Is NHTSA Getting Ready to Formally Investigate Tesla's Autopilot?
A shocking cell phone video appears to show a man sleeping while his Tesla is running on Autopilot at 75 mph on a busy Los Angeles-area freeway. According to a CBS Los Angeles news report, a similar video was posted to Reddit a month and a half before the incident the morning of March 4 in La Puente. Seth Blake, the man who shot the video, told CBS that he was driving from Anaheim to Los Angeles when he spotted what appeared to be the same Tesla and driver previously seen in the Reddit video.
Shocking and Risky Behavior
Blake saw the driver slouched in his seat, sleeping. So, he asked his fiancé who was the passenger in his car to take a video of the person sleeping. Blake posted the video to Twitter and it went viral. Blake said he and his fiancé observed the driver for about 10 minutes when he “woke up one time, and kind of looked around and went back to sleep.” Tesla has not commented on the video.
The company’s website states that Autopilot is intended for use with a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepare to take over at any time. Tesla says the Autopilot function is intended to increase safety on the roads.
It is appalling that this driver was able to operate his Tesla while asleep at freeway speeds by putting the vehicle on Autopilot mode. The fact that this driver is able to continue engaging in this type of dangerous behavior repeatedly, given the fact, that he was the star of another Reddit video a month ago, is even more frightening.
Tesla Should Act Now
Our auto defect lawyers believe that Tesla hasn’t done nearly enough to curb this behavior among drivers. The automaker has done little to change the perception among its customers that Autopilot is not an autonomous driving feature. It’s barely a semi-autonomous feature. The name “Autopilot” in itself is extremely misleading because it leads consumers to believe that they can do anything when the car is in motion, and the vehicle will drive itself. We’ve seen evidence of this time and again with drivers shooting videos of themselves reading books or magazines while a Tesla is on Autopilot.
Recently, police in Northern California arrested a man who was driving his Tesla on Autopilot while severely intoxicated. This is a very dangerous trend that is not going to end well. Tesla needs to spring into action right now and launch a marketing campaign to better educate its customers or change the name “Autopilot” so it doesn’t lull drivers into a false sense of security.