Tesla driver falls asleep – autopilot ignores police and continues on A70

A Tesla driver fell asleep at the wheel on the A70 near Bamberg. The autopilot of his electric car ignored the police and drove on.

Police officers followed a Tesla on the A70 for around 15 minutes on Wednesday, which was apparently traveling independently on the motorway. The Bamberg traffic police reported this in a statement. Accordingly, the 45-year-old driver fell asleep behind the wheel, and the built-in autopilot of the Tesla then steered the vehicle at a constant speed of 110 over the A70 between the Viereth-Trunstadt and Bamberg-Hafen junctions.

When the police wanted to stop and check the man, his Tesla just kept driving. “He didn’t respond to stop signals or repeated horns from the officers,” reports the police. The driver sat in the seat with his eyes closed and his hands off the steering wheel. After a quarter of an hour, the man woke up and followed the officials’ instructions. During the check, he showed “drug-typical failures,” according to the police statement.

In the footwell of the car, the officers found a so-called steering wheel weight. This is to trick the security systems. It is attached to the steering wheel and suggests to the vehicle that the hands are on the wheel. According to the law, automated driving in Germany is only possible within narrow limits, and the driver must be able to take over the wheel at all times. Sleeping or distracting activities such as reading the newspaper are therefore prohibited.

An investigation into the danger to road traffic has now been initiated against the 45-year-old, according to the police statement. The man has to do without his driver’s license for the time being.

There are always reports about accidents around Tesla’s driver assistant – and about how the system can be called at all. After an appeal in August, the Munich Higher Regional Court allowed Tesla to use the term “autopilot” if it was clear that it did not yet live up to its name.

There are regular reports from the USA of car accidents in which Tesla’s driver assistant is said to have been involved. These have been noted in an official list since the middle of the year. The US traffic safety authority NHTSA has now initiated investigations into 30 accidents in which a Tesla was involved and in which the use of the Autopilot driver assistance technology is suspected. There are 10 deaths in total. Nevertheless, in the months that followed, there were repeated accidents in which Tesla’s autopilot is said to have been involved.

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