Over the past few years there have been several viral videos and stories of people sleeping behind the wheel of their Tesla while it drives on Autopilot.
Autopilot is a technology present in Tesla cars which gives the vehicle the ability to drive itself on highways. Tesla officially requires that the driver keep their hands on the steering wheel while Autopilot is engaged so that the driver can immediately take control of the vehicle if necessary.
A few enterprising Tesla drivers have found ways to fool the Autopilot system into thinking that they are attentive with their hands on the wheel, thus giving them ability to sleep in a fast-moving vehicle.
Here are some of the most famous incidents.
A Twitter user named Seth Blake captured shocking video of a Tesla driver asleep at the wheel while doing 75 mph on a busy LA freeway.
— SETH BLAKE (@SethWageWar) March 4, 2019
If watching a guy careen down the freeway at 75 miles-per-hour isn’t enough to freak you out, it turns out that this isn’t a one-time incident.
Amazingly enough the exact same guy starred in a viral video earlier in the year which showed him sleeping in his Tesla on the freeway.
Genius or reckless?
Cops use a clever trick to stop drunk guy sleeping behind the wheel of a Model S
Police in Palo Alto, CA used a clever trick to get Tesla’s Autopilot to stop driving while a drunk man was asleep behind the wheel.
California Highway Patrol officers spotted a man sleeping behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S in the early morning hours (approximately 3:30 AM) in Palo Alto. They immediately pulled behind the vehicle and turned on their sirens and lights. When the driver didn’t respond, they realized that they needed to get creative if they wanted to stop this drunk from cruising down the highway while unconscious.
They pulled in front of the moving vehicle and gradually applied the brakes. This caused the Tesla Model S to slow down to avoid a collision. The officers gradually reduced their speed until the Tesla came to a complete stop on the freeway.
Officers arrested the driver, 45-year-old Alexander Joseph Samek of Los Altos, for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Reddit user MiloWee posted shocking video of yet another Tesla driver in the Bay Area falling asleep behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
In a thread titled “Couldn’t believe it….asleep in heavy rush hour traffic in the Bay Area” the user shared a video appearing to show a man conked out while behind the wheel of a white Tesla.
What is it with the Bay Area anyway?
You can watch the full video on Reddit.
Tesla driver filmed sleeping for 30 miles on the 405 freeway in California
According to Shawn Miladinovich, the man who filmed the video, this Tesla driver was asleep for more than 30 miles on southern California’s notoriously busy 405 freeway.
“I realized he was fully sleeping,” Miladinovich told NBC4 News. “Eyes shut, hands nowhere near the steering wheel.”
The driver’s hands appeared to be loosely tied to the steering wheel, most likely an effort to fool Tesla’s autopilot system into thinking that he was alert and engaged, ensuring that the autopilot wouldn’t turn off. When Tesla drivers take their hands off the steering wheel they begin to receive a series of alerts to ensure that they remain attentive.
“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.
Dutch police safely stop a sleeping drunk driver
The epidemic of sleeping Tesla autopilot drivers isn’t limited to the United States.
Police in the Netherlands announced that they managed to stop a 50-year-old drunk driver who was fast asleep behind the wheel of his Tesla. The officers managed to wake him up by blasting their sirens after previous attempts to signal the driver to slow down failed.
Police officers began following the sleepy drunk driver near the city of Emmes because he was driving too closely to the vehicle in front of him. The driver failed to respond to signals to pull over and even overtook a police car that was slowing down to get off the highway.
“Eventually the man was woken with the help of the siren,” the police department’s Instagram post said.
His driver’s license was suspended after the incident.
Driver AND passenger both fall asleep on the Mass Pike and Tesla responds
Some guy literally asleep at the wheel on the Mass Pike (great place for it).
Teslas are sick, I guess? pic.twitter.com/ARSpj1rbVn
— Dakota Randall (@DakRandall) September 8, 2019
A new viral video was shared by Twitter user Dakota Randall which depicts a driver slumped forward and out cold behind the wheel of a fast-moving Tesla on the Mass Pike in Massachusetts. What’s interesting about this video is that the driver isn’t the only occupant of the vehicle. There’s another person in the passenger seat who is also completely unconscious.
“It was just so strange and baffling” Dakota Randall told WBZ-TV, who shot the video while driving on the highway. “I thought I saw somebody asleep at the wheel, but I wasn’t sure so I did a double-take. Sure enough, there was somebody with his head right between his legs.”
Randall honked his horn in an unsuccessful attempt to wake the driver. “It was just so bizarre that I just had to get it on video, because it’s so strange,” he said. “They looked like they needed to go home and go to bed.”
Tesla believes that this video may be hoax, however:
“Many of these videos appear to be dangerous pranks or hoaxes. Our driver-monitoring system repeatedly reminds drivers to remain engaged and prohibits the use of Autopilot when warnings are ignored. At highway speeds, drivers typically receive warnings every 30 seconds or less if their hands aren’t detected on the wheel. “Tesla owners have driven billions of miles using Autopilot, and data from our quarterly Vehicle Safety Report indicates that drivers using Autopilot experience fewer accidents than those operating without assistance.”– Tesla spokesperson
How are drivers tricking Tesla’s Autopilot?
There are several different devices on the market that are designed to fool Tesla’s Autopilot into thinking that the driver still has his or her hands on the wheel. Here’s how they work.
“Autopilot Buddy” and other similar devices
This type of device tricks the Autopilot system into thinking that there is someone in the car with their hands on the wheel. The way it works is that you attach the device – which has been specifically designed to fit on Teslas – onto your steering wheel. The Autopilot Buddy mimics the amount of pressure that a human hand puts on the steering wheel.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Authority has been cracking down on Autopilot Buddy and similar devices. A statement on their website shows just how serious they are about ensuring that nobody uses these Autopilot-fooling products.
“The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a cease and desist letter to the company selling a product called the Autopilot Buddy. Marketed as a ‘Tesla autopilot nag reduction device,’ its primary function is to disable a safety feature in Tesla vehicles that monitors the driver’s hands on the steering wheel and warns the driver when hands are not detected. Aftermarket devices, such as Autopilot Buddy, are motor vehicle equipment regulated by NHTSA.”– NHTSA
“A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King.
Now that the NHTSA has been cracking down on Autopilot Buddy, some sleepy Tesla drivers are taking matters into their own hands.
In at least one recorded incident, the driver appears to be using some sort of homemade contraption that he tied to his steering wheel. It’s hard to tell how it was made, but it’s clear that it’s designed to fool Autopilot into thinking that the driver has his hands on the wheel.
Don’t sleep behind the wheel
The bottom line is: don’t sleep while driving. Tesla vehicles are rated at a Level 2 for autonomy, meaning that the driver still has to be alert when the self-driving features take over. If you’re an insomniac or suffer from other sleep disorders then go see a doctor for treatment. Sleeping on the road is not a good solution.