Man Fined, Banned from Driving After Leaving Tesla Car on Autopilot in UK

Bhavesh Patel left the Tesla S 60 on autopilot while sitting in the passenger seat.


An Indian-origin man was banned from driving for 18 months after he was caught sitting on the passenger seat while driving a Tesla S 60 in the United Kingdom. Bhavesh Patel, 39, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at St Albans Crown Court on April 20.

He was also ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,800 in legal costs.

Patel, of Alfreton Road, Nottingham, drove his Tesla “irresponsibly” on May 21, 2017 along the northbound carriageway of the M1, between junctions 8 and 9 near Hemel Hempstead.

He had activated his Tesla S 60’s autopilot function before shifting to the passenger seat. He was caught on camera by a fellow motorist. Patel’s hands were behind his head. He left the steering wheel and foot pedal unattended.

Witnesses testified that traffic was heavy due to congestion on May 21, 2017 and it was estimated that the £70,000 vehicle was traveling at 40 mph, according to Sky News. The video of Patel sitting on the passenger seat while the Tesla drove itself was first posted online and then reported to the police. A Notice of Intended Prosecution was sent to Patel through post.

He was interviewed by officers at Stevenage Police Station. He admitted that he did something “silly,” but added that the car was capable of something “amazing.” He also lamented that he was just the “unlucky one who got caught.”

“What Patel did was grossly irresponsible and could have easily ended in tragedy,” Investigating officer PC Kirk Caldicutt, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit, was quoted as saying by Telegraph. “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. 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.”

A Tesla engineer also told the officers in a statement that the autopilot was as a “suite of driver assistance features,” according to the Telegraph UK. The statement said that the auto-pilot feature is meant to provide assistance to a “fully-attentive driver.” Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC) assists with acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle whilst Autosteer provides assistance with steering of the vehicle. It also said that a driver should never depend on TACC to adequately slow down model S, always watch the road in front and be prepared to take corrective action at all times. “Failure to do so can result in serious injury or death,” it added.

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