Car Industry

Tesla driver caught sitting in the passenger seat with autopilot on

Now he's banned from driving for 18 months. The irony.

They say don't be a back-seat driver. They also say don't put your Tesla on autopilot and "drive" it from the passenger seat.

At least that's what Bhavesh Patel learned April 20 when he pleaded guilty in an English court to reckless driving, detailed in a release from Hertfordshire police. He received an 18-month ban from driving and was ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work, 10 days of rehabilitation and pay £1,800 ($2,480, AU$3,280).

May last year the 39-year-old from Nottingham engaged his Tesla S 60's autopilot, then shifted over to the passenger seat. He was driving an estimated 65 kph (40 mph) on a motorway in Hemel Hempstead, northwest of London.

A witness noticed the empty driver's seat. Then they noticed Patel relaxed in the passenger seat with his hands behind his head. They filmed him, naturally posting the footage to social media before it was reported to police.

Patel told Saint Albans Crown Court he knew it was "silly" but he was using the "amazing" capability of his car. The fact he was caught was "unlucky."

Tesla hit a pile up of controversy in March after a fatal Tesla Model X car crash in Northern Carolina. The driver had engaged autopilot and it appeared that his hands were off the wheel in the seconds before the crash. Three days earlier, Uber was caught in a similar issue when an Arizona pedestrian was killed by a fully self-driving car.

Tesla stressed to the court that drivers should "never depend on TACC [Traffic-Aware Cruise Control] to adequately slow down model S, always watch the road in front of you and be prepared to take corrective action at all times. Failure to do so can result in serious injury or death".

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