Over the last few days, several Tesla drivers were caught sleeping at the wheel on Autopilot. The narrative seems to be that Autopilot is the cause, but people have been falling asleep at the wheel way before Tesla’s driver assist system existed.

Someone reported to NBC that he caught a Tesla driver sleeping at the wheel in Los Angeles last week:

“Images and video were captured by a passenger in Miladinovich’s [the witness’s] car. He said the Tesla driver appeared slumped over with something tied around the steering wheel.

“If his little thing tied around that steering wheel fell off, and he was still sleeping, he would have slammed into somebody going 65 miles per hour,” Miladinovich said.”

He is probably referring to an Autopilot nag defeating device, like the Autopilot Buddy, which was shut down by NHTSA last summer and later relaunched as ‘phone mount’ to get around the ban.

The device is used to trick the Autopilot system into thinking that someone is applying pressure to the steering wheel in order for it to stay active.

If it “fell off”, the car wouldn’t just “slam into somebody”, it would actually start giving the driver alerts to hold the steering wheel and if the driver wouldn’t respond, the vehicle would attempt to safely come to a stop on the side of the road.

Yesterday, another Model 3 driver was caught seemingly sleeping at the wheel – this time in the Bay Area:

Couldn’t believe it.. asleep in heavy Friday rush hour traffic in the Bay Area. from IdiotsInCars

Several media outlets running those stories presented a narrative where Tesla’s Autopilot is suggested as the cause of those incidents.

Electrek’s Take

First off, people have been falling asleep at the wheel well before Autopilot ever existed.

The difference is that it is not resulting in crashes, injuries, and death in those instances.

Does it mean that it is safe? Of course not, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Autopilot is the cause either.

Tesla drivers are told that they should remain attentive and ready to take control at any time when using Autopilot features.

If some Tesla drivers, and I think we are talking about a very small minority here, are deciding to use devices to get around the alert systems in place and put themselves and others at risk, that’s their own dumb decision and something Tesla is actively discouraging.

However, it does highlight the fact that Tesla could have a better driver monitoring system if it can be tricked by a simple device.

Time to use the driver-facing camera in Model 3 to track driver attention?

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.


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