British Tesla driver banned after caught in the passenger seat while Autopilot was engaged

A British driver has pleaded guilty to driving in a dangerous manner after a fellow driver took a video of him sitting in the passenger seat, while his Tesla S 60 operated only on autopilot, according to BBC News (via Jalopnik ).

Bhavesh Patel was seen by a fellow driver sitting in the passenger seat while his autopilot was on the M1 near Hemel Hempstead on May 21, 2017. Hertfordshire police note that the car was going to drive 40 miles per hour, and that Patel had left the steering wheel and controls unsupervised, and there was a lot of traffic on the road at the time of the incident.

Patel has pleaded guilty to the offense and has been prohibited from driving for 18 months, and must pay a fine of £ 1,800, carry out 10 days of rehabilitation and perform 100 hours of community service. Hertfordshire police officers testified at his hearing that he said what he did was "dumb" but noted the "amazing" characteristics of his vehicle when he was interviewed. He had reportedly owned the car for five months at the time of the incident.

Hertfordshire police told to BBC News that Patel was "extremely irresponsible", and that his actions could easily have resulted in his own death or that of other drivers. A representative of Tesla said during his court hearing that the function is not intended to impersonate a driver, and that he has defended the role in the past.

While Elon Musk has said that Tesla vehicles will have all the hardware necessary to drive autonomously, the company's autopilot function still has a long way to go before it is ready to be used as such. The function is designed to help a driver, and it is not infallible: there have been several high profile incidents in which drivers have connected to the Autopilot and crashed. Tesla is not alone here: a self-controlled Uber killed a pedestrian in March, which caused other companies such as Toyota and Nvidia to suspend their testing efforts.

Update, April 29, 2018, 3:40 PM ET : An earlier version of this article and headline says that the driver was sleeping, but it is not clear if that was the case. It has been updated to reflect that it was sitting in the passenger seat.