‘Animal Control’ Catches Dog In Driverless Tesla, But Was It Legal?

tesla dog

“The future really sneaks up on you, huh?”

That was officer Frank Shaw’s reaction to finding a dog in the driver’s seat of Tesla cruising through Seattle on the most recent episode of the Fox comedy Animal Control.

Shaw, played by Joel McHale was on patrol with his partner Shred, portrayed by Michael Rowland, when a red Model Y pulled up to their truck at a stop light, then drove away when the light turned green.

They pursued and pulled over the electric vehicle, only to discover a man sitting in the back seat.



“It’s OK, I have a license,” he tells them.

“It’s a driverless car, Balthazar just likes the front seat.”


While the Model Y does offer Full Self-Driving feature in real life, it has limited semi-autonomous capability and requires a person to be in the driver’s seat and attentive during its operation.

Some owners have found ways around this in past versions of the software, with at least one caught on camera riding in the back seat, who was later arrested.

Befuddled, Shaw tells the man “there is literally nothing we can do,” and lets the car continue on his way.

But while an animal control officer in Seattle can’t issue a driving citation or arrest someone without involving law enforcement, it’s unclear if the man was technically violating Washington State law regarding autonomous vehicles.

While there are no fully autonomous vehicles available to the public for purchase, the Washington State Department of Licensing stipulates that self-certified autonomous technology testing requires that when a human operator is present they “must have the ability to direct the vehicle’s movement if assistance is required,” which seems difficult from the back seat, unless there were auxiliary controls back there that weren’t visible.


Test vehicles without a human present “must be equipped with an automated driving system that performs all driving tasks on a part or full-time basis within their operational design limits” and have a safe mode in case of the system’s failure.

In both cases, a $5 million umbrella insurance policy is required.

While it’s possible the man was an employee doing research, he would have to work for NVIDIA, Waymo or Zoox, which are are the only companies that are currently registered with the state.

Tesla is not, but its vehicles do use some NVIDIA chips.

“We’re using a lot of Nvidia hardware,” Musk said during last year’s second quarter earnings call. “We’ll actually take Nvidia hardware as fast as Nvidia will deliver it to us.”

“They’ve done an incredible job.”


Tesla’s autonomous capabilities were also exaggerated in the 2023 apocalyptic film “Leave the World Behind,” where a fleet of them were apparently hacked and caused a huge pileup on a Long Island highway ramp.