News


Los Altos planning commission chair arrested for Tesla DUI

CHP investigating whether Model S was using driver-assist function

The chair of the Los Altos Planning Commission, Alexander Samek, was arrested in Palo Alto early Friday morning after officers discovered him asleep at the wheel of his Tesla Model S while driving at 70 miles per hour on U.S. Highway 101.

California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Art Montiel said Friday that officers can't confirm but suspect the car was on a driver-assist mode that provides semi-autonomous capability.

At approximately 3:37 a.m., a California Highway Patrol officer was driving south on Highway 101 near Whipple Avenue in Redwood City and noticed a gray Tesla driving at 70 miles per hour, above the speed limit, according to Montiel. The officer pulled up next to the car and noticed that Samek "appeared to be asleep at the wheel," he said. The officer pulled behind the Tesla and attempted to pull Samek over, using the patrol car's lights and sirens, but Samek was "unresponsive," Montiel said.

Suspecting the Tesla might be on driver assist, the officer pulled in front of the car and started slowing down, causing the Tesla to slow down as well, Montiel said.

Two additional CHP patrol vehicles arrived and positioned themselves on each side of the Tesla as the car approached Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto, trying to wake up Samek, Montiel said.

"It took them awhile to wake him up," he said.

The Tesla eventually came to a stop on a right-hand lane north of Embarcadero Road. Officers approached the car and attempted to wake Samek by knocking on the window and giving verbal commands, according to a CHP press release.

When Samek woke up, they removed him from the Tesla and drove him to the Shell gas station just off the freeway on Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto, where he failed a field sobriety test and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was booked into the San Mateo County jail, according to CHP.

"It's great that we have this technology; however, we need to remind people that ... even though this technology is available, they need to make sure they know they are responsible for maintaining control of the vehicle," Montiel said.

The CHP has identified the officers who pulled over the Tesla as James Blunt and Christopher Hayashi.

Palo Alto-based Tesla's website states that "all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory, including Model 3, have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver."

The "Autopilot" system includes features such as matching speed to traffic conditions, staying within a lane, exiting a freeway when close to the destination and self-parking, according to the Tesla website.

In a tweet on Sunday, Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said that if a company vehicle is on "Autopilot" and there's no input from the driver, the car will gradually stop and turn on its hazard lights. Tesla will then contact the car owner.

"Looking into what happened here," Musk tweeted in reference to Friday's incident.

This isn't the first time locally that CHP has arrested a driver asleep at the wheel of a Tesla set on autopilot. In January, a Tesla was pulled over the Bay Bridge with a driver over twice the legal limit for blood alcohol content.

"Driver explained Tesla had been set on autopilot," CHP tweeted at the time. "He was arrested and charged with suspicion of DUI. Car towed (no it didn't drive itself to the tow yard)."

Autopilot was turned on during a fatal car crash in March on Highway 101 near Mountain View. In a statement, the car company said that the system is more safe, not less: Drivers using Teslas on Autopilot are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

"Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents -- such a standard would be impossible -- but it makes them much less likely to occur," Tesla said at the time. "It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists."

Tesla didn't immediately return a request for comment on Friday's DUI arrest involving the Model S.

Samek, 45, is a Los Altos resident, according to CHP. He is serving his first term as a planning commissioner, according to the city of Los Altos website. He was unanimously appointed chair by his colleagues on Oct. 18, a video recording of the meeting shows.

According to Samek's LinkedIn page, he is the co-founder of Venice-based Proper Hospitality, which operates luxury hotels, including the new San Francisco Proper Hotel, and principal at The Kor Group, a real estate investment and management firm with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin.

Since he was hired at The Kor Group in 2004, Samek has overseen more than $600 million in acquisitions and development for the company, including hospitality, multifamily and residential projects in the United States and the Caribbean, according to the company's website.

A court hearing on the alleged DUI case has been set for Jan. 4, according to the CHP.

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Comments

21 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Here's a link to the CHP radio traffic of the incident:

Web Link

Thank goodness nobody was hurt.


24 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Thank you to the brave officers for ending this situation without any innocent bystanders being killed. I think Mr. Samek needs to take a leave of absence from all of his work and get his act together before someone is hurt.


