back to article Tesla driver killed after smashing into truck had just enabled Autopilot – US crash watchdog

In a preliminary report issued on Thursday, the US National Transportation Safety Board on said that a Tesla 3 crash on March 1 in Delray Beach, Florida, occurred while the vehicle's Autopilot system was active. "The driver engaged the Autopilot about 10 seconds before the collision," the report stated. "From less than 8 …

  1. veti Silver badge

    "the paper argues that the system's imperfections may be what keeps drivers attentive"

    Talk about making a virtue out of a flaw...

    Drivers wouldn't need to be attentive, if the damn' thing did what they clearly believe it does. So the question is, why are Tesla's salespeople (and remember, this is the company that bypasses the old channels and sells its own cars direct to the public) failing to make sure that their customers know exactly what "autopilot" does and doesn't do?

    (Note, I don't say they're not telling them - I have no experience or knowledge of their driver education programme. But clearly, a non-trivial number of their buyers complete their transaction without forming an accurate understanding of their new toy. So whatever they are telling them, it's not working.)

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Driver Aid

      "the paper argues that the system's imperfections may be what keeps drivers attentive"

      There was one episode of Top Gear years ago where Clarkson said something along the lines of the way to ensure driver attention and curb excessive speed would be to have a great big spike attached to the steering wheel pointing at the driver...

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Driver Aid

        There was one episode of Top Gear years ago where Clarkson said something along the lines of the way to ensure driver attention and curb excessive speed would be to have a great big spike attached to the steering wheel pointing at the driver...

        Clarkson wasn't the first to suggest this. Also, Tesla driversdorks will just go and sit in the passenger seat or the back seat.

        1. Steve K Silver badge

          Re: Driver Aid

          ...or the back seat.

          ...we're going to need a longer spike

          1. Paul Herber Silver badge

            Re: Driver Aid

            The Milligan: Oooo, I didn't know I came in different sizes.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Driver Aid

              And different colors/firmness.

              There was the back seat romper that made the news earlier...

          2. Kiwi
            Thumb Up

            Re: Driver Aid

            ...or the back seat.

            ...we're going to need a longer spike

            Or a shorter one, butt, well let's just say "in a more intimate position".

    2. TGM99

      The manual says you have to remain attentive, you have to turn on all the autopilot features in the menus where the driver is reminded to keep hands on the wheel and the car frequently prompts the the driver to Keep hands on the wheel while autopilot is on the only way to make it more clear is to paint it in block caps on the windscreen these crashes are simply the dumb and reckless getting themselves killed.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        If it has all those sensors and warnings, and (relating to the article - the steering wheel sensors can be made accurate) instead of just flashing up alerts, why not simply disable autopilot?

        It may sound counter-productive, and I'm not suggesting it as some sort of punishment! Basically, drivers will know that removing your hands form the wheel would be the same as removing your hands from the wheel of a "dumb" car, and it just wouldn't happen.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "the only way to make it more clear is to paint it in block caps on the windscreen"

        Some people need to be told "Objects in the rear view mirror...." or "The contents of this cup may be hot".

        I'm not sure if we are doomed or if this is just Darwin in action.

      3. veti Silver badge

        My point exactly. "The manual says" - when did we start treating that as a defence in cases of wrongful death?

        If the system requires you to RTFM or die, then the very least you need to do is to ensure that the importance of the reading - and following instructions - is forcefully impressed on your customer. What steps does Tesla take to ensure that?

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          He also wrote that there are warnings when turning autopilot on and it frequently warns the driver to pay attention when the feature is in operation.

          Here’s an annoying vid but a few mins in shows AP disables and stops the car if the driver isn’t paying attention

          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0s1fNng72Dk

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I agree that you have to be pretty nutty to go through all those on screen warnings to then ignore them all. But there's are dumb people out there. I know one person who abuses Autopilot, and they're otherwise quite a clever and intelligent engineer.

        It's just in some humans' nature to do this.

        So the real question is for how long can the company cover itself off from being liable with mere written warnings, prominently displayed? I don't know, possibly forever.

        However other companies have better technical means of working out whether or not the driver is actually paying attention. I gather GM's solution uses cameras and image processing to establish whether or not the driver's eyes are looking at the road (this kind of thing is quite mature tech). So a regulator may one day insist on that level of tech, and ban Autopilot in its current form.

