Smart Cars and Dopey Drivers – A TikTok Story

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In a story where viral video meets questionable parenting meets risky driving, a teen TikTok user is finding himself under scrutiny after he posted a video of himself misusing his Tesla Autopilot feature. Although the clip was posted back in November 2020, the clip recently resurfaced after being discovered by tens of thousands of users, who are sharing and commenting on not only the legality of the kid’s actions, but also that he put other drivers in danger while he was doing it.

For the record, before you write off Cox’s stunt as childish stupidity or naivety, this might be a good time to point out that Elon Musk’s own ex-wife filmed herself misusing the Autopilot feature back in 2016.

Also, did I mention that his mom was there the whole time?

Here’s what happened

Eighteen-year-old Johnathon Cox posted a clip to TikTok that shows him “sleeping” – we’re talking pillows and blankets here – in the passenger seat of his Tesla Model 3 as it roars down the highway at full speed alongside other vehicles. There is no one in the driver’s seat, and Cox bypassed the Tesla’s requirement to have hands on the wheel by placing a weighted band there instead.

He also claimed in the video description that the stunt was performed by professionals on a closed course.

Which, you can tell by watching the video, is obviously untrue.

Another clip features Cox having some sort of interaction with another driver, and yet another highlights Cox sleeping again, this time in the backseat with his blanket and pillow set-up, as the vehicle continues down the highway at speeds over 60mph. Without anyone in the driver’s seat, who was filming this entire thing? Cox’s mother, who helped him plan the entire stunt. You can see the unedited version on YouTube, as well as more reckless videos.

Autopilot doesn’t mean a car drives itself

Issues with Tesla’s Autopilot are nothing new (although the reckless and deliberate misuse like Cox’s highway adventure are hopefully unique). A Vox article from 2020 noted that:

shortcomings like these are why it’s so important for drivers to pay attention. Nearly three years ago, the NTSB called for car companies implementing these autonomous systems like Autopilot to create better mechanisms for monitoring drivers while these tools are turned on, in part to alert them when they need to take control of the vehicle. Tesla is the only auto company of six that hasn’t formally responded to the federal agency.

Why call it Autopilot if the car doesn’t actually drive itself? Tesla points out the misnomer out on their own website, actually. In their own words: “The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.” The site goes on to say that drivers have to “agree” to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, and a little reminder pops up every time  the driver engages Autopilot.

Which is nice, I guess.

Look – I’m not saying the kid should’ve gotten hurt. I’m glad he’s safe. And his mom’s not on my Top 10 to get a Mother of the Year award any time soon. But this story has to be the best example of reckless driving I’ve ever seen, and the idea of someone getting a reckless ticket while asleep behind the wheel…. I mean, it’s not funny, but it’s kinda funny. It would be one heck of a day in court, though.

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, our experienced criminal defense lawyers provide knowledgeable representation. If you’re facing charges, don’t delay seeking your free consultation in my Annapolis or Ellicott City offices. Call me today at 410-271-1892 or reach out to me through my firm’s contact page.

And remember – Keep Calm, and Call Drew.