back to article Tesla autopilot saves driver after he fell asleep at wheel on the freeway

In an exciting first, the autopilot feature in a Tesla car managed to save rather than kill its occupant. At 0300 PT on Friday, the highway patrol pulled alongside at grey Tesla Model S travelling at 70 miles an hour on a freeway down toward Silicon Valley and noticed that driver – 45-year-old Alexander Samek – appeared to be …

  1. NoneSuch

    Plan A

    Fall asleep in the back seat and when pulled over, claim your Uber driver must have jumped out.

    I'm amazed the Highway Patrol haven't pulled over a couple in the back seat of an auto-drive Tesla yet.

  2. bazza Silver badge

    Re: Plan A

    The police here in the UK have nabbed a Tesla-twat who was resting in the passenger seat as the car was autopiloting itself down a motorway. BBC So they're getting there...

  3. Steve Todd

    Re: Plan A

    You have to keep putting your hand on the wheel every 30 seconds. This idiot must have fallen asleep with his hand or hands resting on it. You can’t do that from the back seat, so there’s no way that the police could pull a car over with no one in the front.

  4. BigSLitleP

    Re: Plan A

    Guessing you didn't read the comment above yours that proves you don't have to have your hand on the wheel?

  5. Steve Todd

    Re: Plan A

    Guessing you think you can’t reach the steering wheel from the passenger seat? How does that apply to sitting in the back without autopilot disengaging?

  6. Symon Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Plan A

    "I'm amazed the Highway Patrol haven't pulled over a couple in the back seat of an auto-drive Tesla yet."

    So that when they meet the lane divider they'll be going out with a bang?

  7. Will 28

    Not actually a first

    There was that one where the guy had a heart attack and programmed the autopilot to take him to hospital. Pretty sure that happened something like that,.

  8. FF22

    Re: Not actually a first

    Yeah, that was made up, because even now you can't "program" a Tesla to take you anywhere, especially not in city traffic

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Not actually a first

    Then there was that other guy or was it a gal that programed the Tesla to take them to Mars and that's were he or she is today last I heard ;)

  10. Waseem Alkurdi

    Re: Not actually a first

    The guy/gal in SpaceX colors inside that Roadster? I thought that was Elon's Roadster ...

  11. DrXym Silver badge

    Re: Not actually a first

    Tesla's autopilot can't even cope with stop signals, or junctions. Turning it on in any kind of urban environment is an invitation for something horrible to happen.

    And this isn't just isolated to Tesla. Even the best autonomous vehicles in the world suck. There is too much hype and too little consideration of how they'd handle situations that a human could solve easily but are essentially intractible to a machine.

  12. Will 28

    Re: Not actually a first

    Wow - that's some hateful downvoting. Was referring to this story:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/tesla-autopilot-drives-hospital-life-threatening-medical-emergency-a7179886.html

    Didn't realise it was made up. it was being reported pretty widely.

  13. Paul 129

    Re: Not actually a first

    Good way to hide a body....

  14. N2 Silver badge

    Arrested for being drunk

    So, just what is the point of 'self driving' cars if you can't get pissed and let it take you home?

  15. Teoh Han Hui

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    It's not a self-driving car (yet?)

  16. bazza Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    It's one of the very few use cases that seems to make any marketable sense to me. Pity they can't actually do that, nor ever will.

  17. Mongo

    There and back again

    The full use case is taking me on a pub crawl. Extra credit if the A.I. checks the websites of the pubs in advance to make sure I arrive at the guest ales in a proper order.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    Homer Simpson - I'd kill for a beer!

    Self-driving car takes him to Moe's.

    You should see the episode, it's absolutely hilarious.

  19. spold Bronze badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    Just put your dog in the driver seat it won't know the difference

  20. Mike 16 Bronze badge

    Dog in the "Driver seat"

    A friend (In Californian, mid 1960s) with a mid-1950s right-hand drive Land Rover delighted in the reaction of other drivers to his Irish Setter in the front passenger seat.

