A recent verdict from Germany will start a fascinating discussion. The Higher Regional Court in Karlsruhe confirmed that a driver would have to be suspended from driving for a month. He was sentenced to that because he drove his Tesla Model 3 into an embankment and hit some trees after trying to adjust the windshield wiper speed on the touchscreen.
This driver, which did not have his identity revealed, suffered this accident on the evening of March 15, 2019. The first lawsuit he was subject to happened on August 22, 2019, and he was condemned to pay a €200 fine and got suspended from driving for one month. The 1 Rb 36 Ss 832/19 lawsuit if the final one, and it does not admit any appeal.
According to judges involved with this lawsuit, "the touchscreen permanently installed in the Tesla vehicle is an electronic device." Therefore, its operation "is permitted to the motor vehicle driver only under the conditions" of German's regulation, "without it being of any importance what purpose the motor vehicle driver pursues with its operation."
Before you come up with the old saying that you never know what you'll find in verdicts and baby diapers, the judges gave many reasons to consider the infotainment screen at the Model 3 as an "electronic device." Although the driver said that the speedometer there makes it a "safety control panel," the court ruled it could not be considered as such when a quick gaze is not enough for him to check a submenu with five options. The driver would also be to blame because he had not "observed the care required in road traffic."
Whether you agree with the German judge's reasoning or not, it is crucial to consider the decision opens an in-depth discussion as to whether fundamental functions in a car, such as windshield wipers, should have anything to do with a touchscreen or not.
Tesla decided to create a car that concentrates many of its operations on the touchscreen of its infotainment computer. In some of these vehicles, that is called MCU. We have covered the issues the MCUv1 presents. In Model 3 and Model Y units, any problem with the touchscreen would prevent the driver from properly using the windshield wiper, for example.
On Tesla's defense, that could probably be overcome if the Model 3 had the automatic mode for the wipers on or if the driver used the voice command to adjust the speed – you can even active farts sound with it. Why he decided to change it on the touchscreen manually is something only this German driver could answer. If you happen to know him, please put him in touch with us. We would love to hear his version of the story.