Driver busted in passenger seat
A TESLA driver has been banned from the roads for 18 months and been ordered to do 100 hours community work after being busted on social media testing his car's "autopilot" technology from the passenger seat.
He was caught after being filmed from a passing car when other motorists noticed the driver's seat was empty.
The short clip shows Bhavesh Patel relaxing and stretching his arms from the passenger seat of the Tesla electric car while travelling about 60km/h on a motorway in the UK.
Part of Mr Patel's defence said he was the "unlucky one who got caught", according to a BBC report.
Mr Patel was only identified after the footage had been posted on social media.
In a subsequent police interview he reportedly told police what he did was "silly" but his car was capable of something "amazing".
However, a statement provided by Tesla said autopilot was never intended to replace a driver, rather it is designed to provide assistance to a "fully-attentive driver", according to the BBC report.
A statement from police said: "What Patel did was grossly irresponsible and could have easily ended in tragedy. He not only endangered his own life but the lives of other innocent people using the motorway on that day."
In addition to the 18 month driving ban and 100 hours of community service he was required to pay more than $3200 in court costs.
Over the past few years Tesla drivers in the US who have relied too heavily on the autonomous functions of their vehicles have been involved in at least two separate fatalities.
There have been no such incidents reported in Australia however if anyone were to attempt a similar move drivers would be hit with several big ticket fines and possible licence suspension for dangerous or negligent driving, and not having proper control of a motor vehicle.
The car industry is wrestling with how to introduce increased levels of autonomous vehicle technology without drivers placing too much faith in it.
Truly autonomous tech - where the steering wheel could even be deleted from the vehicle - is said to be at least five to 10 years away and may initially only be used in designated precincts, but those systems are far more advanced than what is available today.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling