Canada Tesla driver charged over 'napping while speeding'

Daniel Fowler
September 18, 2020

Alberta RCMP say it was July 9 at around 4 p.m. when they received a complaint about a vehicle speeding south on the highway near Ponoka.

A Tesla auto with no visible driver behind the wheel is shown in this RCMP handout photo on July 9, 2020, near Ponoka, Alta.

He had initially been charged with speeding and handed a 24-hour licence suspension for fatigue, but was subsequently charged with unsafe driving.

RCMP located the vehicle, and found that the auto was travelling over 140 km/hour while both the driver and the passenger appeared to be sleeping, with both front seats fully reclined. "The officer was sitting in the centre median and he too was like, 'Noooo,"' said RCMP Sgt. Darrin Turnbull.

When the police officer that had been following the vehicle turned their emergency lights on, the auto, a 2019 Tesla Model S, began to automatically accelerate up to exactly 150 km/hour.

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Turnbull - who works in the traffic services department and who has himself patrolled parts of the 300-kilometre stretch of divided highway between Edmonton and Calgary - called it a "first".

He said that when they put on their emergency lights the Tesla accelerated, with vehicles ahead of it moving out of the way. He's expected in court this December.

However, he said there are off-market programs that allow drivers to override the car's system and manual tricks that mimic the sensation of a driver's hand on the wheel.

"A human being sees and recognizes that hazard. They're not foolproof. And that is why steering wheels are still in vehicles, even the ones with automated systems in it because there does need to be the human component", he says.

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