still required to monitor the vehicle at all times and take charge when needed.
Level 3 vehicles leverage artificial intelligence and cleverly adapt to complex circumstances. The driver doesn’t have to monitor road conditions. However, he or she still needs to be present in the vehicle, ready to take action if there’s a system failure.
Level 4 vehicles are extremely advanced; they boast a high level of driving automation. Since the vehicle has the ability to stop if there’s a system failure, the driver’s role as an operator is significantly diminished which is a breakthrough. However the driver is still needed because the system is still flawed. There are currently no vehicles legally sold that fit into this category, but that’s expected to change by end of the decade.
Level 5 vehicles are—or will be—the crème de la crème of self-driving cars. They require absolutely nothing from the driver. Once a destination is set, the car will reach it on its own, even without occupants. The technology to create these vehicles currently doesn’t exist, but that’s quickly changing.
Since Level 4 and 5 cars aren’t publicly available yet, Level 3 cars are the most automated, but they still require human intervention. If you get pulled over in a Level 3 or lower-level vehicle and you are legally intoxicated, you can be arrested for DWI in Texas. Until Level 4 and 5 cars become mainstream, there are no current laws that exempt drivers from getting a DWI based on the automation degree of their vehicle.
Self-driving vehicles are coming, and we expect Texas laws to evolve to accommodate them in the coming years. However, presently, you cannot operate a self-driving vehicle and become exempt from getting a DWI.
Recommended Read: 10 Things To Know If Stopped For DWI
Can I Fight My DWI Charges?
If you were recently arrested for operating a motor vehicle with ADAS while you were drunk, find a competent lawyer as soon as you can. To convict you, prosecutors must prove that you were legally intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt.
While your lawyer cannot argue that you were driving an autonomous car, they can use other defense strategies. Perhaps the officer performed improper BAC breath or blood testing. Or maybe your legal counsel can argue that the officer didn’t have probable cause to stop you.
But all arguments should be reserved for your court date. Never try to argue your case with the police officer or resist arrest because you think you are right. Hire an aggressive attorney and trust him or her to build a strong case. Their expertise and attention to detail will help you protect your future and freedom.
If I Need Lawyer in Texas, Whom Should I Consult?
Are you looking for an experienced and aggressive DWI lawyer? Attorney JL Carpenter is a skilled criminal defense attorney in the Greater Houston area who has a reputation for building strong cases for her clients.
Over the years, she has helped hundreds fight for their rights in complex DWI cases. Click here to get started. JL’s practice areas also include BWI, drug possession, family violence, and domestic violence, among others.