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Tesla is busy working the bugs out of their self-driving vehicle systems to enable fully autonomous operation in the (hopefully) near future. For the meantime, Tesla drivers are supposed to still keep their hands on the wheel and remain “fully attentive drivers.” That didn’t stop one driver in the UK, however, who was caught on camera riding in the passenger seat as his Tesla operated on Autopilot. UK police were not amused. The driver, however, states that the practice is widespread and he was merely an unlucky one who got caught. Just how common is “ghost riding” in Teslas?
The driver behind this latest piece of unfortunate is Tesla news Bhavesh Patel, 39, of Nottingham, England. In May 2017, Patel was caught on camera riding in the passenger’s seat of his car as his white Tesla S 60 drove itself on the M1 motorway, one of the most crowded highways in the London area. Investigating officer PC Kirk Caldicutt calls Patel’s actions “grossly irresponsible.” After courts handed Patel an 18-month suspension of his license, 100 hours community service, 10-day rehab, and a £1,800 fine ($2,500), Caldicutt issued a statement claiming this case should serve as a warning for other over-eager Tesla drivers:
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.
Look – everyone wants cars to start driving themselves, but that doesn’t mean you can be unsafe in the meantime. It’s called a passenger seat for a reason. Tesla’s Autopilot feature might be one of the automaker’s biggest selling points, but it’s not ready yet. Even though Tesla has been selling Autopilot features for years, many of the advanced features still aren’t ready for release, meaning some drivers might have paid for features they’ll never be able to use. Well, legally, that is.