Tesla driver sits in passenger seat while car is on autopilot, gets banned

Tesla’s autopilot technology is meant as an intelligent assistant to normal driving, but one owner has taken the technology a step further by literally sitting in the passenger’s seat while his car drove at 40mph down the motorway. 

After being caught by another motorist, the driver, Bhavesh Patel, was convicted of dangerous driving and banned for 18 months. He will also have to pay a £1800 fine and do 100 hours of unpaid work.

All of Tesla’s cars are equipped with autopilot, which is a form of autonomous driving meant for motorways. It can handle manoeuvres like automatically changing lanes, transitioning between and exiting motorways, and keeping within lanes on a motorway.

However, while autopilot is certainly advanced, Tesla is clear that the technology is nowhere near advanced enough to handle full driving autonomy. Its website reads, “Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot, and must be prepared to take action at any time.”

The system will also refuse to operate if you do not place your hands on the steering wheel.

A work-in-progress

Although the hope is that autonomous cars will one day be able to transport people from location to location without any input from a driver, we’re still a long way away from that point.

Tesla’s autopilot is an interesting first step, but it’s still far from perfect. Back in 2016 a driver was killed when his car collided with an 18-wheeler while in autopilot mode, causing Tesla to issue guidance on the current limitations of the system.

However, as the system gets closer and closer to full autonomy it’s likely that more people will be lulled into a false sense of security and start pushing the boundaries of what autopilot is capable of.

We just have to hope that Tesla continues to emphasise that it’s not yet a perfect system, and continues to include safety measures that force people to keep their hands on the wheel.

Have you had a chance to use Tesla autopilot? What’s the most impressive thing it could do? Let us know @TrustedReviews.