By on April 29, 2018

Tesla Model S 85D Instrument Panel, Image: © 2016 David Marek/The Truth About Cars

If you’re wondering how many times this website has complained about people mishandling semi-autonomous driving systems, we’ve completely lost count. However, if you want further evidence that we are justified in constantly wringing our hands over the matter, you’re in luck.

On April 20th, Bhavesh Patel plead guilty to “dangerous driving” at St. Albans Crown Court in the United Kingdom. The term driving is a bit of a misnomer, though. Because Patel was actually sitting in the passenger seat of his Tesla Model S 60, while his vehicle traveled down the motorway driver free. The incident, which took place in May of last year, was caught by a fellow commuter and subsequently reported to authorities. Obviously, we had to find footage of the unbridled stupidity. 


The court settled on an 18-month driving ban and 100 hours of community service. According to The Guardian, he’ll also be forced to pay a court fee of £1,800.

“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,” said Police Constable Kirk Caldicutt. “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. I hope Patel uses his disqualification period to reflect on why he chose to make such a reckless decision on that day.”

Tesla Motors has attempted to improve Autopilot by requiring drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel after a fatal incident in Florida. It has also been adamant that the system is not intended to replace an alert driver. Unfortunately, that has not stopped individuals from abusing driving aids and autonomous hardware that’s still in its infancy.

The Hertfordshire Constabulary said Patel admitted he knew what he had done something “silly” when interviewed, but wanted to test the vehicle’s “amazing” features. He then claimed he was simply the “unlucky one who got caught.”

[Image: David Marek/The Truth About Cars]

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35 Comments on “Tesla Driver Offers Further Proof People Are Complete Idiots...”

  • avatar

    “Semi-autonomous “ cars for the general public is a bad idea.

  • avatar

    See, if the legal system and the government were *really* in it for the betterment of society, then the legal system would have let this guy go free and the government quickly pass legislation, legislation that I propose we name the “Darwin Act.” The executive summary of my proposed Darwin Act (this is a draft version) starts as follows: “Go ahead, crash.” and the gist of it is to limit manufacturer liability to $1 when a vehicle operator blatantly exhibits such egregiously bad judgment.

    The first couple years might be a little rough, but the problem will solve itself in the long run.

    During the rough period, attentive drivers will be just as safe as they were two years ago, five years ago, ten, etc. just as safe as always because *good* defensive driving is predicated on “the other guy” doing something utterly irrational.

    Who’s with me on this? Right-thinking people in all countries, contact your elected officials at once!

    If you’ve read this far and you’re wondering if I’m serious, consider this: the best satire is almost indistinguishable from from serious work…

    • 0 avatar

      well, you see, the problem with that is that the idiot Darwin award driver will also take out an innocent bystander or twelve. It’s not just other drivers being attentive; what about the pedestrians? Cyclists?

      That all being said, I have long held exactly the same attitude toward motorcycle riders. Don’t want to wear a helmet? That is perfectly fine. It’s YOUR choice. BUT: you may not force the consequences of your actions onto others or onto society as a whole. Someone turned in front of you, and you’re now a vegetable? Well, that’s your problem, not the other guy’s. And society spends not a dime to keep you alive. I hope you have enough private insurance.

    • 0 avatar

      ‘The first couple years might be a little rough, but the problem will solve itself in the long run.”

      Assuming you are serious…the problem is that the “rough period” might include one of these idiots running into you. Or your wife and kids. Or one your friends. And so on.

      • 0 avatar

        @FreedMike, if you think that is a depressing and frightening prospect that people like this will hurt or kill innocent people who you care about, here is something even more depressing: no matter what safeguards we do to try to prevent it, they’ll figure out a way around.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, I suppose you can tell yourself that if and when the blowback happens.

          That, or you can just chalk it up to “walking your walk.”

          I’d rather do something about it up front.

    • 0 avatar

      “to limit manufacturer liability to $1 when a vehicle operator blatantly exhibits such egregiously bad judgment.”

      No, if the manufacturer is at fault and liable then the manufacturer should pay. Here the manufacturer is clearly not liable; what the guy did is legally no different from me placing a house brick on the gas pedal and getting a dog to steer. Tesla should sue this doofus for smearing their name and reputation.

