PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — A Tesla driver was cited for DUI after California Highway Patrol officers possibly activated the car’s automatic stopping system Friday morning in Redwood City because the man was asleep at the wheel, CHP and sheriff’s officials said.
CHP spokesman Officer Art Montiel said this is the first time officers have employed the strategy to stop an alleged DUI driver and prevent injuries to both the driver and law enforcement.READ MORE: Slow Recovery Prompts Businesses to Rethink Their Future in Downtown San Francisco
Officers were patrolling on Highway 101 southbound at Whipple Avenue when they saw a gray Tesla Model S traveling at about 70 miles an hour. Several minutes later, when the CHP had units in place, one patrol car got in front of the Tesla to stop the vehicle on the freeway. Officers noticed the driver, 45-year-old Alexander Samek, was allegedly asleep at the wheel.
“After they were unable to stop the vehicle, due to the driver being unresponsive, a unit came up in front of the vehicle and started slowing down, assuming that the driver-assist feature might have been used at the moment,” Officer Art Montiel told KPIX 5. “That actually worked and officers went up to the driver’s side and tried to wake up the driver.”
“It took them a while to wake him up,” Montiel went on to say.
The driver was taken into custody at a gas station in Palo Alto after allegedly failing a field sobriety test. Officers identified the driver as 45-year-old Alexander Samek of Los Altos.READ MORE: South Bay Restaurants Raise Money for Anti-Hate Efforts Supporting AAPI Community
Samek was booked into the San Mateo County jail on suspicion of DUI. He could face additional charges, such as driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions.
Friday’s incident was not the first in the Bay Area involving an alleged DUI and a Tesla driver possibly using the autonomous feature.
Earlier this year, CHP officers on the Bay Bridge pulled over a Tesla after finding the driver was passed out behind the wheel.
In that case, the driver attempted to assure the officer that the vehicle was on “Autopilot.” Tests showed his blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit and he was arrested.