        1. Kiwi
          Coat

          I agree that you have to be pretty nutty to go through all those on screen warnings to then ignore them all.

          "Clickthrough" - the bane of EULAs, the love of malware authors, and the nemesis of computer security types the world over.

          If people wouldn't even pause long enough to see if the words on screen were a warning or what before clicking "make this go away and stop nagging", what makes you think Tesla's warnings (if any) would be of any use?

          No. AP systems need to assume the driver is incapacitated 1/2 a second after turning them on. A spike (ala Mr Garrison's monocycle) should be erected to firmly hold them in place, then the car should pull over and stop at the first safe opportunity. And lock all the doors till emergency services arrive, to prevent any one taking advantage of the driver's incapacitated state.

          I'm sure a few reports of Tesla's autopilot fucking up someone's day in a different way will make people think twice about turning it on. Cept those who get turned on by such things...

        2. rg287 Silver badge

          So the real question is for how long can the company cover itself off from being liable with mere written warnings, prominently displayed? I don't know, possibly forever.

          For as long as they have fewer deaths per million Autopilot-miles driven than not.

          We know that ABS is safer and more effective than pumping the brakes. We don't get headlines every time someone dies because ABS "wasn't enough".

          The media is making much that Autopilot isn't perfect. It doesn't need to be. It needs to be better - just like ABS is better than manual pumping and dynamic stability control can respond faster/better than a human.

          However other companies have better technical means of working out whether or not the driver is actually paying attention. I gather GM's solution uses cameras and image processing to establish whether or not the driver's eyes are looking at the road (this kind of thing is quite mature tech). So a regulator may one day insist on that level of tech, and ban Autopilot in its current form.

          Volvo are as well. Autopilot in its current form is unlikely to need "banning" since it will move with the times, just as ABS, and Stability/Traction Controls haven't needed to be mandated - they've just been included as manufacturers have recognised their value. 2018-grade Autopilot might not be compliant with future safety rules, but that's unlikely to be an issue since Tesla will not be trying to sell 2018-grade Autopilot.

          I believe new Tesla Model-S (possibly also X/3) now have a driver-facing camera in the cabin. It doesn't do anything at the moment, but with hardware installed, gaze-tracking could only be a software-update away.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      At the time of the "accident" were you:

      [ ] engaged in any particular sex act with a prostitute you hired and filming for PornHub.

      [ ] Of the belief that you could drive your Tesla under a truck with little/no consequence.

      [ ] Hoping that if you set fire to the car in a garage in Shanghai that Tesla would not investigate.

      [X] Expecting that since the bloody car is advertised as autononous that it can at least drive itself.

      1. Marty McFly Silver badge
        Holmes

        Too late...

        "[ ] engaged in any particular sex act with a prostitute you hired and filming for PornHub."

        Pretty sure that one has already been done. I may have to do some NSFW web browsing for 'research purposes' to confirm.

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Too late...

          https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/05/04/tesla_nooky_video/

      2. TheVogon

        "[X] Expecting that since the bloody car is advertised as autononous that it can at least drive itself."

        Teslas are advertised as getting autonomous driving features in the future by a software update. Autopilot is not that.

    4. NoneSuch Silver badge
      Mushroom

      "The report, we note, doesn't assign blame to anyone in particular."

      I can blame a few people on this one. There is zero need for automatic driving, because crap like this will happen all the time with it. From the p0rn film being filmed in the front seat of a moving Tesla to people just being idiots in general, sleeping on their way into work or making a Jackass style video.

      If you're incapable of driving your own vehicle, you shouldn't have a license, period. Should come with an "I'm too dim to drive my own vehicle" bumper sticker.

      No Tesla auto-drive system will ever be idiot proof.

    5. Steve Channell
      Facepalm

      physics always wins

      Stopping sand time is a function of speed, the only way to avoid collision is go slower when objects can enter your stop zone. Road trains on motorways would be safe about 100 if the lead car is an expert, 20 in urban areas is safe if not following another car.

      Urban slow is fine if you can use the time for work/leisure.. and solves the problem of your hire car driving itself to a charging point.

      The Tesla version is a cop-out.. pandering to the rich

  2. JustWondering

    What's the point?

    If you have to keep your hands on the wheel, it isn't AutoPilot. Call me when it is safe to engage before jumping in the backseat.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: What's the point?

