Incident 67: Sleeping Driver on Tesla AutoPilot

Description: A Tesla Model S remained on autopilot while being operated by a drunk, sleeping operator whose hands were not on the wheel. The police had to slow the car down by slowing in front of the vehicle to activate its 'driver assist' feature .


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Alleged: Tesla developed an AI system deployed by Tesla and Motorist, which harmed Motorists.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
Report Count
Incident Date
Sean McGregor

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

A Tesla Model S continued autopilot at 70 mph on a California highway in November 2018 despite the driver's hands not being placed on the wheel, a requirement of enabling the Autopilot system. The California Highway Patrol was unable to wake the driver and had to drive in front of the Tesla for approximately 7 minutes to activate its 'driver assist' feature and slow the vehicle to a stop. The driver was allegedly sleeping and with his blood alcohol content being twice the legal limit.

Short Description

A Tesla Model S remained on autopilot while being operated by a drunk, sleeping operator whose hands were not on the wheel. The police had to slow the car down by slowing in front of the vehicle to activate its 'driver assist' feature .



Harm Type

Harm to physical health/safety

AI System Description

The Tesla Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel, possessing 8 external cameras, a radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a powerful onboard computer to sense the vehicle's external environment, internal environment, and control the vehicle's functions. Autopilot possesses two functions, Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, which matches the speed of your car to that of the surrounding traffic and Autosteer, which assists in steering within a clearly marked lane, and uses traffic-aware cruise control

System Developer


Sector of Deployment

Transportation and storage

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition, Action

AI Techniques

Tesla Autopilot

AI Applications

autonomous driving, environmental sensing


Palo Alto, CA

Named Entities

Teslal, Model S, California, California Highway Patrol

Technology Purveyor


Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss

Near miss



Lives Lost


Data Inputs

360 Ultrasonic Sonar, Image Recognition Camera, Long Range Radar, traffic patterns

CSETv1 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Harm Distribution Basis


Sector of Deployment

transportation and storage · 2018

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Bryan Logan/Business Insider The Tesla Model S involved in the incident is not pictured here.

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Cops Chased a Tesla for 7 Miles While the Driver Apparently Slept · 2018


It’s not uncommon for police officers to find a driver asleep in their car, but finding a driver asleep in one that’s motoring along at 70 mph … well, that’s something else.

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That’s sophisticated cruiser control!

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December 3, 2018 2 min read

This story originally appeared on PCMag

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A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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