Drunk, Sleeping Driver Pulled Over in Tesla

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on December 03, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Northern California Bay Area has more than its fair share of Tesla drivers, but some have garnered more notoriety than others. In the latest incident of Tesla Drivers Behaving Badly, it took police seven minutes of skilled maneuvering to pull over Alexander Samek, after he was found asleep, and drunk, at the wheel of his Tesla Model S, traveling 70 miles per hour down the freeway at 3:30 a.m. with his autopilot engaged.

Amazing Capabilities of the Model S, and CHP Officer

Proponents of autonomous driving claim that fewer traffic accidents and deaths will result from having self-driving features on all cars. A story like this does highlight the amazing capabilities of the latest autopilot software on Model S cars, though what is probably more compelling here is the amazing capabilities of the CHP officer, who drove a patrol car directly in front of Samek before gradually slowing down and stopping the Tesla in the middle of the highway. This isn't the first such instance of Tesla DUI drivers using autopilot. A similar situation happened on the Bay Bridge in January of this year.

Was This Amazing, or Is Tesla a Trojan Horse?

Tesla has never advised drivers that the car is self-driving or autonomous, most likely due to unintended use lawsuits. These cars even have stop-gap measures in place to disengage the car from autopilot mode when the driver taps the gas pedal, similar to cruise-control mode. Therefore, it is somewhat of a mystery how Samek was able to continue down the road and not disengage the autopilot software.

Some consumer advocacy groups, such as Consumer Watchdog, highlight that the mere ability for Samek, and the Bay Bridge Tesla DUI driver, to be able to pull off what should be an impossible feat, just gives further evidence to Tesla drivers that the car actually is fully autonomous, even though it claims it isn't. Which leads to the question -- is it actually inappropriate for drivers to believe that some Tesla models are fully autonomous? What are the cars' true capabilities?

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

Perhaps this is what Elon Musk was getting at with his "Not a Flame Thrower" Flame Throwers. Perhaps late model Teslas are "Not Autonomous Driving" autonomous cars. Since Musk prevailed on avoiding permits for the Not a Flame Throwers, he may very well continue to evade liability on the Tesla cars as well. In the meantime, Samek is on the hook for a DUI charge. It will be interesting to see how his lawyer handles this case.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence, call a local DUI attorney. Though autonomous driving vehicles may one day alter the DUI laws, the day has not yet come. Today, your best tool is still an attorney.

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