Companies like Tesla are creating software that can make highways safer, even when human drivers are incapacitated. And, this is one of those stories where autopilot saves the day.
A 24-year-old Tesla owner in Norway’s eastern region ended up passing out while driving his Model S on Friday, July 30. This lapse in judgment could have had disastrous consequences; however, luckily for the driver and those on the road, the vehicle’s autopilot system was enabled, allowing the Model S to stay in its lane without disturbing the traffic, according to the Eastern Police District's official Twitter account.
When the car's driver-assist system detected that its driver was unresponsive, it was able to safely bring the vehicle to a stop. The guy, who was found unconscious and "evidently drunk" in the Model S, was later attended to by emergency personnel, and fortunately, no one was injured in the incident.
The driver denied that he was driving; however, the incident in which the driver was seemingly unconscious at the wheel of the EV was filmed by motorists passing by the vehicle on the road.
The video shows the driver "driving" on the road with his head hanging down for over a minute as the motorists followed him around.
The required tests have been completed, and the Tesla owner's driver's license has been temporarily suspended, according to the police. A criminal complaint has also been filed against the driver.
There've been many cases of drunk drivers trying to exploit the driver-assist system to evade allegations of driving under the influence. While they've claimed that the system was driving instead of them, this is not correct since Tesla Autopilot is not a self-driving system, but rather a driver-assist system. Meaning that the driver is always accountable for the car and must be awake at all times to take control when needed. This is reminded to the drivers when they activate the Autopilot features. In case the drivers fall asleep, the system regularly sends out alerts, reminding them to hold the steering wheel if it doesn’t detect torque being applied.
As in the case of the Norwegian man, Autopilot slows down the car and makes it stop on the side of the road when such alerts are ignored.
With all the negative news and criticism from skeptics going around when it comes to Tesla's Autopilot, this case shows how helpful the system can be under the right conditions.