Skip to main content

Tesla makes some really cool electric vehicles (EVs) and has built up a fan base that even includes Jay Leno. One of the main selling points of the vehicle is its Autopilot feature which takes a great deal of the stress out of driving. However, even with Autopilot’s merit, many drivers are still confused about what the function can and can’t do. As Jalopnik recently pointed out, that includes whether or not it’s ok to take a nap with Autopilot on.

Sleeping in a Tesla

The short answer to whether you can sleep while you have your Tesla on Autopilot is no.

However, it’s less of a functionality issue and more of a question of law. Some drivers have videos proving that it’s technically possible to sleep while commuting in a Tesla. However, the law clearly states that you have to be awake while you’re behind the wheel.

Oh, and another thing: While your Tesla is on the road, someone must be behind the wheel. You can’t move into another seat to nap and let the car handle the rest of your commute. That’s also against the law. Furthermore, riding in your Tesla on autopilot while drunk is also a big no-no. Riding behind the wheel while intoxicated will result in a DUI.

Autopilot Limitations 

The great thing about Tesla’s Autopilot is that it’s actually a really good adaptive cruise control, but that’s also the biggest drawback. Drivers get so used to the idea of the car “being able to drive itself” that they start to trust it too much. This leads to them making dangerous decisions, such as sleeping behind the wheel, that they would never dream of doing in another car.

The reason you’re not legally allowed to sleep while a Tesla is on Autopilot is that, while the system has proven to be very reliable, it’s not infallible. Things can still go wrong. The list of possible concerns includes:

  • Something damaging or covering the cameras
  • Unclear road markings
  • The system malfunctioning
  • Road construction can confuse the system
  • The car may be unable to compensate for accidents or obstacles

If any of these things happen, the driver needs to be alert and able to immediately take manual control of their car. Even if nothing goes wrong, there’s a good chance that sleeping while driving will cause other motorists to panic, which could lead to a nasty accident that you’re indirectly responsible for.

It is important to note that at this point, Tesla’s Autopilot isn’t a self-driving car. Despite Tesla offering an options package called “Full Self-Driving Capability,” Autopilot is still only a driver assistance program.

Tesla drivers sometimes think that because they have the vehicle on Autopilot, there’s no chance they’ll get into an accident. This isn’t true. Accidents do happen. One such accident took place in California when a Tesla driver failed to prevent a fatal crash, per AutoBlog. The car’s driving logs indicated that the driver never corrected the vehicle despite being sent warnings that they needed to take the wheel and regain control of the vehicle.

Possible Consequences

Because there are so few Teslas on the road, and none are actually autonomous, laws about what will happen if you’re caught sleeping while driving may differ from one state (or country) to the next. But you can rest assured that the penalties will likely be quite stiff, and it might result in the loss of your driving privileges.

In England, not remaining attentive while your Tesla is on Autopilot not only results in you having to appear in court. You’ll also get a dangerous driving ticket and lose your driver’s license for eighteen months.

Don’t assume that just because the police didn’t pull you over after you fell asleep with your Tesla on Autopilot that you’re off the hook, either. If anyone takes a video of you sleeping and sends it to the local police or posts it on social media networks, you could very well find yourself in serious legal trouble.