When a pair of California Highway Patrol officers pulled alongside a car cruising down Highway 101 in Redwood City before dawn Friday, they reported a shocking sight: a man fast asleep behind the wheel.
The car was a Tesla, the man was a Los Altos planning commissioner, and the ensuing freeway stop turned into a complex, seven-minute operation in which the officers had to communicate with the vehicle’s autopilot system because the driver was unresponsive, according to the CHP.
The arrest of 45-year-old Alexander Samek on suspicion of drunken driving reignited questions about the uses, and potential abuses, of self-driving technology.
Officers observed Samek’s gray Tesla Model S around 3:30 a.m. as it sped south at 70 mph on Highway 101 near Whipple Avenue, said Art Montiel, a CHP spokesman. When officers pulled up next to the car, they allegedly saw Samek asleep, but the car was moving straight, leading them to believe that it was in autopilot mode.
The officers slowed the car down after running a traffic break, with an officer behind Samek turning on emergency lights before driving across all lanes of the highway, in an S-shaped path, to slow traffic down behind the Tesla, Montiel said.
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