Police in the Northern California town of Redwood City arrested a man who was traveling on Highway 101 early Friday morning while sleeping behind the wheel of his Tesla Model S.
Officers first spotted the electric luxury sedan driving south at about 70 mph around 3:40 a.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel told Business Insider on Friday night.
Montiel said the officers took action when it became clear that the driver, 45-year-old Alexander Samek, was sleeping.
“The driver wasn’t responding to lights and sirens,” Montiel said.
The officers believed the Tesla may have been operating on Autopilot, a semi-autonomous-driving feature that allows Teslas to drive and change lanes in traffic with minimal human input.
In order to get the sleeping driver’s Tesla to stop, Montiel said officers blocked traffic behind the vehicle while another officer traveling in front of the car gradually slowed down, forcing the Tesla, which can respond to varying traffic speeds and accelerate or slow down accordingly, to a complete stop.
“Once the vehicle came to a stop, the officers got out of their patrol cars, approached the Tesla, and knocked on the windows to wake up the driver,” Montiel said.
Officers placed Samek in a patrol car, while another one drove the intoxicated man’s Tesla off the freeway and parked it at a nearby gas station.
Samek was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Montiel applauded the CHP’s “quick thinking” to get the Tesla and its driver out of harm’s way.
Teslas equipped with Autopilot cannot drive themselves. The system deploys an escalating series of warnings if it detects that the driver does not have their hands on the steering wheel. If the driver does not respond, the system deactivates itself.
Tesla declined to comment on the incident.
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