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Tesla driver found napping behind wheel of self-driving car at 93mph

James Cook
·2-min read
The Tesla car with its driver and passenger asleep inside - RCMP
The Tesla car with its driver and passenger asleep inside - RCMP

A Canadian man has been charged with dangerous driving after police in Alberta said they found him asleep at the wheel of an electric self-driving Tesla car while it was driving at more than 93mph.

The Royal Canadian Mounted police said the Tesla Model S car was seen driving along a highway at high speed, with both people inside the car asleep with their seats reclined.

“The car appeared to be self-driving, travelling over 140 km/h, with both front seats completely reclined and both occupants appearing to be asleep,” the police said.

When police turned on their emergency lights, the car automatically accelerated to more than 90mph, police said.

Police Sgt Darri Turnbull told CBC News that “nobody was looking out the windshield to see where the car was going. Nobody appeared to be in the car, but the vehicle sped up because the line was clear in front."

“I've been in policing for over 23 years, and the majority of that in traffic law enforcement, and I'm speechless,” he added. “I've never, ever seen anything like this before but of course the technology wasn't there.”

The 20-year-old driver was charged with speeding and given a 24-hour licence suspension. He was also charged with dangerous driving and has been summoned to court for December.

The incident took place outside of Edmonton, near Ponoka, in July.

Tesla’s self-driving Autopilot feature has previously seen a number of incidents in which police said drivers fell asleep at the wheel while their car continued to travel.

In 2018, police in California arrested a driver after finding him slumped at the wheel of his moving Tesla Model S on a main road south of San Francisco.

Unable to rouse the driver using lights and sirens, officers were forced to drive in front of his car and slow down in order to stop it while using other police cars to keep other traffic away.

Californian police have also said that a fatal Tesla crash in 2018 came after the driver of the vehicle activated the car's Autopilot system. The 38-year-old Tesla driver died at a nearby hospital shortly after the crash.

Superintendent Gary Graham of Alberta RCMP Traffic Services said: "Although manufacturers of new vehicles have built in safeguards to prevent drivers from taking advantage of the new safety systems in vehicles, those systems are just that — supplemental safety systems. They are not self-driving systems, they still come with the responsibility of driving."