  21. Lars Silver badge
    Pint

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    Horses used to do that, at least to the front of the stable, I was told long ago. And no GPS.

  22. martinusher Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    The English offense used to be known as "Drunk in Charge", its what you'd get busted with if you were drunk, in the vehicle but not actually driving it. Someone has to be responsible for the vehicle regardless of the level of automation involved.

  23. Peter Mount
    Pint

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    You can still get charged for that:

    Every person . . . who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine, or who is drunk

    so you can lose your license when drunk whilst being taken home by your cow

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/35-36/94/section/12

  24. BitDr

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    There will be other factors, like how can anyone be certain that the drunkard in the car won't try to take control? There is much work to be done before things get to the point where you can get pissed and have your car take you home.

  25. vtcodger Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    "Pity they can't actually do that, nor ever will."

    Of course they'll be able to drive the blind or blind drunk home. WayMo's test vehicles can probably do that today. The issue is whether they can do so sufficiently reliably in all conceivable driving conditions to avoid collateral damage. Or at least get the level of injury to innocent bystanders down to socially acceptable levels.

  26. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    Just get a Johnny Cab droid for the driver's seat!

  27. Mooseman Bronze badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    "how can anyone be certain that the drunkard in the car won't try to take control?"

    That actually happened to a friend of mine - she was driving round a corner when the drunk passenger panicked and grabbed the wheel, resulting in the car rolling. Luckily nobody was seriously hurt other than the car.

  28. John Riddoch

    "Socially acceptable levels"

    And there is the problem - the acceptable levels to the public will be zero casualties, even though that's impossible outside of a controlled environment. Every single incident (regardless of fault) will be interpreted as a failure of self driving vehicles, where what we should be setting the bar at is as good as a human driver.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    Every person . . . who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine,

    My Grandad once lost his sergeant's stripes for being "drunk in charge of a bicycle".

  30. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: There and back again

    Better still as one of my acquaintances would say if it tracked your friends so uo turned up just in time for someone else round(s)

  31. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    My Grandad once lost his sergeant's stripes for being "drunk in charge of a bicycle".

    One of my mates got fined for speeding on his bicycle. The cops were so impressed that he'd managed 36mph on a winding country lane that they didn't notice he'd inadvertently admitted he was cycling home from the pub.

  32. DavCrav Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    "Just get a Johnny Cab droid for the driver's seat!"

    Or a mannequin to do in the driver's seat though. Make sure it's white though, the black ones keep getting pulled over. (Copyright, Men in Black.)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: "Socially acceptable levels"

    The makers of autonomous vehicles have only themselves to blame for this - they have sold the idea to the public on the basis that they will eliminate traffic accidents. If they turn out to be no better than human drivers, then people will quite rightly ask what point there is in having them.

  34. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    ISTR (from more years back than I care to remember) a newspaper report about a bloke who tried to get around the law by using a hovercraft to navigate along the river that was common to his house and the local pub... Dunno if he got away with it, but it makes for a good tale.

  35. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    Re: "Socially acceptable levels"

    And there is the problem - the acceptable levels to the public will be zero casualties..... where what we should be setting the bar at is as good as a human driver.

    I'm not entirely convinced that that is where the bar is set. I think it's more the expectation that self driving vehicles should be as good (or better) than human drivers perceive themselves to be.

    If you've been driving (say) 20 years and never had an accident, that's as much luck as anything. But most humans will assess that and see it as evidence of their own driving acumen (ignoring the fact that even the best driver can still be rear-ended - or worse - by a total pillock). Or, of course, they have been in accidents but it was totally the other guys fault (even if it wasn't).

    So it's a high bar to meet.

    I think the best you'll get in terms of acceptance for now, is there'll be 3 classes of driver

    - Those who don't want self-driving cars full stop

    - Those who want other drivers to be in self-driving cars (because other drivers are idiots)

    - Those who want self-driving cars now (because they hate driving, or want safety improvements etc)

    I'd hazard a guess that the majority of drivers probably fall into that middle group. They view their own driving as better than average, so you're going to have a really hard time selling to them on safety improvements because they expect the car to be better than their image of themselves - which means near perfect.

