Tesla driver allegedly found asleep at wheel on Highway 101 pleads not guilty to DUI charges

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The man believed to have been sleeping at the wheel of a Tesla traveling at 70 mph down U.S. Highway 101 in San Mateo County last month has pleaded not guilty to DUI charges, prosecutors said today.

Alexander Samek, 45, a Los Altos planning commissioner and principal at The Kor Group, a real estate investment firm, is set to appear April 23 for a pretrial conference in the case that has gained national attention for its connection to advanced driver assistance technology.

At 4:04 a.m. on Nov. 30, a CHP officer noticed a grey Tesla pass by in the southbound lanes of 101 at Hillsdale Avenue. The Tesla was going 70 mph and its turn signal was blinking, prosecutors said. The officer drove up alongside the Tesla and noticed its driver, Samek, with his head down and unconscious. Samek did not respond when the officer activated his patrol car’s lights and sirens, or when the officer used his speaker, prosecutors said.

Believing the Tesla’s autopilot features were activated, the officer positioned the patrol vehicle in front of the Tesla and slowed down until both the patrol car and Tesla came to a stop.

The officer approached the Tesla and knocked on the window, attempting to wake Samek up, according to CHP.

“Thereafter the defendant awoke with a confused look,” San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. “The defendant displayed objective signs of intoxication and failed the sobriety tests.”

Wagstaffe said police investigated and learned Samek had been drinking in San Francisco. Samek “refused to take a chemical test, so the officer obtained a search warrant in order to obtain a blood sample,” Wagstaffe said.

The blood test revealed a .14 percent blood alcohol level, which is higher than the .08 legal limit.

Samek has no prior DUI arrests, and he remains out of custody on his own recognizance, Wagstaffe said.

Booking photo of Alexander Samek from San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office