California Cops to Tesla Drivers: No, You Still Can’t Sleep at the Wheel of Your Car

It seems like common sense, still the old adage bears repeating: Don’t sleep in your supposedly “self-driving” Teslas.

This frustrated reminder comes to you by way of the California Highway Patrol after two people were caught within days of each other sleeping behind the wheel of their Teslas on freeways earlier this month. The first driver was spotted on the 15 Freeway in Temecula on February 2. Only a week later a similar situation was filmed on the 5 freeway.

There’s a lot of misinformation and needless confusion around Tesla’s capabilities. KTLA even found a local law office defending a driver’s right to fall asleep behind the wheel, noting that, technically, there are no California laws saying you can’t sleep behind the wheel (spoiler alert: there actually are!)

KTLA 5 checked in with CHP after reporting on the incidents to make totally sure falling asleep at the wheel was still a no-no:

California Vehicle Code explicitly states that it’s illegal for a person to operate a vehicle in a way that endangers the safety of other people or property. It also states that a person who does so willingly is guilty of reckless driving.

Those rules can be applied to drowsy driving, but the idea appears applicable to situations like those Tesla drivers.

By sleeping behind the wheel of your self-driving vehicle, CHP argues that you are taking an unnecessary risk that puts the lives of others in danger and therefore are driving recklessly.

“Regardless of any special features a vehicle may possess such as autopilot or fully autonomous capabilities, drivers are still responsible for the vehicle they are operating. If a driver is asleep behind the wheel they are in violation of California’s basic speed law,” CHP says. “It is unsafe to operate/drive a vehicle at any speed while asleep behind the wheel.”

Despite nearly a decade of promising truly nap-ready self-driving vehicles, Teslas only operate at Level II autonomy according to SAE International. While Mercedes is bringing some models with Level III autonomy to Nevada this year, there are no actually self-driving cars on the market today. That means operators must be ready to take over for the system at a moment notice.

That hasn’t stopped drivers from being caught over and over again for years falling asleep behind the wheel in dangerous situations. Part of the problem is that human beings are particularly ill-suited for Level II self-driving technology. We tend to zone out if we’re watching passively instead of engaging in driving actively. Tesla has also, repeatedly, has oversold the capability of its Autopilot and Full Self Driving Beta systems. The company faces investigations at state, federal and international levels over crashes and deaths connected to the two systems.

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