Video taken from a passing car appears to show a Tesla driver and passenger sound asleep as their car cruises along the Massachusetts Turnpike at 55 mph.
The driver who took the video on Sunday pulled alongside the Tesla and honked the horn several times in an effort to awaken the driver, whose chin remained slumped to his chest.
Tesla has sophisticated self-driving features, called Autopilot, but the automaker warns drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and stay alert.
“It was just so strange and baffling,” Dakota Randall, the driver who took the turnpike footage, told CBS-TV in Boston. “I thought I saw somebody asleep at the wheel but I wasn’t sure, so I did a double-take. Sure enough.”
“They looked like they needed to go home and go to bed,” Randall added.
A Tesla website advises drivers that “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.” Another warning notes that Autopilot features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.” Still, a video featured on Tesla’s Autopilot website shows a car driving all over town with the driver’s hands off the steering wheel.
“Many of these videos appear to be dangerous pranks or hoaxes,” Tesla said in a statement responding to the Massachusetts Turnpike incident. “Our driver-monitoring system repeatedly reminds drivers to remain engaged and prohibits the use of Autopilot when warnings are ignored.”
Randall responded on Twitter that he was “skeptical” that what he saw was a hoax.
A visual warning pops up on a Tesla’s dashboard if a driver’s hands are removed from the steering wheel — followed by beeping, reports NBC (check out the alerts in the video above).
Tesla owners who disregard the warnings and give up control of their cars make driving and dozing an increasing problem on the roads. Several other videos over the last few years have caught Tesla drivers snoozing.
One was caught just last month tooling down I-5 headed to Los Angeles.
Still another was spotted napping on an LA highway in June.
Last week, a National Transportation Safety Board report determined that a Tesla driver crashed into a fire truck near Los Angeles last year because he was relying on the car’s Autopilot system and his hands were not on the steering wheel. He — and the car — failed to react quickly enough when another car switched lanes. The driver was not injured.
A driver was killed last year when his Tesla, set to Autopilot, slammed into a highway barrier in northern California. Tesla said digital records revealed the driver took his hands off the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash.
There have been two other fatal Tesla crashes in the U.S. when Autopilot was engaged, according to CNBC.