Watch How Cops Use Tesla Autopilot To Stop Alleged Drunk Driver


That’s sophisticated cruiser control!

Late last week at 3:30 in the morning, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) noticed the driver of a gray Tesla Model S seemingly asleep in his car. Unfortunately, it was going 70 miles an hour down Highway 101 in Redwood City at the time. Fortunately, it was on Autopilot, which kept it in a single lane and responsive to traffic ahead of it.

The officer’s quick thinking led to a very elegant solution to getting the unresponsive driver, along with other motorists, out of a dangerous situation. Over seven minutes, they created a running traffic break, slowing down all the lanes behind the Tesla while another cruiser maneuvered in front of the electric sedan. That police vehicle then began to slow to a complete stop, which caused the Model S to also slow and stop.

Officers then knocked on the window and gave verbal commands, arousing the driver, one Alexander Samek, from his apparent slumber. He was placed in a cruiser and taken to a gas station (of all places) where a breathalyzer test was administered (see video above for footage). He was then arrested. Samek, who runs a multi-billion-dollar real estate outfit, The Kor Group, was contacted by SFGate on Friday, but refused to talk to reporters.

The incident raises some interesting questions, the most puzzling of which is how Samek managed to keep the car operating while seemingly asleep. If Autopilot does not detect a driver’s hands on the wheel it will ask for some input using visual and audio prompts. This usually occurs every 30 seconds or so. If it does not receive any feedback, it will slow the car to a stop and turn on the hazard lights. This didn’t seem to occur in this case.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk addressed the situation on Twitter (tweet embedded below), reiterating how the car should behave under Autopilot and saying that he is looking into this particular situation. In another tweet (embedded below) he also added “…adding police car, fire truck & ambulance to the Tesla neural net in coming months,” meaning, we believe, that Tesla vehicles will then be able to distinguish first responder vehicles from others.

Some have taken advantage of the situation to criticize Tesla Autopilot — and, by extension, the Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) available in many other vehicles — claiming that it encourages people to drive under the influence.  We think that while this may or may not be true (and we hope to see the integration of a driver-focused camera as is used in Cadillac’s Super Cruise which can tell if a vehicle operator is alert and watching the road), it is still, overall, a safety benefit.

Although automakers should certainly consider how to counter criminal misuse of their vehicles, ADAS can greatly diminish the risk of a crash if a driver suffers a medical emergency and loses consciousness. While there have been a couple of high-profile fatal accidents in Tesla vehicles functioning on Autopilot, the company takes the position it is a positive contributor to safety. We have also seen a number of videos which appear to show the system avoiding crashes. It is also worth noting that Autopilot is constantly being improved and the entire fleet that has the system enabled is updated with any new changes on a regular basis.

Source: SFGate, YouTube

Categories: Tesla, Videos

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36 Comments on "Watch How Cops Use Tesla Autopilot To Stop Alleged Drunk Driver"

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He must not have been too drunk to massage the wheel every 30 seconds to keep Autopilot engaged.

Or he jammed an orange 🍊 into the steering wheel to trick Autopilot into thinking he was holding the wheel.

John, as you and most InsideEVs readers know, there are several easy ways to defeat Autopilot’s requirement to hold the steering wheel while it is engaged. A quick YouTube search will even turn up videos of drivers jumping into the back seat while AutoPilot continues to drive their Tesla.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Probably had something on the wheel.
Autopilot Drinking Buddy?

Yeah, my guess is he had an Autopilot “Buddy” defeat device installed. An orange is surely too low-tech for a multi-millionaire. 🙄

Have not tried it but would it also work if he just layd the hands on the lower rim of the wheel?
What I know is it detects pressure or torque applied to the wheel, which would be the case even then.

I know quite a lot of people who drive without autopilot like that on the highway, just one hand on the bottom of the wheel.

But I like the clip from the news it is well done, and tries not to bash anyone in exchange for clips.
Shows also that at least some of the police officers did their homework and informed themselves how these automated systems work.

Oh’re not supposed to tow a tesla like that..that guy’s drive unit is prob hosed.

Why? This is no different than going down a long hill. No problem. And it IS possible to put it in towing mode, you know.

He was a Planning commissioner or some kind of Government official ,I guess he is going to “FIX” this DUI charge?

Nice story bro.

There is no fixing anything.

He will have to face the music.

Los Altos is a very small town… the planning commission is a volunteer position.

Pure conjecture here, but with your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel, you could fall asleep without letting go of the wheel (arms resting in your lap). Then Autopilot could sense you still holding the wheel and assume you are awake. There are some curves on 101 around Redwood City, so not sure how much Autopilot would fight the asleep driver’s hands when navigating curves.

Could law enforcement have contacted Tesla to have the car slow down and stop? If it were a GM vehicle, OnStar can bring the car to a stop when requested by law enforcement. I’m just wondering if this is available from Tesla?

