It has been awhile since we’ve had a good example of a Tesla driver endangering those around him while under the delusion that his car is magical. But here’s one: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say they caught a driver — and we use that term loosely — who was asleep while his Tesla traveled down a highway at speeds over 90 mph.
The incident happened in July but is just now cropping up in Canadian media reports. It happened north of Calgary, Alberta, near the town of Ponoka. Motorists there spotted a Tesla Model S barreling along at 140 kph (87 mph). The two front-seat occupants weren’t visible, as their seats were reclined.
When Mounties closed in, the RCMP says, they determined the occupants were sound asleep. As traffic made way for the lights and sirens, the road ahead opened up, and the Tesla accelerated automatically to a setting of exactly 150 kph (93 mph).
The speed limit on Alberta highways, for those awake enough to heed it, is generally 100-110 kph (65-70 mph).
Officers took the photo you see above.
“Nobody was looking out the windshield to see where the car was going,” RCMP Sgt. Darrin Turnbull told CBC News on Thursday.
“I’ve been in policing for over 23 years, and the majority that in traffic law enforcement, and I’m speechless. I’ve never, ever seen anything like this before, but of course the technology wasn’t there.
“We believe the vehicle was operating on the Autopilot system, which is really just an advanced driver safety system, a driver assist program. You still need to be driving the vehicle,” Turnbull said. “But of course, there are aftermarket things that can be done to a vehicle against the manufacturer’s recommendations to change or circumvent the safety system.”
The driver, a 20-year-old from British Columbia, has been charged with speeding and dangerous driving. And his license was suspended for 24 hours (that’s all?). He’s due in court in December.
There’s a long-running dispute over Tesla’s supposed self-driving abilities, what the public misperceives Autopilot to mean, and of course there have been fatalities and investigations and sanctions. Consumer Reports shared some terrifying test results last year, AAA likewise in testing this year, and in Autoblog’s own experience, we’ve been troubled by the system. Tesla’s response is always that its features require constant supervision by a driver.
So, too, say the Mounties: “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,” said Supt. Gary Graham in a news release. “They are not self-driving systems, they still come with the responsibility of driving.”
That message doesn’t seem to be sinking in.