    I actually have similar concerns to that but it's not so much an assessment of my own driving abilities that drives it. It's partly more based on observations of the quality of the code we see released in other areas by some of the companies involved (e.g. Google and Android) and much more driven by concerns about skanky companies cutting corners to make money (see Uber).

    It doesn't mean we won't get there in the end, but it's a rocky path, and I think it's a lot further off than most of the players/advocates would like you to believe.

  36. Bob Magoo

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    I didn't know you needed a license to drive a cow.

  37. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    @N2

    The 'point' is to acquire investment funds.

  38. 's water music Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    One of my mates got fined for speeding on his bicycle. The cops were so impressed that he'd managed 36mph on a winding country lane that they didn't notice he'd inadvertently admitted he was cycling home from the pub.

    One for the Widows and Orphans fund, or a shaggy dog story. Almost all UK speed restrictions apply to mechanically propelled vehicles only

  39. DougS Silver badge

    Drunk in a vehicle

    Where I live if you are drunk in a vehicle - even in the back seat - you can be arrested if you have the keys on you. I was told by a friend who is a lawyer that if you want to sleep it off in your car, you need to get inside, lock the car, and toss the keys out of your reach before you go to sleep. And even that's not foolproof as if a cop sees you entering the vehicle drunk you can be cited for drunk driving since you can't prove that you were not intending to drive or would be leaving the keys out of your reach.

    Obviously you could still be arrested for public intox if your car is not on private property, but that's a minor inconvenience compared to what happens to you for drunk driving.

  40. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    Re: Arrested for being drunk @Rich 11

    One of my mates got fined for speeding on his bicycle. The cops were so impressed that he'd managed 36mph on a winding country lane that they didn't notice he'd inadvertently admitted he was cycling home from the pub

    No he didn't. He might have been fined for cycling carelessly or without consideration for others or somesuch but he was not done for speeding. More likely he was simply stopped and given a talking to and inappropriate speed may well have been a factor in that.

    https://www.slatergordon.co.uk/media-centre/blog/2015/06/can-cyclists-break-the-speed-limit-or-does-the-law-only-apply-to-motorists/

  41. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    Almost all UK speed restrictions apply to mechanically propelled vehicles only

    I think the equivalent offence for a cyclist is "cycling furiously", i.e. too fast to be safe. They are prosecuted for being a danger, not for exceeding a prescribed limit.

  42. werdsmith Silver badge

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    "where what we should be setting the bar at is as good as a human driver."

    A brick on the accelerator should be enough then. If we go by Audi standards.

  43. DougS Silver badge

    Setting the bar at "as good as a human driver"

    As good as who? I don't know about you, but I'm a much better driver when I'm fully rested, paying 100% attention to the road, etc. than I am if I'm tired, distracted, have several people in my car yelling about something etc.

    I've always said the bar needs to be set at a 90% reduction in crashes and fatalities per mile - measured across ALL conditions (i.e. not like Tesla's bullshit numbers where they claim Autopilot has a lower than human accident rate but compare their accident rate in conditions Autopilot can work in versus ALL the conditions humans drive in)

    You might think that if humans have X fatalities for a certain amount of driving, but autonomous cars would had X-1 fatalities doing all the driving in those same conditions that we should want autonomous cars. WE WILL NOT! People need to see MAJOR benefits to give up control, so it needs to be better than the BEST human drivers (because let's face it, 95% of people think they are in the top 5% of drivers) paying full attention. A solution that is better when I'm tired and distracted but WORSE when I'm at full attention is not something I will accept!

  44. c1ue

    Re: "Socially acceptable levels"

    Humans who are at fault for causing accidents get fined or jailed.

