You (Yes, YOU!) Can Fall Asleep While Using ADAS (& Not Know It)

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When it comes to irresponsible use of systems like Autopilot, FSD Beta, Super Cruise, or Blue Cruise, there tends to be a lot of controversy. This is particularly true when a Tesla is involved, because people who are emotionally and/or financially invested in Tesla tend to defend the company to irrational lengths.

But, there’s no denying that inattentive and sleepy drivers are a problem with these systems. People lose interest when they see how well a system works, according to studies. If they witness adaptive cruise control avoiding rear-end collisions and lane centering keeping the car within its lane for extensive periods of time, trust is eventually gained. Once that trust is earned, people start paying attention to other tasks instead of driving.

Unfortunately, people have been known to fall asleep while driving when systems like Autopilot are engaged, especially if the road ahead is uninteresting. What’s even stranger is that people sometimes don’t have any idea that they had slept, and don’t believe it until researchers show them the footage.

By 2022, most manufacturers added some form of driver monitoring to vehicles that are supposed to catch sleepy drivers and either get them to wake up or disable the ADAS system so they’ll be forced to either drive manually or take a break. But, these systems are not perfect. They sometimes fail to see a sleeping driver, or worse, can be bypassed by someone who blocks the camera and adds a weight to the wheel (depending on the manufacturer’s tolerance for a blocked camera).

But despite studies, including one by NASA, this isn’t enough to convince some people that the problem is real. They don’t want to believe that people fall asleep in Teslas. So, I’m going to share a couple of videos of it happening just to drive this point home. After the videos, I’m going to share a link with ideas on how to avoid the problem.

Driver Doesn’t Know He Fell Asleep For Miles

In this video, police body camera and dashcam footage shows a cop spot a sleeping driver, try to pull him over, follow him with the lights on for over two miles, and then finally wake the guy up and get him to pull over.

He says over and over that he’s kind of tired, but isn’t aware that he slept. He tries to convince the police that he wasn’t sleeping, but they don’t buy it given that one of them saw him and he didn’t respond to lights and siren for miles. When they looked him up, he also had prior citations for sleeping in the car, so it’s not some isolated incident for him.

Before anybody says it, yes, the cops don’t know much about Autopilot (they think it’s on when parked on the shoulder), but that doesn’t really negate any of the above. He was pretty clearly sleeping and has priors for it. Defending him is just goofy.

In the end, he doesn’t get arrested, but he does get his car towed and gets reported to the DMV for possibly having a health problem that affects his driving (which could lead to a painful review, or the need to get a doctor’s sign off to keep his license).

The big point? He seems unaware that he slept. At one point, the cops indicate that they believe he believes what he’s saying, and had no idea he was sleeping.

Tesla Drivers Don’t Believe It Happens, Even When Faced With Footage

And then there’s this, where a man was sleeping and one Tesla owner interviewed says he doesn’t believe it’s real.

The driver was never found and investigated, because the witnesses only got a partial plate. So, the driver was never identified. But, for entertainment, the news station did the “man on the street” thing, but at a Supercharger station to give Tesla drivers a chance to bag on him. Most of them did exactly that, like any responsible Tesla owner should. The guy was sleeping, and the video was very likely real.

Sadly, though, there was one man who couldn’t come to accept it. He thinks that the Autopilot system would know that someone fell asleep and stop the car. While this is true, we don’t know if the guy had defeated the systems because they were annoying him. We don’t know if he fell asleep with hands on the wheel enough to keep it awake. What we can be sure of is that there was a car going down the road with a sleeping guy behind the wheel, though.

The Opposite Of FUD Is Still Trash

Instead of trying to deny that bad things happen, the Tesla fan community needs to work on making it not happen. Conspiracy theories, asserting that the technical measures are undefeatable, and other nonsense isn’t the right response to this. Spreading the word and making people aware that it could happen to them is.

Unlike some of the safety ninnies and fans of the huge regulatory state, I’m not going to sit here and claim that a government clampdown is the answer here. The vast, vast majority of people who have Autopilot, FSD Beta, and all of the other systems out there use them responsibly. Responsible users shouldn’t be punished or put in a bad spot because a few morons block the monitoring cameras, hang a weight, and take a nap behind the wheel. That’s definitely not the answer, either.

Why? Because regulators are often even more clueless than the people causing the problem. In the quest to fix things, they’d take away everyone’s nice things, cause bigger problems, or both. They’re holding a hammer, and every problem looks like a nail. Some problems really are nails, but this one isn’t.

Instead, we need to be developing strategies for dealing with it. Driver fatigue can be mitigated, and there are well-studied methods for keeping people awake while using or testing these systems. Having some other minor cognitive task, taking breaks, not letting anyone pressure you into driving tired, and many other things should be the norm, and not something we shame or pretend doesn’t exist.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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