11 people like this
Posted by TeslaOwner
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Something is fishy with this story. In order to avoid this exact situation, the Tesla AutoPilot requires driver interaction every 30 seconds or so and will completely shut down and pull over to the side of the road within 2 minutes if no interaction is detected. I'm curious how this story will turn out but I don't believe either the Police or Palo Alto Online understand how Tesla autopilot works.


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 30, 2018 at 4:19 pm

That’s our gas station!
Thankful the police stopped this dangerous driver in his massive, heavy vehicle.
Alleged DUI is the least of it - he’s totally irresponsible and a danger to all of the rest of us on the road.
We need to enact a huge penalty for this irresponsibility NOW.
Yeah, yeah, we were all lectured and assured how great these vehicles are - now see the result.
Action NOW before others get killed by “drivers” like him.


8 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Unfortunately, the Tesla Auto Pilot can be easily defeated (Youtube)
Curious, what would have happened if the car was just going the speed limit?
Isn't the Autonomous mode aware of the speed limit? I don't know, but good thing they caught him before he killed a family.


11 people like this
Posted by BobH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2018 at 4:41 pm

BobH is a registered user.

I am glad they caught him and got the driver off of the road.

I suspect it was probably safer to have the car in self steering mode than had he been driving it himself given he failed a field sobriety test and his inability to stay awake.


9 people like this
Posted by Tesla Endeavors
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 30, 2018 at 5:49 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Ironic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2018 at 6:22 pm

The Planning Commission advises the City Council on planning and transportation issues. Transportation issues include automobile circulation, pedestrian, bicycle and handicapped access, and public transportation on all public streets, roadways and paths within Los Altos city limits


2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 1, 2018 at 7:17 am

Posted by TeslaOwner, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> Something is fishy with this story. In order to avoid this exact situation, the Tesla AutoPilot requires driver interaction every 30 seconds or so and will completely shut down and pull over to the side of the road within 2 minutes if no interaction is detected. I'm curious how this story will turn out but I don't believe either the Police or Palo Alto Online understand how Tesla autopilot works.

Good point. I'm looking forward to Tesla's AutoPilot and Software Safety group leaders (or whatever title Tesla uses) explaining exactly what occurred in this case. On the record, in open court.


7 people like this
Posted by JR McDugan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 1, 2018 at 7:55 am

JR McDugan is a registered user.

This is even more reckless when you consider that a Tesla killed its driver by plowing into the 101 / 85 interchange just a short few months ago, which is no more than a few miles from where the driver was pulled over. If the CHP had not pulled this person over where they did, it's very possible this could have been a repeat scenario.


33 people like this
Posted by MrCurious
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2018 at 8:45 am

Baffling how this clown appears to be really wealthy, yet, cannot simply order an Uber to take him home? I'd kick him off the Planning Commission if I were on the LA City Council. Does a life need to be lost in order to take immediate action? Don't wait for the next time please, financial status should not be a preclusion from any consequences to this downright dangerous, stupid and illegal activity.


6 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 1, 2018 at 11:58 am

Online Name is a registered user.

This is SO Sillycone Valley :-> Maybe we need a self-driving derby between the Teska's, Waymo's, etc,


10 people like this
Posted by Driver Could Get Off On DUI
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 1, 2018 at 2:40 pm

No actual reference to the DUI (i.e. alcohol/blood %, field sobriety test results etc.) nor any indication whether this 'suspicion' of DUI was attributable to prescription and/or recreational drugs.

A reckless driving violation is better than a DUI citation. If the suspect simply fell asleep at the wheel, things will go better for him compared to an alcohol or drug related stop.

Fortunately he was driving a Tesla. Good cars.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 1, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

My deleted post was to say that the subject hopefully would learn from this incident and change his life.


6 people like this
Posted by Jackie
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2018 at 5:46 pm

Driver Could Get Off On DUI said the following:

"No actual reference to the DUI (i.e. alcohol/blood %, field sobriety test results etc.) nor any indication whether this 'suspicion' of DUI was attributable to prescription and/or recreational drugs."

Try reading the article next time, please, and not just the title. In the article it clearly states that the subject was given and subsequently failed a field sobriety test.


