Q. I was surprised to hear from a friend that he has seen Tesla drivers on the freeway sound asleep while driving. He has seen them around midnight on the freeway slumped over. What is the protocol regarding this practice other than people posting it on the internet?
– Sharon Spitz, Irvine
A. When safe, dial 911. Just like when you see a suspected drunk.
“Definitely, call it in,” said Mitch Smith, a California Highway Patrol officer and spokesman.
For such emergencies, under the law, a driver can call even on a handheld phone.
“No vehicle available to the general public for personal use has technology currently recognized as being capable of driving itself,” a spokesperson for the Department of Motor Vehicles said in an email. “If someone is asleep at the wheel or distracted or under the influence, that is a law enforcement and public safety issue.”
In other words, the driver faces getting busted.
Motorists, Smith said, must be “available to react to anything that happens.”
So they must be awake and sober, no matter if the car thinks it can drive itself.
More than 45 companies have been granted permission by the DMV to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver aboard who, if needed, can immediately take control of the vehicle – they include Apple, BMW, Honda, Toyota and Tesla.
Now, there are more than a half-dozen companies that have been issued permission by the DMV to test without drivers, with various restrictions such as where they can go and during which hours of the day. But Tesla is not among them – yet.
“The DMV is reviewing the capabilities of (Tesla’s) ‘Full Self-Driving’ feature to determine if it has advanced to meet California’s definition of an autonomous vehicle,” the DMV’s spokesperson said. “If so, Tesla will need to operate under the appropriate regulatory authorization.”
Honk likes to close loopholes, Sharon: So, no, a snoozing Tesla driver is not in a vehicle that has been approved to function without a fully aware driver.
Q. I was driving north on the I-5 Freeway from San Clemente and noticed four HOV violation signs along the way with different penalty amounts. Why is there a difference, and what determines the fine amount?
– Scott Irwin, Fullerton
A. A first-time offender should expect to pay $490 for the fine, fees and penalties of wrongly driving in the carpool lane solo in Orange County.
“The signs note the minimum fine that may be assessed, indicating that the fines might be higher than shown,” said Nathan Abler, a Caltrans spokesman in the county.
So older signs might not provide the actual cost, but would still be telling offenders their bill would be at least that amount.
“Caltrans’ policy is to update signs when the center-median barriers, where the signs are placed, are upgraded,” Abler said.
In other counties, the total financial hit could be different than $490.
“Fees may be different from county to county, depending on the local regulations, which is not controlled by (Superior Court),” said Kostas Kalaitzidis, the spokesman for Orange County Superior Court.
Honk has seen or heard of other stretches where the signs saying what a violation would cost differ inside a particular county.
To ask Honk questions, reach him at [email protected] He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: ocregister.com/tag/honk. Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk