WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- The California Highway Patrol arrested a Tesla Model S driver traveling at 70mph after a 7-minute, 7-mile ‘chase’.
- Alexander Samek, 45, was found asleep behind the wheel ‘driving’ southbound on Highway 101 California in the early hours of Friday morning.
- Samek, charged with driving under the influence, was believed to be using Tesla’s Autopilot system which could have saved his life.
The police pulled over a driver found sleeping at the wheel of his Tesla Model S on Friday while traveling at 70mph. The driver, Alexander Samek, may have been using Tesla’s Autopilot system which could have saved his life.
Samek, who works at the Los Altos Planning Commission, was ‘driving’ southbound on Highway 101 in Palo Alto. The 45-year-old was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol during the early hours of Friday morning.
The California Highway Patrol said they were unable to get Samek’s attention using lights and sirens. What the officers did was to drive in front of the Tesla and slow down in order to stop it.
Police “positioned their patrol vehicle in front of the Tesla and began slowing directly in front of the Tesla in hopes that the ‘driver assist’ feature had been activated and therefore the Tesla would slow to a stop as the patrol vehicle came to a stop,” one of the officers said.
Eventually, the car stopped and Samek was charged with driving while drunk.
The police said further investigations are needed to determine whether the autopilot feature was turned on.
“We cannot confirm at this time if the ‘driver assist’ feature was activated but considering the vehicle’s ability to slow to a stop when Samek was asleep, it appears the ‘driver assist’ feature may have been active at the time,” the Highway Patrol said.
Tesla’s autopilot feature can change lanes and detect obstacles, but Tesla has tightened up the rules, recently revising its software. As Tesla is not designed to drive the car independently, the warning prompts drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. So if the driver did fall asleep at the wheel the car should have started slowing down on its own within a few minutes, ARS Technica wrote.
The alarms go off every 15 to 20 seconds if there is no pressure on the steering wheel. Supposedly, the Model S cars should slow to a stop if the driver does not respond to these alarms.
Tesla critics have warned that drivers put too much trust in the software, believing that it can completely pilot the vehicle for them.
In January, police arrested a man asleep behind the wheel of a Tesla car on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. The man insisted that his vehicle was “on autopilot” however, there’s no autopilot exception to drunk-driving laws.
Source: ARS Technica