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Tesla driver seen asleep at the wheel. Is self-driving tech ready for sleeping drivers?

A passenger on a California freeway shot a video of a Tesla driver dozing off at the wheel.

Tesla driver filmed 'fast asleep' while car barreled down freeway
  • The video shows a man sleeping at the wheel of his Tesla. Another driver said that the driver traveled more than 30 miles asleep at the wheel.
  • It's not the first time a Tesla driver has been spotted dozing off at the wheel.
  • In April, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said its cars would achieve full autonomy by the end of 2019, though it's unclear whether that's a realistic timeline.



A new video shows a man in the driver's seat of a Tesla "fully sleeping" on Southern California's 405 Freeway. The Tesla-owner was asleep for at least 30 miles on the notoriously busy freeway, according to Shawn Miladinovich, who spotted the sleeping driver and had his passenger shoot a video.

"I realized he was fully sleeping," Miladinovich told NBC4 News. "Eyes shut, hands nowhere near the steering wheel."

The driver's hands appeared to be loosely tied to the steering wheel, ostensibly to keep the car in autopilot mode. When Tesla drivers take their hands off the steering wheel, the car issues a series of increasingly intense alerts.

"This helps ensure you are attentive, and that the steering wheel is properly oriented in the event that you need to take over control," Tesla says on its website. "If you repeatedly ignore these warnings, then you will be locked out from using autopilot for the duration of that trip."

Miladinovich expressed concern.

"If his little thing tied around that steering wheel fell off, and he was still sleeping, he would have slammed into somebody going 65 miles per hour," Miladinovich said.

​Is self-driving technology ready for us to sleep at the wheel?

Not yet. Although Tesla's Autopilot can do things like change lanes, change freeways, and take exit ramps without driver input, the company says its cars require drivers who are prepared to take over steering in the event of an emergency. The government does too: sleeping and drunk-driving in a Tesla are illegal.

The Society of Automotive Engineers has defined five levels of autonomous driving. Currently, Tesla's Autopilot falls somewhere between levels 2 and 3.

So, when will Tesla drivers be able to doze off at the wheel? Sometime in 2020, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

"My guess as to when we would think it's safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at the destination – probably towards the end of next year," Musk said in a podcast with ARK Invest in February. "That's when it's most likely. I don't know when regulators would agree."

In April, Musk said his cars would achieve level-5 autonomy by the end of 2019. Of course, that was days before the company issued its earnings report for Q1 2019, and anyway Musk is known for promising big, but not quite following through on time.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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An MIT astronomer famously explained why aliens haven't contacted us yet.

Supporting climate science increases skepticism of out-groups

A study finds people are more influenced by what the other party says than their own. What gives?

Protesters demanding action against climate change

Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study has found evidence suggesting that conservative climate skepticism is driven by reactions to liberal support for science.
  • This was determined both by comparing polling data to records of cues given by leaders, and through a survey.
  • The findings could lead to new methods of influencing public opinion.
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What is counterfactual thinking?

Can thinking about the past really help us create a better present and future?

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Personal Growth
  • There are two types of counterfactual thinking: upward and downward.
  • Both upward and downward counterfactual thinking can be positive impacts on your current outlook - however, upward counterfactual thinking has been linked with depression.
  • While counterfactual thinking is a very normal and natural process, experts suggest the best course is to focus on the present and future and allow counterfactual thinking to act as a motivator when possible.
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