A man from northern California was arrested after police caught him sleeping behind the wheel.
If, like me, you’re not a car lover, you may be wondering how that’s possible. Well, he was driving a Tesla Model S – a luxury electric sedan that offers semi-autonomous driving features.
Meanwhile, my car barely drives.
California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel told Business Insider the Tesla was driving about 70 mph (115 kph) at 3:40am on Friday morning. When officers attempted to pull the car over using lights and sirens, it didn’t respond, alerting police to the possibility the car was in self-drive mode.
In a strategic move, one officer blocked traffic behind the Tesla while another drove in front, gradually slowing down until all three cars came to a complete stop. The strategy was safe as the Model S is capable of responding to varying traffic speeds (when did we enter the future?).
“Once the vehicle came to a stop, the officers got out of their patrol cars, approached the Tesla, and knocked on the windows to wake up the driver,” said Montiel.
45-year-old Alexander Samek was the man found allegedly sleep-driving. Unsurprisingly, the police claim he was also intoxicated.
Montiel praised the “quick thinking” displayed by the officers to get Samek off the road before he or any other driver was hurt.
However, Montiel issued a warning to drivers during an interview with CBS.
“It’s great we have this technology, however we need to remind people that they need to be responsible,” he said.
A crucial point which may put the brakes on the Jetsons future you’re excited for is that Tesla’s autopilot feature doesn’t mean the car can literally drive itself. In most models, the system will warn the driver if they don’t have their hands on the wheel and deactivate itself if the driver doesn’t respond. Enhanced features allow the vehicle to automatically stay within a lane, change lanes when necessary and even exit the freeway.
In Samek’s case, it’s impossible to know how long the autopilot had been engaged and if it was likely to deactivate, or whether he had somehow fallen asleep with his hands resting on the wheel.
This is not the first time Tesla vehicles have been involved in driving incidents due to the nature of the autopilot feature – in one case, a man was killed in a collision with a highway barrier after ignoring his car’s automated warnings.
Neither of these features sound very foolproof – or safe – to me. I daresay we haven’t seen the last of Tesla’s road incidents.