A driver from Nottingham, England has been banned from the road for 18 months and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service for dangerously switching his Tesla to autopilot while he rode in the passenger seat.
A nearby driver caught Bhavesh Patel on camera as he sat in the passenger seat while his car sped down a busy highway at an estimated 40 miles per hour.
The video, which appears to show Patel with his hands behind his head, was posted on social media and led to a charge of dangerous driving.
Patel admitted to the court that his risky decision was “silly” but explained that he was the “unlucky one who got caught.” Investigating officer PC Kirk Caldicutt took things more seriously and explained, “What Patel did was grossly irresponsible and could have easily ended in tragedy. He not only endangered his own life but the lives of other innocent people using the motorway on that day.”
A Tesla engineer explained in a statement that the car Patel was driving has a “suite of driver assistance features” but was never intended to drive on its own. Instead, it’s meant to assist a “fully-attentive driver.” The company adds, “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.”
This incident follows a March 23 incident in California where a Tesla Model X SUV hit a highway safety barrier while on autopilot, leading to the driver’s death. There have now been two known fatal incidents involving Tesla’s autopilot. The first was a crash between a Model S and a tractor trailer in 2016.