      I guess the AutoPilot doesn't do or know about emergency braking? Given where the truck was in this case, even swerving wouldn't have done much good.

      1. T. F. M. Reader

        Re: What's the point?

        I guess the AutoPilot doesn't do or know about emergency braking?

        That's an excellent point whether or not it is applicable. Much less flashy or "disruptive" cars such as Volkswagens have "Front Assist" or similar technology that knows how to brake when something, say, another vehicle or a pedestrian, suddenly blocks their path. In fairness, brakes are automatically applied at slow speeds only (which is why it may be inapplicable in this case), but various alarms sound in all situations, AFAIK.

        Certainly MobilEye beeps a lot. In my experience, MobilEye has an awful lot of false positives and even more unnecessary alarms that distract more than they contribute (the last thing you need in a "tricky situation" which you are aware of is yet another beep).

        However, I do get an impression that Tesla's AutoPilot just drives into those trucks without any alarm whatsoever. I don't recall ever reading that "the vehicle alerted the driver about the impending collision, but the driver did not as much as attempt to brake or swerve, probably because he/she was too distracted / slept at the wheel" (yes, I remember there was someone literally asleep while AutoPilot was driving - he wasn't injured, was he?).

        I would expect the car to record such alarms in some kind of "black box" and/or telemetry. I would expect NTSB to have this info in its reports. I would expect Tesla to emphasize that in its statements. It seems that none of that happens, time after time. I may have missed those parts, and I would be happy if either El Reg or its commentards add the necessary info - it may be interesting/important.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: What's the point?

          My 2016 Nissan has emergency braking (though I never had the occasion to test it and hope I never will). It also has sensors scanning in front and comparing to the car's speed and beeps if approaching another object too fast (for example if car in front brakes suddenly). The newer models also steer back into the correct lane if they detect that you're steering out - I tried something similair in a different hire car and it worked very nicely, gently decisive without being too sudden or intrusive.

          I think that's it's these sort of driver-assist technologies that are the best life-savers right now. Driver still has full attention, car helps out to improve/focus that attention.

          If the driver believe they can take their hands off the wheel and stop paying attention, it's a recipe for disaster because the technology isn't yet ready for that. Of course the only way the technology WILL be ready is by incremental improvements and in-real-world testing.

          Bottom line -

          (a) Tesla, stop calling your effing advanced driving assist 'Autopilot'. It isn't.

          (b) Besides all the AI gubbins that go into Autopilot there should be a seperate emergency driver assist that does emergency braking like a 'normal' car. This system should be totally independent of 'autopilot' and overrides it if necessary.

          (c) Tesla drivers, keep your effing hands on the effing wheel and *pay attention to the bloody road*. YOU are the driver.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: What's the point?

            The newer models also steer back into the correct lane if they detect that you're steering out - I tried something similair in a different hire car and it worked very nicely, gently decisive without being too sudden or intrusive.

            I've driven a car with that. It was intensely annoying, especially on twisty country lanes where it's often impossible to keep a large car fully within the lane all the time without scraping along the hedge.

            I think that's it's these sort of driver-assist technologies that are the best life-savers right now. Driver still has full attention, car helps out to improve/focus that attention.

            On the contrary, if you're drifting out of a lane to the point where a gadget has to tell you about it then you very clearly are not paying full attention.

            keep your effing hands on the effing wheel and pay attention to the bloody road

            Applies to all drivers, not just Tesla, and the best way to ensure it is to stop fllling cars with stupid gadgets that encourage drivers to pay less attention. When you're the driver you should be driving, with 100% of your attention on that single task. In which case there is zero need for "driver aids".

            1. NATTtrash

              Re: What's the point?

              I've driven a car with that. It was intensely annoying, especially on twisty country lanes...

              Hear, hear. Call me old fashioned, but all these "help systems" never seem to work on the roads I (have to) drive on. Maybe it works for lazy, "can't drive properly any way" drivers in countries with long, endless roads without corners, driving along at geriatric speeds (while drinking coffee and checking phone). I know I'm probably the odd one out, but just try to use even cruise control in European traffic. So good luck with all the other intelligent car tech. Maybe it isn't that bad that my S Railcard isn't that far away...

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: What's the point?

                I've driven a car with that. It was intensely annoying, especially on twisty country lanes...