  • avatar
    Hamilton Guy

    In Ontario Canada we were fortunate that the other day we had someone help drain the shallow end of the gene pool by driving the wrong way on a 400 highway (think interstate) and hitting directly into the butt end of a concrete barrier, hard enough that the car traveled probably 100 yards straddling the barrier. As I say fortunately he didn’t hit anyone else on his wrong way down the highway for at least two interchanges.

    • 0 avatar

      “It is unclear how or when the vehicle entered the highway and why it was going the wrong way.”

      Well, let’s use our God-given common sense, shall we?

      Early hours of Saturday morning–that’s the technical way of saying “late Friday night”.

      And let’s not forget the “…after a full night of hard drinking”.

      This doesn’t take investigation. Clean up the broken bits so no one gets a flat tire, and move on to real police work that delivers something that living citizens need.

  • avatar

    It’s simple. Front passenger seats have weight sensors which turn the air bags off/on – no weight no bag. Put a weight sensor in the driver’s seat – no weight, no go.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t the drivers seats already have such a sensor, so as to evaluate the occupant’s weight and therefore control the severity of the airbag inflation?

      Oh God, please let it be that Musk was too stupid to tie that into the “Autopilot”. Even better: please let it be that an engineer proposed doing so and was turned down because “there will always be someone in the driver’s seat, right? We don’t have to worry about that. Moving on.”

      • 0 avatar

        Goodness no, jalop1991- please! It is precisely this school of thought that has produced follies like “no diving” labels on 12″ deep kiddie pools.

        The sooner that we stop coddling people like this driver, stop mandating layers and layers of electronic nannies to protect them from themselves and rewarding them for their lack of common sense and self-preservation, the better! Instead of fighting the laws of nature, we might as well try helping them.

      • 0 avatar

        No weight sensors on the driver’s seat on any make. It’s assumed there is an adult driving.

  • avatar

    Kind of like a “Rear Seat Reminder,” eh?
    For the idiot who forgets he has a vehicle with a rear seat.
    Or is it for the moronic idiot who has had a lobotomy, remembers he has a rear seat, but forgets he has a child?

  • avatar

    No, just some people are complete idiots. The problem is the do gooders who put all kinds of restrictions on the rest of us in a vain attempt to protect the idiots from themselves.

  • avatar

    The only abnormal thing I see in the attached video is that steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. I like Patel would also expect driver seat to be on left side. It is not his fault that Tesla put steering wheel on the wrong side. I hope Patel sues hell out of Tesla.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you’ll find it’s the correct side.

      When 2 knights passed on horse, they did so such that their right hand could engage in a swordfight if needed, this need them to pass to the left of each other, meaning left hand driving, eventually on a 2+ person carraige/car the coachman/driver would sit on the right – RHD.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s more, in medieval society there was no such thing as a left-handed knight, since young children who exhibited left-hand dominance were forcefully trained to use their right hand lest they be banished from society for being sinister and evil. (The English word sinister is derived from the Latin word for “left.”)

        Since the non-driver/passenger of this car chose to sit in the left seat, we could logically hypothesize that he was possessed by demons… when he had his day in court he should have invoked the Flip Wilson defense.

      • 0 avatar

        What knights? There never were bloody knights in America. May be two cowboys?

  • avatar

    Good thing he has a fully operational autonomous car, he doesn’t need to drive. Sounds like a vacation!

  • avatar

    Let us see.
    A Tesla is heavily computerized.
    The computer is driving the car.
    I know my computers have never crashed and needed a reboot, ever,
    While airplanes also fly by computer, the price point is a few orders of magnitude greater, and airplanes live in a world where the OTHER airplanes are accounted for by air traffic control
    Likewise, the stone simple by comparison in car entertainment has always worked perfectly.
    Also, unlike your computer, the Tesla lives outside, in weather and temperature.
    Yup, this guy’s a rocket scientist.
    I’d trust my life to Windows….sure.

    Normally whenever some crazy Brit driving story makes it over here, WTF (?) is the result, but here, he got off light.

  • avatar

    >Tesla Driver Offers Further Proof People Are Complete Idiots

    Thus providing competition for certain Camry and Prius drivers.

  • avatar

    Idiot putting lives in danger. Should suspend his license for 10 years.

  • avatar

    “Tesla drivers are complete idiots, here’s more proof”

    Fixed the headline.

  • avatar

    I guess news of Tesla Autopilot “failures/misuses” don’t make it all the way across the pond.

  • avatar

    Brits are little eccentric, thats all.

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