Can you sleep while your Tesla drives you?
Why Sleep Driving A Tesla Can Get You In Trouble, Despite No Law Against It
The hit 1997 film Air Bud introduced an idea into the public consciousness that suggests that if there isn’t a rule on the books preventing an action (dogs playing basketball, football, soccer, baseball, or volleyball, in the order that the films were made), authorities can’t stop it from happening. That, it turns out, is not the opinion of the California Highway Patrol.
According to a post from Chambers Law Firm, “there is no law in California – or in any other state – that prohibits falling asleep while driving.” Just because no law explicitly prohibits falling asleep at the wheel, though, doesn’t mean that law enforcement can’t do anything about it.
As the law firm points out, and California Highway Patrol spokesperson April Elliott told KTLA recently, there is a constellation of rules that law enforcement can lean on to punish drivers caught sleeping at the wheel, even in cases where advanced driver assistance systems are active – such as in the numerous viral examples of Tesla drivers who misunderstand the limits of Autopilot and FSD.
Although sleeping at the wheel is not explicitly listed as a contravention of the California Vehicle Code, it is illegal for drivers to operate a vehicle in a way that endangers the safety of other people or property. In the case of a Tesla (or any other vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems) drivers, intentionally falling asleep at the wheel is considered reckless driving.
“Regardless of any special features a vehicle may possess, such as autopilot or fully autonomous capabilities, drivers are still responsible for the vehicle they are operating. If a driver is asleep behind the wheel, they are in violation of California’s basic speed law,” Elliott said. “It is unsafe to operate/drive a vehicle at any speed while asleep behind the wheel.”
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Despite the names of the systems, both Autopilot and FSD are considered SAE Level 2 (and 2+) autonomous systems. Though these may assist the driver, they require the human to be at attention and in control of the vehicle at all times. Even with Mercedes’ fancy new Level 3 autonomous system, the technology is not good enough to allow a driver to fall asleep.
And the consequences of doing so could be dire. Beyond the risk to their own safety, and that of other road users, drivers caught sleeping at the wheel could lead CHP to request that the California Department of Motor Vehicles re-evaluate the capability and fitness of the driver.
“CHP recommends avoiding driving if you are at all fatigued,” Elliott said. “If you begin to experience any drowsiness, pull off the highway and find a safe location to rest or change drivers.”
Tesla Driver Falls Asleep at The Wheel — Autopilot Ignores Police and Drives On
Yesterday a very strange and dangerous thing happened in the Bavarian town of Bamberg in Germany that is related to Tesla and its Autopilot. On the Bavarian Autobahn Tesla driver fell asleep in autopilot mode. Autopilot ignored police and kept driving, multiple German media sources report, including Der Spiegel.
The traffic police wanted to stop a car near Bamberg, but the vehicle just couldn’t be stopped. The driver had apparently tricked the car’s safety systems.
So The Bamberg traffic police followed a Tesla vehicle for a quarter of an hour on Wednesday, which was apparently traveling independently on the A70 highway. According to the police, the 45-year-old driver fell asleep behind the wheel, and the built-in autopilot then steered the car at a constant speed of 110 km/h on the autobahn, that’s about 70 miles per hour.
When the police wanted to stop and check the man, his Tesla just kept driving. Police said «He didn’t respond to stop signals or repeated horns from the officers.” The driver was leaning in the seat with his eyes closed and his hands were not on the steering wheel. His Tesla drove in that condition for 15 minutes. The police statement says, «After about 15 minutes, the man finally woke up and followed the instructions of the police. During the check, he showed typical drug failure symptoms.”
In the footwell of of his Tesla, the officers found what is known as a steering wheel weight, which is used to trick the security systems. It gives the car the illusion that your hands are on the wheel. Why would a 45-year-old man do something so foolish? According to the law, automated driving in Germany is only possible within narrow limits, and the driver must be able to take over the wheel at all times. Napping or other activities such as reading newspapers are prohibited.
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A preliminary investigation into the criminal offense of endangering road traffic was initiated against the Tesla driver. According to the police, he has to give up his driver’s license until the court decides.
I don’t even have words to describe how foolish and dangerous is what this man has done. I am glad he is caught and that Police took his license and that now he has to appear in the court.
On a brighter note in Europe, Tesla Model Y became the best-selling car in all of Europe in November. It’s for the second time, and not just for electric vehicles, but all cars.
Armen Hareyan is the founder and the Editor in Chief of Torque News. He founded TorqueNews.com in 2010, which since then has been publishing expert news and analysis about the automotive industry. He can be reached at Torque News Twitter, Facebok, Linkedin and Youtube.