Tesla driver who switched seat in autopilot mode gets ban

A Tesla Model S 60 driver from Nottingham in the United Kingdom has been banned from driving after leaving the driver's seat while his vehicle was engaged in its autopilot mode.

Bhavesh Patel was filmed shifting from the driver's seat to the front passenger seat while the electric car was travelling at 40mph on the M1 motorway.

Pleading guilty at St Albans Crown Court, Patel, 39, told those in attendance at his hearing that he was "the unlucky one who got caught", insinuating that other Tesla drivers with vehicles capable of similar skills are known to act similarly.

AI vs human reactions

Patel has been banned from driving for 18 months, must complete 100 hours of unpaid community service work, and must pay the Crown Prosecution Service costs of £1,800.

PC Kirk Caldicutt of Hertfordshire Police called Patel's actions "grossly irresponsible" stating that they "could have easily ended in tragedy."

Tesla's electric car vehicles are among the most technologically advanced on the road, with the autopilot mode in question using sensors and cameras around the vehicle, including radar and ultrasonic sensors, to maintain speed, safe distances from the car around it, and activate braking systems in an emergency without the input of a driver.

However, despite its long-term driverless car ambitions, Tesla itself has never claimed that it's autopilot mode on current models is a replacement for a human driver and, in a statement regarding Patel's case, stated that the feature should only be used to aid a "fully attentive driver."

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.