If you’re wondering how many times this website has complained about people mishandling semi-autonomous driving systems, we’ve completely lost count. However, if you want further evidence that we are justified in constantly wringing our hands over the matter, you’re in luck.
On April 20th, Bhavesh Patel plead guilty to “dangerous driving” at St. Albans Crown Court in the United Kingdom. The term driving is a bit of a misnomer, though. Because Patel was actually sitting in the passenger seat of his Tesla Model S 60, while his vehicle traveled down the motorway driver free. The incident, which took place in May of last year, was caught by a fellow commuter and subsequently reported to authorities. Obviously, we had to find footage of the unbridled stupidity.
The court settled on an 18-month driving ban and 100 hours of community service. According to The Guardian, he’ll also be forced to pay a court fee of £1,800.
“He not only endangered his own life but the lives of other innocent people using the motorway on that day. This case should serve as an example to all drivers who have access to [Autopilot] controls and have thought about attempting something similar,” said Police Constable Kirk Caldicutt. “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. I hope Patel uses his disqualification period to reflect on why he chose to make such a reckless decision on that day.”
Tesla Motors has attempted to improve Autopilot by requiring drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel after a fatal incident in Florida. It has also been adamant that the system is not intended to replace an alert driver. Unfortunately, that has not stopped individuals from abusing driving aids and autonomous hardware that’s still in its infancy.
The Hertfordshire Constabulary said Patel admitted he knew what he had done something “silly” when interviewed, but wanted to test the vehicle’s “amazing” features. He then claimed he was simply the “unlucky one who got caught.”
[Image: David Marek/The Truth About Cars]