A Tesla Model S driver in Southern California was caught on camera seemingly asleep at the wheel while driving on Autopilot.
Tesla Autopilot is a driver assist system that can steer and regulate the speed of a Tesla vehicle on the highway, but it still requires the driver to pay attention and be ready to take control at all times.
Over the last few years, Tesla has implemented alert systems to require the driver to keep their hands on the wheel, but it hasn’t stopped some people from misusing Autopilot.
Kevin Paschal from Southern California spotted one of those people on the highway yesterday.
He filmed a Tesla Model S owner seemingly asleep at the wheel on the highway while on Autopilot:
Paschal shared the video on Facebook and said about the incident:
“Highlight of my day. Dude is passed out on the freeway in his Tesla and still driving better than 90% of SoCal, lol. I genuinely cannot wait for more self-driving cars to be on the road.”
As a level 2 driver assist system, the Tesla Autopilot is not really considered a “self-driving” system.
Autopilot regularly sends out alerts to tell the driver to “apply pressure on the steering wheel” if it doesn’t detect any for a period of time.
If no torque is applied, Autopilot will eventually attempt to safely bring the vehicle to a stop on the side of the road and the system won’t be available for the rest of the drive.
In this case, it looks like the driver has at least one hand over the bottom half of the steering wheel, which could be enough to avoid any Autopilot alert – thought that’s not always the case.
Paschal said that the driver was like that for “several miles” and when asked why he didn’t honk to attempt to wake him or get him to pay attention, he wrote:
“I’m not sure the car would have cared. I wasn’t joking when I said it was still driving better than most of SoCal. Dude was perfectly centered in his lane the whole time and maintained a safe distance from all vehicles”
Again, Tesla drivers are asked to pay attention at all time when using Autopilot.
I think it raises a good question here: should you honk to attempt to wake the driver up in cases like this?
I know that legally there are some jurisdictions where they have restrictions as to what situations justify using your horn, but I think it’s justified here.
The latest versions of Autopilot are pretty damn impressive and it can virtually drive without driver input on the highway for long distances, but we have seen Autopilot fail too many times to take that risk at this point.
You should definitely attempt to wake the driver up if it can be done safely.
As for the driver falling asleep, there are basically two schools of thoughts here.
One could say that the driver would have fallen asleep anyway, as drivers do, and Autopilot actually made the situation a lot safer.
Others would argue that the convenience aspect of Tesla’s Autopilot might have actually contributed to putting the driver to sleep.
I subscribe more to the former. Drivers were falling asleep at the wheel before Autopilot existed and there are plenty of other features that can technically help you fall asleep, like regular cruise control, but it doesn’t mean that those who use them safely shouldn’t have access to them.
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.