Patrol officers spotted a Tesla Model S cruising along U.S. 101 in Redwood City at 3:37 am on a Friday and noticed that the driver was dozing behind the wheel.
The police cars tried to siren and switch on their lights to wake him but when that did not work, the officers guessed that Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot driver assist system was engaged and hence they tried to pull in front of it and slowed down ultimately bringing the car to a halt. The police car and the Tesla took no damage and the officers then proceeded to wake up the driver, who was identified as Los Altos Planning Commission chair Alexander Samek. The Tesla was then driven to a nearby gas station and the owner took a sobriety test which he failed and was booked for a DUI and released later in the day.
“Just because there is this feature available doesn’t mean they can just completely disregard being in control of the vehicle,“ CHP public information officer Art Montiel told KTVU.
Tesla’s vehicles can self-steer within a lane while maintaining its speed and braking for obstacles but is supposed to require periodic input from a driver to confirm that they are paying attention to the road. The time between alerts isn’t fixed and varies depending on conditions. If the driver fails to respond, the system is programmed to bring the vehicle to a stop with the hazard lights on and contact Tesla service, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Exactly. Default Autopilot behavior, if there’s no driver input, is to slow gradually to a stop & turn on hazard lights. Tesla service then contacts the owner. Looking into what happened here.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 3, 2018
The use of Autopilot in the incident has not yet been confirmed, but the vehicle’s data logs should be able to provide this information to investigators.
Tesla has crossed a milestone and announced last week that its cars had been driven over one billion cumulative miles with Autopilot engaged since it was first offered in 2015.
Tesla hasn’t stopped there and has updated the driver monitoring feature on several occasions in the wake of a number of high-profile accidents, including a fatal crash that took place in Mountain View, Calif., in March.