6 people like this
Posted by S Brady
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 2, 2018 at 9:27 am

S Brady is a registered user.

How is such a careless person, so deeply involved with hotel development, big development in general, doing on the Los Altos Planning Commission?


6 people like this
Posted by S Brady
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 2, 2018 at 11:04 am

S Brady is a registered user.

MrCurious,

I do not see anywhere in this article that this man is getting off easy because of his financial status. He was arrested. Where are you reading that he is not going to have serious consequences? Please redirect me to that story,

Frankly, I think one DUI should result in permanent loss of driving privledges. The fact that any convicted DUI person can eventually get back behind the wheel in this state is not harsh enough. I might add that public shaming works for me too.

Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently motivated fool.


8 people like this
Posted by DUI Attorney
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2018 at 2:05 pm

> No actual reference to the DUI (i.e. alcohol/blood %, field sobriety test results etc.) nor any indication whether this 'suspicion' of DUI was attributable to prescription and/or recreational drugs.

> In the article it clearly states that the subject was given and subsequently failed a field sobriety test.

@ Driver Could Get Off On DUI & @Jackie

I specialize in challenging DUIs in court. Failing a field sobriety test is not conclusive evidence that a driver is DUI. Stumbling on an uneven side road service, shivering due to the cold, being cross-eyed and other variables can negate this test.

Only a blood test (where blood is actually drawn) is conclusive evidence and a suspect has the right to refuse one. Even a breathalizer reading can be challenged due to calibration discrepancies.

As a private DUI attorney, I have gotten many DUI suspects off the hook due to inconclusive evidence.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2018 at 7:37 am

Posted by Driver Could Get Off On DUI, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>>If the suspect simply fell asleep at the wheel, things will go better for him compared to an alcohol or drug related stop.

>> Fortunately he was driving a Tesla. Good cars.

I think you are drawing the wrong conclusion from your supposition. If the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and killed or harmed himself or others, who would take comfort in the fact that "well, at least the driver wasn't drunk"?

Many people die every year when people "simply fell asleep at the wheel". Yes, it is simple to fall asleep at the wheel. Recent research indicates that a much larger fraction of crashes involve sleepy driving than was previously understood: Web Link

BTW, while Teslas may be "good cars", what is curious about the Tesla angle in this case is that the inattentive driver feature was not triggered.


13 people like this
Posted by Baby You Can Drive My Car
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2018 at 8:20 am

>...what is curious about the Tesla angle in this case is that the inattentive driver feature was not triggered.

So what's worse...having to deal with a Waymo or a Tesla while you are on the road driving?

Both have this feature and both have their flaws.

Perhaps it's best to eliminate all two of them.


5 people like this
Posted by Roadster/S/3
a resident of Duveneck School
on Dec 3, 2018 at 10:29 am

I've timed the length of time between "hands off the wheel" and "alarms go off" as about 55 seconds on the Model S. At 70 mph, that's a mile driven at a speeds that could easily kill a family. While I believe autopilot is probably net-positive from a safety perspective, the fact that CHP has had to come up with counter-Tesla-DUI tactics is saddening


9 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:02 pm

The fact that this person works in public service sector, in the PLANNING COMMISSION division... but couldn't even PLAN the most ethical and moral course of action to prevent driving while asleep at the wheel speaks volumes. IRONIC really.

Regardless of why he was asleep at the wheel... the CHP likely did him a favor. If one is asleep at the wheel due to a health care issue, then he would completely lose his license and his right to drive from that moment forward. The fact that he was given ONLY a field sobriety test, no blood work, no breathalyzer test and he can easily challenge it as questionable.. and get off means this clown gets to continue to drive indefinitely with no real consequences whatsoever.

This man who is serving the public could have killed children, families or pedestrians or cyclists or pets.... should lose his job immediately. He has proven he doesn't deserve public trust in his ability to make sound decisions or judgements.
Driving a TESLA which has a net positive factor... doesn't mitigate the flagrantly offensive act that he got behind a wheel of a car, started it and instructed it where to drive him before falling SOUND ASLEEP at the wheel. Didn't know his car slowed down. Didn't know police were trying to pull him over. Didn't know sirens were blazing. Didn't know or hear the loudspeaker. Think on that for a moment.