                It's not intended for twisty country lanes, or urban traffic systems where crossing lanes is inevitable. That's why the button to switch it on and off is usually (on decent car brands) on the steering wheel as a frequently used priority control. It also doesn't operate below certain speeds, it flashes up a warning that LDA isn't available sometimes when it figures out it's no use.

                All it does is detect drift out of lane without a signal then beeps and gently eases you back. If it detects any counter turn on the steering it gives up immediately. I've only ever had it work when I've forgot to signal, but I am really pleased that it will be available for some drivers I've seen. They are not just a danger to themselves.

                I've found it well thought through and I'm very pleased to accept the insurance discount I get for having htat button on the steering wheel.

              2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: What's the point?

                "just try to use even cruise control in European traffic"

                That's where adaptive cruise control really shines. As traffic speeds up and slows down, so does the cruise control. It just has to be made so it doesn't accelerate hard when the car in front moves over exposing a gore point where the road divides.

                I don't care for the "assist" stuff. Sometimes I'll drift to one side of the marked lane when I'm passing a bicyclist or something that isn't in my lane, but close. I don't want the car to pull back over to the center of the lane on it's own and risk side swiping somebody or hitting the big puddle that I was trying to avoid.

            2. MrXavia

              Re: What's the point?

              "On the contrary, if you're drifting out of a lane to the point where a gadget has to tell you about it then you very clearly are not paying full attention."

              Completely agree with you there, I know round my way there is no way lane keeping tech could be used, the lanes are not wide enough for the car to keep to one side of the marked lanes, there are passing places where needed... and some roads that you need to drive on the other side if you want to avoid loosing wheels in the pot holes....

            3. Glen 1

              Re: What's the point?

              Stupid gadgets like phones?

              There's always the 'im a good driver' brigade who thinks that taking risks and not (yet) dying makes them good drivers.

              'cyclists shouldn't be on the road'

              'sunday drivers who dare to obey the speed limit shouldn't be allowed on the roads'

              Etc

            4. missingegg

              Re: What's the point?

              I agree that in an ideal world, human drivers would first be well trained, and then when operating a vehicle would maintain complete focus on the task of driving, taking breaks whenever they're unable to continue doing so. But we just don't live in an ideal world. Across any large population of drivers, many people will fall short of what I'd like to see. The question for driver assist technology is whether or not it results in fewer accidents, injuries, and deaths. Tesla claims their data says that it does. I'd like to see an independent analysis of that, but I'm inclined to believe them.

              1. JohnG

                Re: What's the point?

                I guess insurers will be best placed to make this assessment. In the UK, Direct Line gives a 5% discount for Tesla cars which have autopilot, so they clearly believe there is a benefit.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: What's the point?

                  "so they clearly believe there is a benefit."

                  Or they see it as a good way to get owners of higher priced (and higher to insure) cars to contract with them. It would be nice to have a time machine to see if they still offer that discount 5 years from now.

            5. Adrian Midgley 1

              Re: What's the point?

              And yet, there are fewer deaths now than before cars hot gadgets.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: What's the point?

                And yet, there are fewer deaths now than before cars hot gadgets.

                And significantly cheaper insurance (I've found) for the cars with the gadgets.

            6. Kiwi

              Re: What's the point?

              In which case there is zero need for "driver aids"

              I partially disagree.

              I've driven in traffic where some twit pretty much rides the brake. It is difficult to tell if this time they're using the pedal as a foot rest or if they're slowing gently, or braking hard. After a few thousand times of them not actually slowing down, you automatically distrust their brake lights. A tool that uses methods other than my eyes to alert me to how rapidly the car ahead is braking would be helpful.

              I tend to give myself enough distance but a moment's distraction (eg checking the mirror/blindspots to see if it's safe to change lane) at the wrong time can quickly lead to disaster.

              We humans have at least a 1 second reaction time, and often it is slower. Anything that can be on the brakes before us is helpful. Something that beeps and gently applies the brakes is going to significantly reduce emergency stopping distances as by the time I am ready to respond, there is already some loading of the front wheels and my sudden stab at the brake pedal is going to work better with this than without.

              And one of the best aids I have is the GPS. Despite nearly 30 years in this area there are still many roads I simply haven't learned, and I also often travel to places I have seldom been, or never been before. The GPS audibly tells me where I need to go, and sometimes I can glance at the screen to get an idea when I need to be looking for a different lane or for other road information. No, I do not rely on the GPS to tell me what the road is doing - that is the job of my eyes, ears and nose (yes, as a motorcyclist my nose is an important tool in telling me about the road conditions) - but it saves me having to take my eyes off the road for a map or to look at street signs.

