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Police Stop Tesla Vehicle with Driver Sleeping Inside

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Police in California say they were able to stop a Tesla vehicle that was speeding with the driver sleeping inside.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported the Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system might have made it possible for officers to stop the vehicle.

The incident was described in a police report. It happened early in the morning on November 30.

The report said the CHP officers observed the Tesla Model S traveling at speeds up to 113 kilometers an hour on a road near San Francisco. The car was violating the speed limit for vehicles in the area.

When officers drove up next to the vehicle and looked inside, they saw that the driver appeared to be asleep in the driver's seat. The report said the officers then drove behind the Tesla and turned on their car's warning lights and siren in an attempt to get the driver to stop. But they said the driver did not wake up.

The officers knew that Tesla vehicles are equipped with a driver assistance system and thought the driver might have been using it at the time.

There are different levels of driver assistance systems. The technology is generally designed to electronically help drivers stay in a lane and keep a safe distance from other vehicles. The systems can also slow or stop a vehicle to avoid an accident or in case of an emergency.

The police report said the officers got an idea for how they might be able to stop the vehicle as the driver slept inside. They decided to move the police car directly in front of the speeding Tesla and gradually slow their car down.

The officers said that as the police vehicle slowed, the speeding vehicle also reduced its speed. Eventually, the Tesla came to a complete stop, the report said.

Officers were then able to wake the driver and they took him to a service station nearby. Police also drove away the Tesla. Its driver, a 45-year-old male, was given a test by officers to see whether he was driving while under the influence of alcohol. He failed the test, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, and sent to jail.

The report said the CHP could not confirm whether the Tesla's driver assistance system was activated at the time of the incident. But it noted that considering the vehicle's ability to slow and stop when the driver was asleep, "it appears the 'driver assistance' feature may have been active at the time."

The report followed several highly publicized crashes involving Tesla vehicles equipped with driving assistance tools. Tesla says that owners of its vehicles are told that none of its driver assistance tools are meant to fully drive the car by itself.

In this Friday March 23, 2018 photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif. (KTVU via AP)
In this Friday March 23, 2018 photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif. (KTVU via AP)

​One of the tools, Tesla's Autopilot system, is designed to permit full self-driving capabilities. But the company says when using this tool, drivers should still keep their hands on the steering wheel and be ready to take control if the system fails to work.

Telsa chief Elon Musk reacted to the incident in a message on Twitter. He said the company was investigating to see what happened. He added that if Autopilot was being used at the time, the system was supposed to gradually slow and stop the vehicle "if there's no driver input."

A recent study found that driver assistance systems can fail to perform some actions in real-world test situations. The American Automobile Association, known as AAA, tested several vehicles equipped with the technology. It found that test vehicles repeatedly struggled on busy roads when dealing with common traffic situations.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on a report from the Associated Press and online sources. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

siren n.piece of equipment that makes a loud sound as a warning

lane n.part of road that is marked by painted lines and used as a single line of vehicles

alcohol– n.a colorless liquid that acts like a drug when taken

feature n.an interesting or important part, quality, ability, etc.

steering n.the controlling of a vehicle in one direction or another

gradually adv. happening slowly over a period of time

eventually - adj. at some later time : in the end

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