Tesla driver caught in the act

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Tesla driver seen on camera sleeping while on autopilot mode

A passerby takes footage of a driver sleeping while on autopilot mode in a Tesla. They were shocked to see the driver asleep while driving along a California road. 

The driver of the vehicle had his arms crossed and not on the steering wheel. At the end of the video, it appears the driver slowly wakes up and take control of the wheel. 

The autopilot feature on a Tesla allows the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically, but the carmaker says "active driver supervision" is still needed. In a previous article, a tesla on autopilot mode was involved in a crash with a trunk that was stationary. However, it was unsure whether it was the fault of the driver or the vehicle. 

California law does not specifically forbid people sleeping in the driver's seat of an autonomous vehicle, but a person can still be arrested if they are endangering themselves or others.

Is this a step too far? We appear to be placing too much of our confidence in technology, especially when this is not its intended use. Unsure of which technology was in this specific vehicle might either have been the standard Tesla Autopilot or the newer and more advanced Navigate on Autopilot feature introduced only in Nov. 2018. 

However, Tesla has stated time and time again that autopilot mode is not supposed to substitute for a fully awake driver and to do so is very irresponsible as the technology is not there yet and you are potentially putting lives at risk. 

It’s gotten so bad that California Highway Patrol has even invented a new manoeuvre to deal with these cases. In a case of a sleeping driver behind the wheel of a Tesla Model 3, police pulled in front of the car that was initially traveling at 70 mph and used the autopilot system of the Tesla to their advantage by gradually slowing down, causing the autopilot to slow in response, eventually bringing the car to a halt.

The couple who captured this particular incident reported that Tesla stayed inside its lane the entire time the driver had drifted off. They didn’t report this violation to the police because they saw the driver eventually wake-up. 

This is not the first time an incident like this has occurred in a Tesla. 

Tesla driver asleep at the wheel


Justin Kavanagh
Justin Kavanagh is a recognised leader in automotive intelligence and vehicle data supply to the entire motor industry. He has almost 20 years experience in building systems from the ground up. As the Managing Director of Vehicle Management System, he understands the need and importance of trustworthy and reliable vehicle history and advice to both the trade and the public.
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