Suspected DUI driver of Tesla reportedly on Autopilot taken into custody in Southern California

ByJohn Gregory KABC logo
Friday, September 17, 2021
Driver of Tesla reportedly on Autopilot arrested for DUI in Glendale
A DUI suspect was taken into custody after her Tesla vehicle that was reportedly on Autopilot stopped on a freeway overpass in the Glendale area.

GLENDALE, Calif. -- A DUI suspect was taken into custody after her Tesla vehicle that was reportedly on Autopilot stopped on a freeway overpass in Glendale, Calif. on Thursday night.

According to a California Highway Patrol (CHP) incident log, the vehicle hit a roadside wall shortly after 11 p.m. and kept traveling as the driver was reportedly unconscious.

A helicopter from local station KABC-TV was over the end of the incident around 11:20 p.m. as the Tesla vehicle was traveling at slow speeds and eventually came to a standstill after a CHP vehicle stopped directly in front of the car. CHP units had been following the Tesla prior to getting it to stop.

Although it appeared authorities were in pursuit of the car, CHP later said it did not classify the incident as a chase.

Aerial footage captured authorities taking the driver into custody after the Tesla stopped at the 134 Freeway transition to the 5 Freeway. CHP confirmed the driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). Her identity was not immediately released.

Autopilot has frequently been misused by Tesla drivers, who have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while a car rolled down a California highway.

The electric vehicle maker uses a camera-based system, a lot of computing power, and sometimes radar to spot obstacles, determine what they are, and then decide what the vehicles should do. But researchers say it has had trouble with parked emergency vehicles and perpendicular trucks in its path.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened the Tesla probe after tallying 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on autopilot or cruise control have hit vehicles where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards.

In those crashes, 17 people were injured and one was killed, the NHTSA said. An investigation could lead to a recall or other enforcement action.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which also has investigated Tesla crashes, has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit the autopilot's use to areas where it can safely operate. It also recommended that Tesla be required to improve its system to ensure drivers pay attention.

Last year the NTSB blamed Tesla, drivers and lax regulation by NHTSA for two collisions in which Teslas crashed beneath crossing tractor-trailers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.