A Tesla was stopped by police in California early on Friday morning…literally.
The driver in the car had nothing to do with it. In fact, he was allegedly drunk and asleep at the time.
The California Highway Patrol said officers spotted the Tesla Model S cruising along U.S. 101 in Redwood City at 3:37 a.m. with what appeared to be a dozing driver behind the wheel.
After following the sedan for about seven miles trying to get him to respond to lights and sirens, the officers guessed that the Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot driver assist system was engaged, so they pulled in front of it and started to slow down, according to a police report.
The sedan did the same, and the two vehicles safely came to a complete stop in the middle of the highway. With some difficulty, police roused the driver, who was identified as Los Altos Planning Commission chair Alexander Samek, and drove him and the Tesla to a nearby gas station where he failed a field sobriety test. Samek was booked on 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.
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. The system is able to self-steer a Tesla 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 upon conditions. If a 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, who tweeted on Sunday that the company is “looking into what happened here.”
Earlier last week, Tesla announced that its cars had been driven over one billion cumulative miles with Autopilot engaged since it was first offered in 2015. The automaker has often touted the system’s safety record, but 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.