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Tesla driver accused of sleeping on Autopilot is going to trial for dangerous driving

A Tesla driver’s case over sleeping while using Autopilot on the highway is going to trial for dangerous driving in what legal experts are calling a legal first.

Earlier this year, we reported on the Alberta RCMP (Canada federal police) issuing a report on a strange incident involving a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot:

“Alberta RCMP received a complaint of a car speeding on Highway 2 near Ponoka. The car appeared to be self-driving, traveling over 140 km/h with both front seats completely reclined and occupants appeared to be asleep.”

Tesla’s Autopilot enables virtually autonomous driving on the highway, but drivers are required to keep their hands on the steering wheel and be ready to take control at all times.

The automaker tries to enforce that by requiring drivers to apply slight torque to the wheel on frequent intervals, but there are ways to get around that by adding weights to the steering wheel.

It’s unclear if that’s what the driver, Leran Cai, a 20-year-old, did in this case.

We reported that the police charged him criminally for dangerous driving over the incident, and now, we learned that the case is actually going to court.

Global News reports:

“In what Canadian legal experts are calling an unprecedented case, a B.C. man has been charged with dangerous driving in Alberta after he was allegedly caught sleeping in a self-driving Tesla as it sped south on Highway 2 between Edmonton and Calgary this past summer.”

They added about Cai’s charges:

“On top of the criminal charge, Cai is accused of speeding and RCMP said he also received a 24-hour licence suspension for fatigue in connection with the alleged July 9 incident, in which drivers and police noticed a 2019 Tesla Model S operating with no driver in sight.”

Cai’s next court appearance is set for Jan. 29, 2021, in Ponoka, and the case will be followed closely as it could set a precedent.

Electrek’s Take

I think this is going to be a quick one. Cai was obviously abusing the driver-assist system and being dangerous.

He could potentially try to get away with it by claiming that he thought Tesla Autopilot was fully autonomous, but that would be hard to claim with all of Tesla’s warnings about Autopilot, including right when you activate it.

I am sure you wouldn’t be shocked if I told you that Cai has a long history of driving violations, especially for someone who has only been driving for a few years.

According to Global News’ report, he was convicted of driving without a driver’s licence just last year.

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