This man lacks ethics and sound judgement at best..... and at worst.. he could have taken a life.

His should lose his job and license ... end of story.


1 person likes this
Posted by BobH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:14 pm

BobH is a registered user.

I read the headline again "Los Altos planning commission chair arrested for Tesla DUI"

I note the Tesla was not driving "DUI". It was the Mr Samek who was driving DUI. Would have been nice if Palo Alto online headline has been more accurate. The car was responsible for his behavior.


Like this comment
Posted by Why negotiate
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Attached may provide more clarification to some of the above comments:
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:19 pm

The NYT article about Samek says he was pulled over at 3:30 pm on Friday.

At 3:30 pm children are walking home from school, or going to after school activities on their bikes, scooters, and own 2 feet.

At 3:30 pm Friday, small children and preschool kids are on the sidewalks or in their strollers.

Pedestrians are out walking their dogs. Children are outside. At 3:30 pm... no one should be so sound asleep behind the wheel of a Tesla.... it continues to drive another 7 miles with police sirens blazing with multiple police cars surrounding the Tesla to make it stop. Policemen should not be "pounding on the windows" to rouse him awake.

He could have easily killed someone... someone's child. Someone's daughter. Someone's son. Someone's parent. A mother. A father. A family. Grandparents.

HE should definitely lose his license for a long time to come. This is not a teen with not a fully developed ability to think through the consequences. This is a fully adult... sitting on a city planning commission. Operating real estate enterprises. Founding companies. And he had the audacity to smile during his police mug shot photo.

Take a look at the NYT article.
Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Samek is so entitled and so completely oblivious of the potential dire consequences of his actions... the NYT article states Samek was "chuckling" as he was being questioned by the police in the interrogation videos.

That scenario should percolate through our thoughts a moment. This man who fell asleep at his wheel and was pulled over at 3:30 pm on Friday... thought the situation was amusing such that he was chuckling as he was being interrogated.

He could have hit a school bus full of children. He could have hit an after school Club J JCC bus that picks up children from various elementary schools.

Talk about complete entitled behavior with no worries about his actions or his consequences. Makes you wonder how many times he has done this. How many times he has luckily not killed someone in the process.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:28 pm

(@PA Resident, it was 3:30 AM.)

Interesting article on the AAA Website describing actual testing of 4 autopilot systems, including the Tesla Model S:

Web Link

An excerpt:

==

While driving on public roadways, AAA found test vehicles struggled when encountering scenarios that included moderate traffic, curved roadways and streets with busy intersections. Researchers noted many instances where the test vehicle experienced issues like lane departures, hugging lane markers, “ping-ponging” within the lane, inadequate braking, unexpected speed changes and inappropriate following distances. AAA’s study also revealed that nearly 90 percent of events requiring driver intervention were due to the test vehicle’s inability to maintain lane position. The irregular and complex nature of the real-world driving environment revealed the vulnerabilities of this technology. AAA’s testing found the systems generally performed best on open freeways and freeways with stop and go traffic.


6 people like this
Posted by @anon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 3, 2018 at 12:34 pm

ok. 3:30 am. Well then. That clearly absolves him of sleeping soundly behind a Tesla. Complete exoneration your honor... because he had the judgement to drive go completely into deep REM sleep at 3:30 am not pm.

And he had the sound judgement to fall asleep on the highway.. not the regular roads. I'm sure he set his alarm to wake him up from his deep REM sleep as soon as his Tesla exited off the highway nearest his destination...


2 people like this
Posted by What Are the Consequences?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2018 at 1:51 pm

> He could have hit a school bus full of children. He could have hit an after school Club J JCC bus that picks up children from various elementary schools.
> (@PA Resident, it was 3:30 AM.)

A school bus full of children traveling at 3:30 AM would be something out of the Twilight Zone.

>>The fact that he was given ONLY a field sobriety test, no blood work, no breathalyzer test and he can easily challenge it as questionable.. and get off means this clown gets to continue to drive indefinitely with no real consequences whatsoever.

That could very well happen as per the DUI Attorney's earlier post.


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2018 at 5:20 pm

@Resident of Downtown North, the New York Post is no New York Times.


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