Luckily, the car he was driving was a Tesla equipped with the “driver assistance” auto-pilot feature which kept the vehicle from careening off the road. But Tesla’s auto-pilot is meant to help the driver, not completely take over. You still need an alert driver at the wheel in order for it to work properly which made the scene pretty terrifying to adjacent motorists.
“Some guy literally asleep at the wheel on the Mass Pike (great place for it).” Randall wrote on Twitter, “Teslas are sick, I guess?”
“It was just so strange and baffling” Dakota Randall told WBZ-TV, who shot the video while driving on the highway. “I thought I saw somebody asleep at the wheel, but I wasn’t sure so I did a double-take. Sure enough, there was somebody with his head right between his legs.”
In the video, you see the driver hunched over in front of the steering wheel apparently being propped up by his seatbelt. The passenger in the car is leaned back in their chair and looks like they’re sleeping as well.
A spokesperson for Tesla declined to comment on the video. The company states on its website “Autopilot is intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time.”
Randall tried to wake the motorist by honking his horn but was unsuccessful. “It was just so bizarre that I just had to get it on video, because it’s so strange,” he said. “They looked like they needed to go home and go to bed.”
You can watch the video below:
When Randall was asked if he would be interested in driving an auto-piloted car he answered “No. Especially in Boston, it’s scary enough.”
Is the Video a Hoax?
There have been multiple pranks and hoaxes posted online that show Tesla drivers “asleep” at the wheel in order to provoke a reaction from other drivers. Randall posted a reply to his video on Twitter that he said was a “statement attributable to a Tesla Spokesperson.”
“Many of these pranks appear to be dangerous pranks or hoaxes.” the statement read, “Our driver-monitoring system repeatedly reminds drivers to remain engaged and prohibits the use of autopilot when warnings are ignored. At highway speeds, drivers typically receive warnings every 30 seconds or less if their hands aren’t detected on the wheel. Tesla owners have driven billions of miles using Autopilot, and data from our quarterly Vehicle Safety Report indicates that drivers using Autopilot experience fewer accidents than those operating without assistance.”
Randall maintained on Twitter that his video “was no hoax, at least not on my part. Maybe the people in the car were faking being asleep, but I’m skeptical.”
It’s impossible to tell if the driver in the video was participating in a hoax or was actually asleep.
There are A lot of Videos of Drivers Sleeping in Teslas
Back in June, a motorist caught a Tesla driver asleep at the wheel for nearly 30 miles on the Los Angeles freeway. Another user shared a video with CNBC that showed a driver asleep on the Mass Turnpike last year. There are several videos on YouTube similar to Randall’s that show drivers in Teslas asleep at the wheel.
Even if some of the videos are hoaxes, there are real-life examples of autopilot gone wrong. British driver Bhavesh Patel, from Nottingham, was banned from driving for 18 months in 2018 after being filmed in the driver’s seat of his Tesla S 60 with his hands behind his head. A man in the Bay Area was arrested for DUI after being found drunk with autopilot engaged on the Bay Bridge.
In addition, Tesla’s Autopilot was known to be engaged during three fatal crashes in the U.S., including a 2018 Model 3 crash in Delray Beach, Florida. The NTSB is currently investigating to see whether or not Autopilot may have contributed to that Model 3 crash.
It’s clear that some of these videos are pranks but there are demonstrated real-world examples of people thinking autopilot is much more capable than it actually is. It’s true that some of these videos are YouTubers pulling pranks but not all of them.