Viral video of Tesla driver sleeping behind the wheel raises safety concernsAugust 4, 2022
SAN DIEGO — According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is no vehicle currently available for sale that is fully automated or “self-driving,” yet a video of someone sleeping behind the wheel locally is catching thousands of views.
“It was insane,” said Sean Thompson who was driving on the 5-South freeway when he saw a driver asleep at the wheel while his Tesla was driving presumably in autopilot mode around 6:30 Monday morning.
“The guy was completely passed out sleeping. We were stunned. My immediate reaction was to get a video,” said Thompson.
Many videos similar to this have circulated online since electric cars have become more popular.
“Just absolutely stunned. I’ve never seen anything like this. It felt surreal. This can’t be real,” said Thompson.
Before enabling autopilot mode, Tesla says drivers must pay attention and keep their hands on the wheel.
If drivers take their hands off the wheel, the car responds with visual and audio warnings. However, drivers have found ways to get around these warnings through a device called Autopilot Buddy.
A video from Amazon shows the small weighted device that provides enough torque on the steering wheel to reduce the number of warnings from the vehicle regarding hands-off operation when autopilot is activated. It’s formed to blend in with multiple Tesla models and it clips to the side of the wheel with magnets. It’s not just limited to Teslas, this device can be used on other vehicles with similar features.
In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a cease and desist order to the manufacturer of the aftermarket device in the U.S., however, CBS 8 reporter Ariana Cohen still found Tesla steering wheel accessories on Amazon for around $60 to $70.
“It’s a really dangerous and unfortunate world we live in,” said Thompson.
The California Highway Patrol says sleeping while behind the wheel is not only unsafe but is also illegal under current California law.
CBS 8 also wants to point out there are many times when autopilot can be an important safety feature for drivers.
CHP wants to remind everyone if you ever see someone sleeping while driving to immediately call 911.
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