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U.K. Man Loses License for Abusing Autopilot in His Tesla

There's not knowing the right way to use Tesla's autopilot, and then there's not caring.

A British man has lost his driving license for abusing his Tesla Model S’s autopilot semi-autonomous driving mode.

Telegraph reports that in the evening of May 21, 2017, 39-year-old Bhavesh Patel activated autopilot while on the country’s M1 highway, and clambered across the Tesla’s cabin to stretch out in the passenger seat, leaving the wheel and pedals unattended in heavy traffic. Those with whom he shared the road noticed a conspicuously driverless Tesla, filmed the incident, and alerted authorities.

Patel, in an interview with police at a later date, described his behavior as “silly,” but justified it by calling the car “amazing,” and referring to himself as the “unlucky one who got caught.”

For his recklessness, Patel was issued an 18-month ban from driving, in addition to having his driver’s license revoked. One hundred hours of community service, 10 days of “rehabilitation,” and a fine of 1,800 pounds ($2,480) was also imposed.

Autopilot remains a controversial subject in transportation, legal, and technological circles. The driver aid system is mistaken by many for a fully-autonomous system in need of neither input nor attention, resulting in regular misuse. In 2017, a Model S driver ignored the system’s warnings prior to the crash that took his life. In March, the situation repeated itself, when an Autopilot-controlled Model X crashed into a highway divider, killing its driver. 

Both casualties occurred as a result of drivers diverting their attention from the road, despite Tesla’s urging that drivers remain vigilant. Some even seek to disable the autopilot’s warning systems for their own convenience. What is evident is that some people are not yet responsible enough to be trusted with autopilot or comparable driver assists, and until technology can account for human folly, we may be better off without it entirely.