    What should be the penalty for equally faulty AI?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: "Socially acceptable levels"

    "what we should be setting the bar at is as good as a human driver."

    Dunno about that. I know a guy who has been classed as 'at fault' in a couple of crashes (one involved someone swerving into his lane whom he hit less than a second later, the other involved a moment of bad timing to check his mirror - had it been a moment earlier or later, but he picked the one wrong second to check the mirrors). Normally he's a great driver and every one I know feels safe with him.

    I know another driver who has never had or caused an accident, and he is scary terrible. People won't ride with him or offer/ask to drive if they do. He tail gates. He refuses to indicate. If he's going slow and someone tries to pass he'll speed up to block them in. If someone tries to merge he'll speed up. He spends a lot of his time looking out the window. Just this last week he came within inches of hitting a parked car at speed but his passengers screamed and he looked back at the road only to find he wasn't on the road any more. Yet he's never once caused an accident (at least none within visual range at the time, who knows what has happened with frustrated drivers further down the road).

    I'd settle for no 'distracted' type accidents and other accidents at least on a par with, if not better than an average driver. Mis-reading the road conditions is not a bad thing. Not reading them at all is quite bad. Not even lifting your head from your txt is terrible. If we can at least take that much out of the equation.. (BTW, manufacturers - make sure the entertainment systems and communication systems are completely divorced from the driving systems - you don't want a hack or a fault on the first two chewing up resources that causes the 3rd to fail!)

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Arrested for being drunk

    One for the Widows and Orphans fund, or a shaggy dog story. Almost all UK speed restrictions apply to mechanically propelled vehicles only

    Some issues there.

    1) Cops seldom know the law, aside from "is it faster than the posted limit".

    2) The law may not be as you think it is.

    3) A bicycle is mechanically propelled. The pedals, crank, sproket, chain and whatever the rear hub uses is mechanical.

    3a) I could make a rocket-powered vehicle that has no mechanical parts to it. I could theoretically even have no valves to control fuel input, and just burn fuel at a constant rate. I'd be able to break speed limits while not being able to be ticketed?

    3b) Using such a law as an excuse would probably have been used by someone to claim their vehicle was 'coasting' at the time, thus not mechanically powered, thus not subject to such laws. Any such past law is probably since repealed.

    4) Just because it's what the law says doesn't mean it's what the cops act on. And most people are not so well versed in the law that they'd have the knowledge to challenge the cops. Most people consider speeding as a strict liability offence; their vehicle was travelling faster than the limit therefore they're guilty.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Arrested for being drunk @Rich 11

    https://www.slatergordon.co.uk/media-centre/blog/2015/06/can-cyclists-break-the-speed-limit-or-does-the-law-only-apply-to-motorists/

    From the same article :

    "It is, however, possible for local bylaws to impose speed limits on cyclists. For example, on Hampstead Heath in London there is an 8mph speed limit for cyclists, and in Richmond Park the speed limit of 20 miles per hour for vehicles also applies to cyclists."

    As I mentioned above, cops will give you a ticket even if the law says otherwise. Few people know the law well enough to challenge the ticket (in many countries speed camera vehicles must be legally parked or the ticket is invalid - how many people know this? The tickets stand unless challenged and either revoked by the appropriate officer or challenged and revoked in court).

    Few countries have so few laws that any one person can know all of them, even in a field they specialise in :(

  48. DougS Silver badge

    There is no "at fault" for AI

    Insurance would either be handled by the automaker itself, or you'd pay based on the record of the model car you have (i.e. Google car might be more than Ford and less than Uber) and how many miles you travel rather than your own driving record.

  49. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

    Re: There and back again

    Seen this done with a pony and trap in Ireland. Apparently the guys from the pub would "help him into his seat" once he'd got tired and emotional then give pony a gentle smack and the pony would do the auto-pilot part.

  50. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    The question to ask is whether self-driving trucks will ever be a thing.

    If so Spielberg's "Duel" will become a regular nightmare for many.

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