Who knew a feature of convenience can cause a driver to be fined and banned from driving, this is exactly what happened when a driver tried to adjust the speed of his wipers on a Tesla Model 3. According to the court ruling, “the touchscreen installed permanently is also an electronic device”, for example, the wiper interval can be adjusted. This surprising decision could result in drivers facing severe consequences for using touchscreens in their vehicles.
German court suspends Tesla Model 3 driver for adjusting wiper speed
OLG, the Higher Regional Court in Karlsruhe confirmed in the last instance judgement, a driving ban for a Tesla driver who went off the road in the rain, causing an accident, because he wanted to adjust the interval of the windscreen wipers on the car using the central touchscreen.
The guiding principle of the judgement states; “The touchscreen permanently installed in the vehicle of the Tesla brand is an electronic device within the meaning of Section 23(1a) sentence 1 and 2 StVO, the operation of which the driver of the motor vehicle is only permitted under the conditions of the regulation, it does not matter what purpose the driver pursues with the operation. The setting of the functions required to operate the motor vehicle via the touchscreen (in this scenario, the setting of the wiping interval of the windshield wiper) is therefore only permitted if the view is only briefly adjusted to the screen for road, traffic, visibility and weather conditions and at the same time a corresponding turn away from the traffic is connected”.
The Tesla driver did file a legal complaint against this, but it was rejected by the OLG.
This incident occurred last year, a Tesla driver was fined 200 Euros for “improper use of an electronic device in accordance with Section 23, Paragraph 1a of Road Traffic Regulations”, as if the fine wasn’t enough, the driver was slapped with a one-month driving ban to add insult upon injury, German traffic laws are extremely strict. The man was fined on August 22, 2019, but the incident occurred on March 15th of the same year, the driver veered off from Federal Road 36 that evening, he drove onto an embankment and hit several trees by the roadside. According to the court, this accident occurred because the man was operating the car’s touchscreen infotainment system to adjust the wipers while driving.
This judgement by the OLG should act as a wakeup call for manufacturers, because the district court sees the touchscreen infotainment system installed in cars as an electronic device as per Section 23 (1a) StVO. In a Tesla Model 3, the windscreen wipers can be switched on and off on the steering wheel itself like most cars, but the peculiarity in this is that, to adjust the wiping speed of the wipers, the user has to go to a submenu in the infotainment system, where the user can choose between five settings. According to the judge, this action requires significantly more attention than the operation of the wiper with the “conventional fittings” i.e using the stocks mounted on the steering column.
The driver argued, in his complaint against the classification of the touchscreen as an electronic device, because he considers the wiper speed controls as a “safety-related control panel”, but the court rejected this appeal. This ruling could potentially force car manufacturers to rethink the configuration of their vehicle’s infotainment system. Nowadays, a lot of manufacturers are trying to minimize the use of physical buttons, by incorporating all those features into a touchscreen, manufacturers like Audi, Land Rover are some of the companies that have started following this trend, granted, it looks a lot less cluttered and more cleaner without an ocean of buttons inside the car, but some of the functions that will come into regular use are best kept conventional.