              Not all aids are bad, but some should be quietly taken out the back and shot. Followed by their designer.

              1. kiwimuso

                Re: What's the point?

                @Kiwi

                apropos your comment re reaction time, surely, if you are relying on someone's brake lights to tell whether they are slowing or not, then in my opinion, you are driving far too close.

                What happened to the "being able to stop in 1/2 the clear distance".

                I hope that you are not following me if you are relying on my brake lights.

                My first reaction to something (well) ahead of the car in front is simply take my foot off the accelerator. My second reaction is change down sufficient gears that if I have to accelerate suddenly to avoid anything, then I am always (well, mostly) in the right gear to do so. Brakes are the last thing I resort to unless of course it is an emergency due to some f***wit changing lanes suddenly without either a) signalling, or b) doing so so late that it becomes an emergency. Or even not bothering to signal at all.

                You know, the sort of idiots you get driving on our roads daily, and all done at around 100 kph!

                I get the feeling that the more so-called safety gizmos that they put in cars the worse the driving becomes. How about those people that rely entirely on those they are cutting in front of, to be alert and have good brakes, you know, like large articulated lorries. Darwin will out, no matter how many safety assist, or laws are in place.

                As I have often said for many years now, "You can not legislate for idiots or the ignorant."

                1. Kiwi
                  Pint

                  Re: What's the point?

                  Sorry I missed this at the time, but would like to respond (late as it is :) )

                  apropos your comment re reaction time, surely, if you are relying on someone's brake lights to tell whether they are slowing or not, then in my opinion, you are driving far too close.

                  What happened to the "being able to stop in 1/2 the clear distance".

                  I hope that you are not following me if you are relying on my brake lights.

                  The example I quoted is where someone is riding their brakes - tapping/pressing the pedal enough for the brake lights to come on but not actively slowing down. I've seen cars with a faulty/badly adjusted brake light switch where this same effect is visible. Another you may've seen are those with the bright "rear fog gaurd" lights that 'drown out' the brake lights in red noise. Either way, the situation is the brake lights are on a lot and give no indication to how fast the driver is slowing.

                  After a lot of these, especially if it is someone who thinks you're following to close (IMO in which case you are, back off some more!), you can become accustomed to seeing their brake lights come on without any clear reason (they're not slowing for corners or hazards, they're just flashing their brakes). When for some reason these people do brake much harder

                  You know NZ's scenery. How often have you seen someone (often a tourist but not always from o/seas) suddenly brake hard in a highway without warning because they've just spotted a pretty waterfall or cute bird or something? No turn offs, no other traffic, just this person unexpectedly braking hard. Again, it can be hard to judge their rate of deceleration especially if there's a corner approaching and your first inclination is that they're slowing for the corner, not braking to a stop.

                  It takes our brains a moment to assess a situation and react. If our assessment is off, which is easy to do, then what may've been a 4-second following distance at 100kph can very quickly become an "OH FUCK moment when someone does something unexpected. When the situation started I may've been able to stop in 1/10th of the distance ahead but if I mis-calculate their actions you can run out of space quickly.

                  I don't just rely on brake lights, but often they're one of the first indicators someone is slowing. When someone just takes their foot off the gas, following drivers don't have a way to see you're slowing until the rate of closure gets fast enough.

                  PS, I've been well known in NZ circles for promoting "If in doubt, stretch it out" - good following distances are something I believe the cops should be harder on. My bike can easily out-brake your car, in when bad stuff happens the last thing I want is to have to think of what the person behind is doing as well as the stuff happening in front/beside me. The biggest asset you have when driving is time - time to see, choose an action, and act - time to stop if needed, or pass, or change lanes, or pull off and take a break/calm down. If I have concerns about the nature of the road, I start giving myself extra space. This does tend to antagonise any idiot following me (and we see far to many of them on Kiwi roads), but means we'll get there without worse incident.

                  And yes, I often drop down a cog or two in readiness for things happening a few seconds ahead. Like the comment you replied to where I talked of the front being "loaded" (weight transfer etc taking place) due to automatic systems, I sometimes also like to do much the same to the rest of my drivetrain - engine is already at higher RPM, clutch engaged, gears engaged, all that's needed is a stomp on the gas.

