The defining feature of a Tesla is that it can be set to self-driving mode. When autopilot is engaged, a Tesla can drive without the help of the human driver behind the wheel. But this futuristic feature is intended to enhance the driving experience, not replace the driver.
Apparently, nobody relayed this pertinent piece of information to Alexander Samek, a California man who was found intoxicated, and asleep, behind the wheel of his Tesla Model S. Police struggled to pull over Samek’s car for at least seven minutes as the vehicle sped down the highway at 70 miles per hour. A Boston OUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with OUI.
Is Tesla Fully Autonomous?
Although those in favor of autonomous vehicles claim that self-driving features will lead to a dramatic reduction in traffic injuries and deaths, incidents like the one above highlight a slew of potential problems. Tesla doesn’t market it’s vehicles as self-driving, likely to avoid lawsuits that would arise from situations like Samek’s. But what is unclear is how he was able to remain in autonomous mode for such a long time without disengaging the autopilot software. Teslas are equipped with stop-gap features intended to disengage autonomous mode if the driver touches the gas pedal, for example. Maybe Tesla is more autonomous than the company has led us to believe?
Drunk Driving on Autopilot?
Even though the vehicle was being operated on autopilot, not by Samek himself, the California man is still being charged with drunk driving.
At about 3:37 a.m. on the night of the incident, a police officer noticed a gray Tesla careening down Highway 101 near Redwood City, Palo Alto. The officer, who could see that the driver appeared to be sleeping, stopped traffic on the highway and pulled in front of the Tesla to slow it down to an eventual stop.
After multiple police vehicles pulled up to the car with lights flashing and sirens wailing, Samek woke up. He was given a field-sobriety test, which he promptly failed.
“It’s great that we have this technology; however, we need to remind people that … even though this technology is available, they need to make sure they know they are responsible for maintaining control of the vehicle,” said Art Montiel, a spokesman for the local police department. A MA OUI defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with OUI or any other criminal offense.
Are We Seeing a Trend?
This isn’t the first drunk driving incident involving a Tesla. In August, another California man was arrested for drunk driving after he crashed into a fire truck with his Tesla. And in a case similar to the one involving Samek, yet another California man was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after he passed out in a Tesla as it drove across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on autopilot. Continue reading