RCMP charge driver of self-driving Tesla going 140 km/hr; both front seats were reclined and occupants seemed to be asleep

After investigating and consulting with the Crown prosecutor, Alberta RCMP laid a charge of dangerous driving against a 20-year-old B.C. driver of a Tesla near Ponoka earlier this year.

RCMP say that on July 9, at about 4 p.m., Alberta RCMP received a complaint of a car speeding south on the QEII near Ponoka. The car appeared to be self-driving, travelling over 140 km/h, with both front seats completely reclined and both occupants appearing to be asleep. 

An Alberta RCMP Traffic Services member located the vehicle, a 2019 Tesla Model S. After the responding officer activated emergency lights on their vehicle, the Tesla automatically began to accelerate. The officer was able to obtain radar readings on the vehicle, confirming that it had automatically accelerated up to exactly 150 km/h. After pulling over the vehicle, RCMP charged the driver, a 20-year-old man from British Columbia, with speeding and a 24-hour licence suspension for fatigue. 

“Although manufacturers of new vehicles have built in safeguards to prevent drivers from taking advantage of the new safety systems in vehicles, those systems are just that — supplemental safety systems,” says Superintendent Gary Graham of Alberta RCMP Traffic Services. “They are not self-driving systems, they still come with the responsibility of driving.”

The driver was summoned to appear in court December 2020.