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California Highway Patrol arrests man seen riding in back seat of Tesla with no driver

The incident comes just weeks after two men were killed in a crash in Texas after a Tesla that "no one was driving" hit a tree. That crash is still under investigation.

The California Highway Patrol has arrested a 25-year-old man who was seen riding in the back seat of a Tesla in the San Francisco Bay Area with no one in the driver's seat.

The state agency shared photos of the man in the vehicle on its Facebook page. It is not clear when the photos were taken.

CHP issued an initial search for the man, later identified as Param Sharma, on Monday evening after receiving multiple 911 calls reporting the driverless Tesla.

Officers were quickly able to locate the vehicle and confirm that Sharma was seated in the backseat. Sharma moved into the driver's seat of the vehicle prior to pulling over for law enforcement, but was arrested for reckless driving.

"The Department thanks the public for providing valuable information that aided in this investigation and arrest," the CHP said in an announcement about the incident.

California Highway Patrol's Golden Division are looking for this man, seen riding in the back of a Tesla with no driver.California Highway Patrol / via Facebook

The incident comes just weeks after two men were killed in Texas after a Tesla that "no one was driving" hit a tree, authorities said.

Deputies responded to a crash at 11:25 p.m. CT April 17 near The Woodlands, an area about 30 miles north of Houston, officials said at the time. The vehicle, a 2019 Tesla Model S, was going at high speed when it ran off the road, hit a tree and burst into flames, according to Mark Herman, the Harris County Precinct 4 constable.

One person was in the passenger seat and another was in the back seat, he said. Authorities identified the victims as men ages 69 and 59.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the incident, but issued an updated report on Monday. According to that report, home security camera footage shows that the owner of the Tesla got into the driver's seat of the car shortly before the crash, which occurred roughly 550 feet from the owner's home, according to The Associated Press.

The preliminary report does not explain why authorities found no one behind the wheel of the car. Nor does it conclusively say whether Tesla's Autopilot feature was operating at the time of the crash.

The NTSB said it tested a different Tesla vehicle on the same road, and the Autopilot system could not be fully used. Investigators could not get the system's automated steering system to work, but were able to use Traffic Aware Cruise Control.

“The NTSB continues to collect data to analyze the crash dynamics, postmortem toxicology test results, seat belt use, occupant egress and electric vehicle fires,” the agency said in its report. “All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause.”

The agency says it intends to issue safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.

Though no crash was reported as a result of the man spotted riding solo through the San Francisco Bay Area, there have been other incidents of fatal crashes associated with the Tesla Autopilot feature prior to the most recent crash in Texas.

In 2018, a 38-year-old driver was killed in Mountain View, California, after a Tesla Model X that was on Autopilot crashed into a concrete divider and caught fire. The company said at the time that no action had been taken by the driver, who had a 5-second view of the concrete divider.

And in 2016, a 40-year-old driver in Florida was killed in a Tesla Model S on Autopilot that failed to stop when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of it.

Wilson Wong contributed.