In Brief

Tesla ‘driver’ banned after putting car on autopilot and moving to passenger seat

Culprit admits his actions on motorway were “silly” but insists vehicle has ‘amazing’ capabilities

A Tesla owner has received an 18-month driving ban after he was spotted in the passenger seat of his car as it cruised down a motorway in Autopilot mode.

A witness driving on the M1 near Hemel Hempstead filmed Bhavesh Patel, 39, relaxing beside the empty driver’s seat in his Tesla Model S 60 after switching on the self-driving feature.

According to The Independent, witnesses claim the car was travelling at 40mph in heavy traffic at the time of the incident, last May. 

Footage of the driverless Tesla was posted on social media, before witnesses reported the incident to Hertfordshire police, the news site says.

A hearing at St Albans Crown Court, in Hertfordshire, on Friday heard that Patel had admitted to officers shortly after the incident that what he had done was “silly”, says BBC News.

However, he said the Tesla had “amazing” capabilities and that he had simply been the “unlucky one who got caught”. 

But a Tesla engineer told the court that drivers should “never” depend solely on the car’s Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC) systems to manoeuvre through road congestion, CNet reports. The expert advised Tesla drivers to “always watch the road in front of you and be prepared to take corrective action at all times”.

Along with the driving ban, Patel, from Nottingham, was ordered to pay £1,800, complete 100 hours of unpaid work and undergo ten days of “rehabilitation”, The Verge reports.

Although Tesla’s Autopilot system is capable of automatically steering and applying the brakes, there have been a few fatal incidents involving the driverless feature.

Last month, a driver was killed on Hhighway 101 in Mountain View, California, after his Tesla Model X SUV veered into a concrete barrier while the car’s Autopilot system was engaged.

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