Tesla Model 3 Driver Has License Suspended by Judge After Adjusting Wipers Via Touchscreen
It didn’t help that he crashed while doing so.
In March of last year, a German driver crashed their Tesla Model 3 while adjusting the car's windshield wipers via the center-mounted touchscreen. A few months after running off the road and into a row of trees, they were then hit with a lawsuit as well as a €200 penalty that carried with it a month-long suspension of their license. They've been tied up in a legal battle ever since, and a judge recently backed up the decision to suspend the driver's license over improper use of an electronic device.
According to German outlet Auto Motor Und Sport, the Higher Regional Court in Karlsruhe had decided that Tesla's touchscreen infotainment system counted as an electronic device. The driver, they argue, crashed because he was distracted. Going by the German translated version of the story, the bases of their decision was stated as, "The touchscreen (permanently installed in the vehicle of the Tesla brand) is an electronic device in the sense of § 23 Para, it does not matter what purpose the driver pursues with the operation."
The Tesla driver stated that because the touchscreen also displays a speedometer, it should be considered as a "safety control panel." Judges fired back, stating it could not be considered because it takes more than a simple gaze to navigate multiple options once you select the wiper icon. The district court added that this crash was avoidable because the driver "could have foreseen and prevented property damage if the necessary care was taken in road traffic".
Anyone who has driven or rode in a Tesla knows that the center-mounted touchscreen manages the bulk of interior controls. That's how Tesla designed it, so one could argue that the judges did not consider this. On the other hand, how long was the driver looking down at the screen before they crashed? Especially when you realize the Tesla Model 3 is equipped with an analog wiper switch located on the wheel like most vehicles, as shown in the video below.
The biggest question this situation brings up is whether or not navigating a tablet-sized touchscreen on a vehicle's dash counts as using an electronic device. Additionally, do they pose an unnecessary distraction for drivers? As Tesla owners have fought for years with their semi-autonomous Autopilot systems, it boils down to driver usage. Some cases, though, are clearer than others.
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