Cops chased a Tesla for 7 miles while its driver appeared to be sleeping

It’s not uncommon for police officers to find a driver asleep in their car, but finding a driver asleep in one that’s motoring along at 70 mph … well, that’s something else.

The alleged incident took place on Highway 101 in Palo Alto, California at just after 3 a.m. on Friday, November 30.

At first, the episode sounds just plain weird, but the car was a Tesla Model S, which can be driven on Autopilot, a mode that offers a certain degree of self-driving functionality.

Understandably unhappy about the occupant apparently sleeping at the wheel of a moving car, officers with the California Highway Patrol had to work out how to bring the vehicle to a halt as it motored along the road.

They opted to call in additional patrol cars, several of which drove behind the Tesla to slow down traffic that was coming up the rear. At the same time, one of the cars took up a position just ahead of the Tesla before gradually slowing down, causing the Model S to follow suit.

In all, it took seven minutes and seven miles to bring the Tesla to a safe stop.

Local media reported that cops then had to bang on the window to rouse the driver, who was later identified as Los Altos planning commissioner Alexander Samek. He was arrested at the scene on suspicion of driving under the influence.

It has yet to be confirmed that the Tesla was on Autopilot, though the description of the incident seems to suggest that this was the case.

The curious part of the story, however, is that in Autopilot mode the driver still has to keep their hands on the wheel in order for the car to proceed, with Tesla’s system issuing multiple alerts if it detects otherwise. If the driver fails to respond to the alerts, the car should automatically slow to a halt until the driver demonstrates that they have overall control of the vehicle by taking the wheel.

The officers’ efforts to bring the Model S to a safe stop are clearly commendable, while some will praise Tesla’s technology in the way that it appeared to prevent an accident from occurring when the driver wasn’t in full control of the vehicle. The company will of course be keen to learn the full facts of the case, and to understand how the car was able to operate if the driver was truly asleep.

Commenting on the unusual incident, California Highway Patrol public information officer Art Montiel said: “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.”

Cars

Waymo rules and Apple trails in California self-driving car benchmarks

California's DMV releases annual reports of self-driving car disengagements on public roads. In the most recent reports. Waymo had the best performance, GM Cruise came in second, and Apple's self-driving program was in last place.
Gaming

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.
Cars

Rock out in the carpool lane with Singing Machine’s Carpool Karaoke microphone

Carpool Karaoke fans can count down the days till summer. That's when Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke microphone will be available. Connect the Carpool Karaoke Mic to your car radio to make your next road trip a mobile karaoke party.
Cars

Tesla’s Dog Mode lets good Samaritans know that Fido’s A-OK

Tesla's latest over-the-air software update adds two features called Sentry Mode and Dog Mode. Sentry Mode records footage and alerts the owner if someone breaks in, while Dog Mode runs the A/C so owners can safely keep their dogs in their…
Cars

The Polestar 2, Sweden’s answer to the Tesla Model 3, begins taking shape

Volvo sister company Polestar has released a teaser image to give us our first look at the 2, its second model. Polestar tells us the 2 will arrive as a four-door fastback with a 400-hp electric powertrain and about 300 miles of range.
Cars

2020 Kia Soul and Soul EV continue to think inside the box

The 2020 Kia Soul is the third generation of Kia's boxy curiosity. The Soul maintains its signature look, but gets tech and powertrain upgrades. The all-electric Soul EV returns as well.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Psychedelic Volkswagen Microbus from Woodstock returns for an encore

With its trippy paint scheme, the Volkswagen "Light" bus became a symbol of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. VW teamed up with the artist who created this rolling mural to stage a comeback in time for Woodstock's 50th anniversary.
Cars

Amazon plugs in with $700 million investment in electric pickup company Rivian

Amazon invested $700 million for a minority stake in U.S. all-electric truck maker Rivian, according to a joint release. The announcement follows a Reuters report that GM and Amazon might invest $1 billion to $2 billion in the company.
Cars

2019 RAM 1500 Classic Warlock special edition: Badass style without the whoop

If you like the looks of blacked-out badass trucks without the cost of a desert racer, FCA announced the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a special edition pickup that focuses on appearance with only a touch of additional off-road capability.
Product Review

Mercedes-Benz updates the timeless G-wagen for the modern world

For decades, the G-Class has been an outlier in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, a body-on-frame brute with the soul – and driving manners – of an off-road pickup. With the all-new G550, Mercedes seeks to smooth out some of the rough edges.
Cars

2020 GMC Acadia toughens up on the outside, gets smarter on the inside

The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover gets styling updates and a more rugged AT4 trim level. Under the skin, the Acadia sports a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a wider array of tech features.
Cars

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…
Cars

Alfa Romeo’s latest Ferrari-powered F1 race car is ready to hit the track

Alfa Romeo is doubling down on Formula One racing after a decades-long hiatus. Now essentially a support team for Ferrari, its 2019 driver lineup includes a former world champion and a potential future star.