          2. Baldrickk

            Re: What's the point?

            (a) Tesla, stop calling your effing advanced driving assist 'Autopilot'. It isn't.

            Except, what does a plane autopilot do? Takes you to assigned altitude, direction and airspeed.

            Why do people think that an "autopilot" in a car should do more?

            I'll agree that it's not a great name, in terms of description of the system. But it's hardly over-selling its capabilities.

            If people want to misinterpret that, then that's on them.

            1. Craig 2

              Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

              With aircraft autopilot you could be completely hands off and not paying attention while cruising. I'm not saying pilots actually do that, but that's the impression the public get when they hear "autopilot". Hence the confusion with Tesla's naming.

              Pilot generally (not exclusively I know) refers to aircraft, you wouldn't say you "pilot a car".

              Badly chosen name that would be a massive climb-down if they were forced to change it now. It is an advanced driver assist, nothing more.

              1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                Mushroom

                Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

                If teslas had the luxury of as much clear space around them as aircraft have, there wouldn't be many crashes either.

                (in the early days of aircraft autopilots, mid-air collisions did happen as the planes were programmed to take the same routes)

                1. Adrian Midgley 1

                  Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

                  Autopilots were not programmable in their early years.

                  1. Kiwi

                    Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

                    Autopilots were not programmable in their early years.

                    No, but pilots are.

                2. Stoneshop Silver badge

                  Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

                  (in the early days of aircraft autopilots, mid-air collisions did happen as the planes were programmed to take the same routes)

                  You may be thinking of the habit of following railroad tracks, which resulted in at least one head-on collision before the convention to keep the track to the left of the airplane was established.

                  Most mid-air collisions between civil aircraft likely to have been using autopilot at that moment

                  have been ATC errors (like wrong flightlevel assigned) or navigational (craft is outside airlane, wrong altitude set, etc.). Not counting collisions between two or more military planes most mid-air collisions have been either between a civil airliner on autopilot and a military or recreational aircraft.

              2. Donn Bly

                Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

                With aircraft autopilot you could be completely hands off and not paying attention while cruising. I'm not saying pilots actually do that, but that's the impression the public get when they hear "autopilot". Hence the confusion with Tesla's naming.

                And if two planes on autopilot are at the same altitude and on a converging bearing then autopilot will fly those two planes into each other. Telsa's autopilot actually does MORE in the sense of evasive action than autopilot in a small plane.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

                  "And if two planes on autopilot are at the same altitude and on a converging bearing then autopilot will fly those two planes into each other"

                  No. If you are flying VFR and using autopilot to maintain a constant speed and altitude, you are still scanning the sky and the instruments. Visual Flight Rules require that the pilot is always looking for traffic.

                  If you are flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) with the autopilot engaged, you have been assigned an altitude, speed and heading. You have to monitor the radio and listen for ATC issuing you changes and handovers to the next ATC center. Check out StevoKinevo's YouTube channel. He flies small craft for a living and vlogs mainly his deadhead flights. After a while, you pick up the routine and he does a good job of explaining the instructions ATC is giving him. Autopilot on an aircraft is mainly a way to keep from cramping up and it lets the pilot monitor other things with more attention without having to worry about keeping straight and level.

                  1. Donn Bly

                    Re: what does a plane autopilot do?

                    "No. If you are flying VFR and using autopilot to maintain a constant speed and altitude, you are still scanning the sky and the instruments. Visual Flight Rules require that the pilot is always looking for traffic."

                    In other words, just like autopilot in a Telsa where the rules say you are supposed to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

                    The point is that when those rules aren't followed then the two aircraft can and will fly into each other and the autopilot won't take evasive action on its own (unless equipped with TCAS, which most small general aviation craft are not). Mid-Air collisions are rare, but they do happen when people don't follow the rules. As such, your answer should have been "yes" instead of "no".

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: What's the point?

              Autopilot on airplanes doesn't require you to keep your hands on the stick at all times, and you will never be called upon to take back control and make decisions within a second because things in the air simply don't happen that fast. You will need to take back control and make decisions within a second with Tesla's version, therefore it is quite inferior to what is present on airplanes.

