Videos of what looks like Tesla drivers using the new Apple Vision Pro “spatial computing” headset while in Autopilot mode are going viral, but at least one is staged. After getting over 24 million views on X, 21-year-old Dante Lentini may still face legal repercussions for his stunt.
In an email to PopSci on Monday, Lentini confirmed a video appearing to show him being stopped by police for using Apple’s $3,499 headset behind the wheel of his Tesla was filmed in a “skit-style fashion.” The 25-second clip shows Lentini sitting in the Tesla driver’s seat while traveling on a highway using Autopilot. Instead of keeping his hands on the steering wheel, as Tesla directs all users to do while in Autopilot, Lentini gestures to imply he is using Vision Pro’s interface. (The Apple headset relies on interpreting specific hand movements to navigate and utilize its apps.) The video then cuts to Lentini in a parking lot as a police vehicle flashes its lights behind him.
— Dante (@lentinidante) February 2, 2024
“So the police were not even in the parking lot for me to begin with,” Lentini alleges in the email. “I wasn’t pulled over never mind [sic] not being arrested nor ticketed.”
Lentini uploaded his clip to X on February 2, the same day Apple’s Vision Pro headset hit stores, but it wasn’t until this weekend that the post began gaining momentum. Numerous outlets have since covered Lentini’s video, as well as similar content. A different video posted to X on February 3 appears to show another Apple Vision Pro user in the driver’s seat of a Tesla Cybertruck. Like Lentini, the driver makes gestures known to control the headset, implying the $60,990 base price EV is engaged in Autopilot or Full Self-Driving Beta mode. The Cybertruck video has racked up over 17 million views by Monday morning.
In a follow-up email to PopSci, Lentini confirmed he used Tesla’s Autopilot program during his video after he “got over to the right most lane [sic].” He also claimed he only wore Apple’s headset for “10-15 second increments” totalling “less than 30-40 seconds combined.”
“I believe the Vision Pro doesn’t even work while traveling since the technology fails to be able to track your reference surroundings and place the graphics accordingly,” he continued. “So all it showed was a pass through video feed,” referring to the headset’s ability to visualize external surroundings with a reportedly 12 millisecond latency, “as if I was just wearing sunglasses.”
[Related: Here’s a look at Apple’s first augmented reality headset.]
Most US state traffic laws prohibit wearing anything that could potentially obscure a driver’s ability to see their surroundings. In Palo Alto, where Lentini claims to reside, “it is unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, is operating and is visible to the driver.” Violations could include a fine of $238, as well as a point added to the driver’s DMV record.
A previous review of the parameters within Vision Pro’s visionOS coding indicates it disables certain features if it detects users traveling over a “safe speed,” although it’s unclear if this applies to driving. A separate “Travel Mode” can reportedly be enabled while “stationary” in an airplane, but Apple does not offer an explanation of how Vision Pro assesses the speed, travel, and passenger status.
According to Apple’s official product page, the Vision Pro includes built-in safety features meant to help prevent collisions and falls. “[I]t’s also important to use the device in a safe manner. For example, don’t run while wearing Apple Vision Pro, use it while operating a moving vehicle, or use it while intoxicated or otherwise impaired,” the company states.
Lentini suspects similar viral content videos are also “skits.” Although he understands “some people’s initial frustration” after seeing his clip, “there’s nothing obstructing my vision. I personally feel like it’s more dangerous to text and drive or even eat and drive, even though I still recommend not wearing these while driving.” Illegal “distracted driving” is defined on a state-by-state basis, but usually includes texting. In some places, eating can also fall within the bounds of distracted driving.
Whether or not flashy, bank-draining luxury items like Apple Vision Pro and Tesla Cybertruck will prove successful remains to be seen. For now, at least, the combination is leaving bystanders dizzied by the whirlwind mix of legality, wealth, virality, and veracity—all exacerbated by such posts’ ability to spread across platforms like X.