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Tesla owner faces 18-month ban for leaving the driver's seat

He put too much trust in Autopilot.
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PA Images via Getty Images

Tesla will be one of the first to tell you not to put too much faith in Autopilot. It's currently more of an advanced driver assist than a full self-driving system. However, one driver recently ignored that advice in dramatic fashion. Nottingham, UK resident Bhavesh Patel has received an 18-month driving ban after he was caught sitting in the passenger seat of his Model S on the M1 in May 2017. The man said he invoked Autopilot and was betting that its "amazing" semi-autonomous guidance would keep the car rolling at the estimated 40MPH of surrounding traffic.

He didn't crash, but that obviously didn't matter. Police noted that what he did was "grossly irresponsible" and was risking not just his life, but those of "other innocent people." On top of the ban, Patel has to work 100 unpaid hours, conduct 10 days of rehabilitation and pay £1,800 (about $2,480) in prosecution costs.

It almost goes without saying why doing this would be dangerous: Autopilot can keep your car in its lane and maintain a traffic-appropriate speed, but it won't perform evasive maneuvers or otherwise react well in emergencies. There is a question about how long Patel managed to keep Autopilot going, though. The system requires that you keep your hands on the wheel. Ignore warnings for a minute and Autopilot will not only switch off for the rest of the drive, but (if you continue to ignore it) bring the car to a complete halt. Patel most likely stayed in the passenger's seat for just a brief period, but it's slightly disconcerting that he had any time to crawl around the Model S without Autopilot bringing his experiment to a premature end.

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