              Anyway, what autopilot does on planes is IRRELEVANT. What matters is what the general public THINKS it does on planes. And they think it flies the damn plane without the pilot, which is why Tesla calling it that is probably responsible for at least some of these deaths. Had they called it "SuperAssist" or something that wouldn't give the impression it could drive by itself, people wouldn't assume it can do much more than it is capable of and wouldn't be needlessly dying.

              1. LDS Silver badge

                "because things in the air simply don't happen that fast"

                Actually, they could happen quite faster - as airplane flies much faster and can't brake so easily - when for any reason two planes get too close, or you set the autopilot the wrong way and it's driving you into troubles.

                Autopilot does allow pilots to perform other tasks (i.e. navigate) but a pilot doesn't usually activate an autopilot just because he or she believes is cool, or to answer a message on the phone or play Fortnite.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: "because things in the air simply don't happen that fast"

                  "or you set the autopilot the wrong way and it's driving you into troubles."

                  If you are flying IFR and deviate from your flight plan or ATC instructions, they'll call you on the radio to find out why you aren't doing what they told you. If your flying visually, you are using landmarks on the ground to navigate, although you could also use GPS or an autopilot, but you are still supposed to be looking out to avoid anybody else flying around, birds, weather balloons, hot air balloons, etc.

            3. Kiwi
              Pint

              Re: What's the point?

              (a) Tesla, stop calling your effing advanced driving assist 'Autopilot'. It isn't.

              Except, what does a plane autopilot do? Takes you to assigned altitude, direction and airspeed.

              Why do people think that an "autopilot" in a car should do more?

              The answer to that is really, really very simple. The vast majority of us are NOT pilots. Not even 1% of the general population has so much as used a flight simulator game let alone been trained to fly a real aircraft.

              Modern airliners do, BTW, have a "auto land" feature which can be used in low-visibility situations. Something I didn't actually know till today. (Well, "know" depends on the accuracy of the material I read - which may of course not be so accurate).

              I've played "realistic" WWII flight sim games where I can put the plane on autopilot and instead of just flying straight and level it will fly to waypoints, attack targets it meets along the way, fly to other waypoints and eventually land (complete with reducing airspeed, lining up some miles out, setting flaps, lowering gear, landing, taxiing to the hanger and shutting down the engine). I've seen movies where aircraft do all sorts of amazing stuff on AP. And of course there is the name itself, which means "self drive".

              TL;DR : Unless we see a very big increase in the attendance at pilot training programs, don't expect the rest of us to know that "autopilot" doesn't mean "automatic pilot".

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's the point?

            Teslas have emergency braking. However like most cars that have this feature it doesn't work well for stationary objects that suddenly appear in view. For instance the adaptive cruise control and emergency brake assist on my car (regular European car) doesn't work very well if a car swerves into my lane or a car in front dashes out of my lane revealing a stopped object in front.

            If a car in my lane is travelling in front and then brakes hard it will detect it and brake. S o for instance a car pulled out of a side lane a couple of days ago right into my path with no time to allow me to brake to stop hitting it, but the emergency braking didn't activate at all (luckily I was able to fully brake and steer around coming to a halt a couple of metres later right in front of a traffic island).

            The car manufacturers do this somewhat on purpose as the ride experience would be worse with lots of false positives - it would be emergency braking for overhead gantries and bridges where the road dips before them. This could be more dangerous for a rear end collision (and a very uncomfortable ride) which would could result in lawsuits for the manufacturer and insurance claims against the driver.

            Therefor these features are 'last resort' that may help in some circumstance but don't rely on them. Many times a Tesla has been shown to avoid a collision (the one where a car was stopped in front of another car and the Tesla recognised it from reflected radar was quite impressive). However Tesla has a lot of critics so no-one seems to mention the fault of a truck crossing a road in front of a vehicle, or put too much emphasis on a driver who doesn't pay attention, it is all on the TESLA which drove the poor guy straight into the truck like a killbot. I don't believe that there is anyone who drives a Tesla who doesn't know that it isn't a fully automated self-driving vehicle and that, through numerous publicity, realises you have to keep attention. However there is a worry that some people will choose to ignore this, like they'll text on their phone or search for their wallet in the footwell while driving.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: What's the point?

