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Tesla driver falls foul of UK autopilot legalities

That went well, didn’t it?

tesla sentry mode and dog mode
Image: Tesla

YouTuber Tesla Driver has landed himself in some hot water this week. The UK video producer has over 90k followers on his Tesla Driver channel. In his videos, he explains the features of Tesla cars to his viewers. However, one of his most recent videos showcasing Tesla Autopilot has landed him in a bit of bother with local police.

See, Tesla Autopilot might be a cool feature. But, according to UK legislation, a driver must be in control of a vehicle at all times. If they’re not, then driving the vehicle is illegal and is subject to a court summons. Fortunately for Tesla Driver, he wasn’t caught not driving his Tesla around a (very complicated) UK roundabout. However, police have seen the video and warned Tesla Driver that his actions are, in fact, illegal.

I wasn’t driving the vehicle, officer

a map of Swindon's magic roundabout

Look at this absolute mess of a roundabout (Image: Hk_kng / Wikimedia CC)

So what exactly caused this outcry from UK transport authorities? Well, Tesla Driver took his Tesla out at 5 AM on UK roads to test the autopilot capabilities on a roundabout. Not just any roundabout, though. Swindon’s “magic roundabout” was the challenge for autopilot, here. You can see this roundabout in all its confusing glory, above. It looks a bit like a town planner had to bring the kid into work and let them have a go at roundabout design.

As you might be able to imagine, the autopilot doesn’t have a clue what to do with this situation and pleads for human intervention. Despite Tesla’s UK website stating that autopilot can deal with roundabouts, this clearly wasn’t the case as the video will show you. So, despite the illegalities of this particular maneuver, at least Tesla Driver is doing other drivers a service by highlighting the issue…I guess. Thankfully it was 5 AM and the roads were pretty clear, so the danger was minimal. Had this been during rush hour, who knows what could’ve happened?

Tesla Autopi-not

The UK’s Road Traffic Act (section 4) states that a driver must be in control of the vehicle at all times. This is why allowing your car to self-drive is illegal in the UK. A quick flick through Tesla Driver’s YouTube channel and you’ll see quite a few instances where the autopilot has been used. In heavy traffic, too. It might be a good time to start taking those particular videos down, Tesla Driver, as this is pretty incriminating in light of what Wiltshire Police told the BBC. Just a thought.

As the UK government starts looking into legalizing autonomous driving, perhaps they should be taking a look around them. There has been a lot of noise around how unreliable Tesla Autopilot is. Several crashes have occurred when drivers have been irresponsible (despite so many of them thinking it is a safe feature) In fact, a ruling in Germany has banned Tesla from even using the word autopilot. Courts claim that it is a misleading term as autonomous driving still requires full driver awareness. It looks like there is a long way to go before we have the full autonomous tech ecosystem that we began dreaming of many decades ago.

What do you think? How do you feel about autopilot features? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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