A man in England has been banned from driving after he switched his Tesla vehicle to autopilot and moved to the passenger seat.
Bhavesh Patel was on the busy M1 highway in his Tesla S 60 when a passenger in a nearby vehicle was shocked to find there was no one in the driver’s seat of his car, according to a police report from the Hertfordshire Constabulary.
Patel, 39, had shifted his Tesla to autopilot mode, leaving the steering wheel and foot controls unmanned before moving to the passenger seat, authorities said.
On April 20, Patel pleaded guilty to dangerous driving during the May 2017 incident. Not only is he disqualified from driving for 18 months, but Patel is also required to complete 100 hours of community service over a 10-day period and pay prosecution costs.
Authorities were first notified of the incident after the witness uploaded a video of Patel in the passenger seat to social media. A notice of intended prosecution was sent to Patel shortly after.
It was estimated that Patel’s Tesla was traveling at approximately 40 mph in heavy traffic, according to the police report.
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When Stevenage police questioned Patel, he admitted his actions were “silly” but argued that the Tesla was capable of something “amazing” and called himself the “unlucky one who got caught,” authorities said.
“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,” investigating officer PC Kirk Caldicutt said in a statement.
“This case should serve as an example to all drivers who have access to autopilot controls and have thought about attempting something similar. I want to stress that they are in no way a substitute for a competent motorist in the driving seat who can react appropriately to the road ahead,” Caldicutt added. “I hope Patel uses his disqualification period to reflect on why he chose to make such a reckless decision on that day.”