There’s not much point since moving in front of it and then putting on the brakes would work fine. Coming to a stop at a normal speed is all that would be needed. Even one car in front and one in the back (with lights on) would work, since anybody on the freeway would slow down when traffic slows down anyway.

Only if AP is engaged.

Another life saved by Tesla AP!

This guy surely is wasted he pulled into a gas station in a Tesla Model S and tried to put Premium into the car’s charging port.

I really don’t think it’s Tesla’s fault but it is the human driving the car’s responsibility to not get so drunk that he well fell asleep at the Wheel.

What I mean by this is this guy is lucky he didn’t kill someone but if he hits someone or the machine accidentally crashes into a guardrail then they prosecute him.

If It weren’t for auto Pilot & he were driving , he probably would have killed someone or at the very least got into a bad accident..

Or he would have chosen to call an Uber if he didn’t have AutoPilot to tempt him to try to drive home drunk. We don’t know. When you’re drunk, your judgement is impaired and you make bad decisions. What seems like a good idea when you’re drunk is actually a horrible idea when you’re sober.

No doubt

Maybe he wouldn’t get into the car if he didn’t so falsely “trust” Tesla AP in the first place.

Doesn’t matter what the issue is, we can and most certainly will just blame it on autopilot!

According to Mr. Google, 31% of fatal accidents involve drunken driving. Of course very few of those involve Tesla cars, but no doubt you’ll still find a way to blame Tesla Autopilot for all those accidents. 🙄

Tesla Autopilot is interfering with Darwin Award contestant’s winning bid.

What a joke, AP is leading people to drive dunk. If this was the first case a drunk driver in a Tesla, then maybe. I would bet some of my own money this wasn’t even their first drunk of the NIGHT.

@james said: “What a joke, AP is leading people to drive dunk…”


Sort of like seatbelts and airbags at leading people to drive drunk?

No, it is more likely people drive faster now with seatbelts and airbags.

AP is “encouraging” more distracted driving by allowing it to be safer while the driver is distracted!

No, more like blaming seatbelts and airbags for reckless driving.

Drive dunk? Have you been drinking a bit too much yourself? No wonder you came to an irrational conclusion.


Dumbest post on the Internet today. Congratulations! Here’s your sign!

Well done Autopilot. Because without Autopilot, this would have been an accident with one or more cars, injuring or killing people.

But soon people can be drunk and asleep at the wheel, with the self driving car required to do all the driving.

That part should be obvious to anybody. Yet some people want to act as if people decide to buy Autopilot so that they can fall asleep while drunk, in which case their car will be in some random location when they wake up. Assuming he might have knocked off for eight hours, he’d run out of charge at that speed long before he woke up. And he’d be hundreds of miles from home.

It’s pretty obvious that he thought he could drive anyway, thought he could have stayed awake, and most likely would have driven with or without a car with Autopilot. Anybody who knows better than to drive drunk also knows better than to drive drunk with Autopilot. If you are too drunk to drive, you are too drunk to drive. Autopilot doesn’t change that.

“The incident raises some interesting questions, the most puzzling of which is how Samek managed to keep the car operating while seemingly asleep”
Maybe he was dreaming he was driving on Auto-pilot and making the correct movements. 🙂

How can anybody criticize Autopilot in this situation?

If this were most any other car on the road today (i.e., with manual controls only) there surely would have been some kind of accident — and perhaps injuries or deaths — with this idiot drunkard asleep at the wheel for 7 minutes at 70 mph .

That fact we all had the great luck that this happened in a semi-intelligent vehicle able to maintain control and not run into anything (at least for the short time it mattered), is an amazing win for this technology. And bonus that it was “easily” controlled from the outside simply by a placing slowing vehicle in front of it. The driver’s life as he knows it, and more, were very probably saved because this Tesla vehicle could (to a degree) drive itself. He it not injured, nothing was damaged, nobody was killed.

I hope his little nap was nice while it lasted, but I hope that now he is punished to the fullest extent of the law.

“How can anybody criticize Autopilot in this situation?”

Because AutoPilot didn’t shut itself down for at least 7 minutes while the car drove 70 mph with the driver asleep. GM’s SuperCruise would have stopped the car once the driver fell asleep, since cameras monitor the driver’s eyes to confirm that he is paying attention and watching the road, not to mention awake. Tesla’s AutoPilot doesn’t monitor the driver’s eyes as shown in the video below.

“GM’s SuperCruise would have stopped the car once the driver fell asleep…”

You’re obviously making an assumption: That nobody can figure out a defeat device for SuperCruise’s driver monitoring, as they have figured out defeat devices (such as “Autopilot Buddy”) for Autopilot driver monitoring.

Biased much, dude? (◣_◢)

“How can anybody criticize Autopilot in this situation?”

Apparently it’s easy, since serial Tesla bashers do it every day. Just perversely interpret every bit of news, and every fact and figure, in the worst possible way for Tesla’s public image. Then comment about it to social media as if that’s the truth.