Tesla Driver Appears Asleep Behind Wheel on Massachusetts Turnpike: Video

The incident happened around 3 p.m. Sunday near Exit 17 on Interstate 90

A driver on the Massachusetts Turnpike says he saw a motorist in the lane next to him apparently asleep behind the wheel Sunday.

Dakota Randall says he was driving on Interstate 90 when he noticed a Tesla with its driver and passenger both asleep around 3 p.m. near Exit 17 in Newton.

"I kind of looked over and saw what I thought was somebody asleep at the wheel and I was like that can’t be right, so I did a double take, looked over and sure enough this guy was just, head between his legs completely asleep,” Randall, a local sports journalist, told NBC10 Boston. "It seemed like he had his cruise control on around like 55-60 miles per hour."

Randall sat stunned before pulling out his phone to record. He tried honking to wake the driver and passenger up but says "it didn't work at all." 

Randall estimates he drove next to the Tesla for about 45 seconds to a minute before speeding up and leaving the apparently sleeping driver behind.

He later shared the video on Twitter, writing, "Some guy literally asleep at the wheel on the Mass Pike (great place for it). Teslas are sick, I guess?"

It's not clear how long the Tesla driver and his passenger were purportedly asleep for or when they woke up. YouTube shows some examples of prank videos involving Teslas. 

Randall says the uncertainty of how the situation unfolded is even scarier than seeing an inattentive driver. He now has a new perspective on how he'll drive around self-driving cars.

"I'm never going to look at one the same," he said. "I'm always going to look to see if somebody's asleep."

The Tesla Autopilot feature is designed to actively guide cars from on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting and making lane changes, navigating highway interchanges, and taking exits. However, Tesla says on its website that the feature is intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time.

"Many of these videos appear to be dangerous pranks or hoaxes," Tesla said Monday night in a statement. "Our driver-monitoring system repeatedly reminds drivers to remain engaged and prohibits the use of Autopilot when warnings are ignored. At highway speeds, drivers typically receive warnings every 30 seconds or less if their hands aren't detected on the wheel.

"Tesla owners have driven billions of miles using Autopilot, and data from our quarterly Vehicle Safety Report indicates that drivers using Autopilot experience fewer accidents than those operating without assistance."

Randall did not contact police after taking the video. State police first told NBC10 Boston they were aware of the incident from media reports but were not contacted by anyone nor were they sent the video.

State police later said that they reached out to Randall on Monday, but he was unable to provide a license plate or any other identifying information about the vehicle or driver. No further investigative steps were being taken, they said. 

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