UK man barred from driving after misusing Tesla's Autopilot function

PHOTO: The Tesla logo appears on a brand new Tesla Model S on Aug. 2, 2017 in Corte Madera, Calif.PlayJustin Sullivan/Getty Images, FILE
WATCH Man temporarily barred from driving after autopilot ride in his Tesla

A driver in the United Kingdom was barred from driving for 18 months after he switched on his Tesla's Autopilot function and hopped into the passenger seat, leaving the steering wheel and pedals unattended, local police said.

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Last May, a witness filmed Bhavesh Patel, 39, lounging with his hands behind his head as his Tesla S 60 drove past at an estimated 40 mph.

Patel later admitted to police that his actions were "silly," adding that the car was "amazing" and bemoaning that he was the "unlucky one who got caught," officers reported.

He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, and was sentenced to 10 days rehabilitation plus 100 hours of unpaid work and banned from driving for 18 months.

"What Patel did was grossly irresponsible and could have easily ended in tragedy," the investigating police officer said in a statement, adding that Tesla's Autopilot is "in no way a substitute for a competent motorist."

Following a spate of accidents involving autopilot in the United States, Tesla has stressed that the feature is "intended for use only with a fully attentive driver."

When Autopilot detects that a driver's hands have left the wheel, the system sends out a series of visual and audio alerts warning him to take control. The frequency of alerts depends on a variety of factors, from vehicle speed to camera visibility. If the driver doesn't comply, eventually, the vehicle will gradually come to a stop and turn on the hazard lights.