              However Tesla has a lot of critics so no-one seems to mention the fault of a truck crossing a road in front of a vehicle,

              With the previous Tesla versus truck accident the NTSB report notes that the Tesla driver would have had 8 seconds to take evasive action. From the point of view of the truck driver, the Tesla was 8 seconds away from the moment of impact, or, at the speed the Tesla was going, 250 meters. With that much distance to an approaching car the truck driver would be right in expecting the car driver to see the truck in time, and adjust their speed and/or change lanes to pass behind the trailer if it wasn't clear of the lane yet. There's a bit of a bend and some shrubbery at that point in the approaching lane, so those 250 meters is likely what the truck driver can have seen. The NTSB didn't see fault in crossing given those circumstances.

              In this case the view is totally unrestricted for miles, and the distance at which the Tesla would have been spotted (and a human driver in the Tesla similarly would have seen the truck) a lot further than 300 meter (at which point the Autopilot was activated, and the Tesla driver's brain clearly deactivated)

              1. Eddy Ito

                Re: What's the point?

                Indeed, the driver only activated the autopilot 10 seconds prior to the crash and at the stated 68 mph it would put him almost exactly 300 meters away. To me the question is why was he activating autopilot with the truck clearly visible ahead and why take his hands off at 8 seconds (only 240 meters) before impact?

                1. Eddy Ito

                  Re: What's the point?

                  Just to follow up, this would approximately be the view ahead as he took his hands off the wheel. The truck would have been turning into the second drive on the right just before the orange road work signs. It quite boggles my mind.

                  1. Alan_Peery

                    Re: What's the point?

                    Except that's not the turn the truck is described as taking,which is *out* of the driveway to go northbound.

                    You're also south of the address given in the linked report, as you're on FL7 and not 441. Report says 14000 block of 441...

                    1. Eddy Ito

                      Re: What's the point?

                      My mistake, you are correct, the truck was heading east, out of the driveway. That would mean that the view of the truck would have been side on the whole time which would make it more visible.

                      The address, I believe, is correct as FL7 and US 441 overlay each other on that particular stretch of road, the street number of the farm is 14095, it matches figure 1 in the NTSB report linked in the article, and the farm is likely the "agricultural facility" mentioned in the report.

                      Perhaps the paint job of the truck or trailer contributed. I didn't see it mentioned in the report.

                      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                        Re: What's the point?

                        Perhaps the paint job of the truck or trailer contributed.

                        First Fleet trailers appear to be a metallic light grey; the trucks don't seem to have a particular livery.

                        With the other accident the Tesla was driving into the sun and both the trailer and truck were white-ish, so I can figure the vision system being fooled into not seeing them. In this case the sun was in the East, not that high yet, and the car was driving due South.

                    2. WolfFan Silver badge

                      Re: What's the point?

                      That part of US 441 is FL 7.

                  2. Robert Forsyth

                    Re: What's the point?

                    I 'love' the truck skid marks across the cycle lane.

                2. Char Gar Gothakon
                  WTF?

                  Re: What's the point?

                  I don't know if it would have done any good, but I would have engaged the brakes instead of the autopilot 10 seconds prior to the crash.

                  1. Kiwi
                    Pint

                    Re: What's the point?

                    I don't know if it would have done any good, but I would have engaged the brakes instead of the autopilot 10 seconds prior to the crash.

                    I can't think of any land vehicle that would've come to grief under those circumstances with 8 seconds warning.

                    You'd not have to fully apply the brakes, just slow some so the truck had time to cross (don't whinge about your rights, you can move a lot easier than a truck can and you'll also whinge should your delivery not arrive on time - cut the heavy vehicle drivers some slack or grow/make/collect all your own food and goods![*]), and/or change lanes and get around the truck.

                    A car like a Tesla could probably stop from those speeds in less than 8 seconds. I should take my old POS with crappy brakes out on a quiet stretch of highway sometime soon and see what time it takes to bring her to a complete stop from those speeds.

                    [*] Not aimed at Char Gar Gothakon, unless CGG is one of those who whinges just because a truck caused them to briefly slow by 3kph or change lane

                    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                      Re: What's the point?

                      A car like a Tesla could probably stop from those speeds in less than 8 seconds. I should take my old POS with crappy brakes out on a quiet stretch of highway sometime soon and see what time it takes to bring her to a complete stop from those speeds.

                      Just take your foot off the accelerator and check how much your speed has dropped from 70mph (115 km/h) in those 8 seconds

                      1. Kiwi
                        Pint

                        Re: What's the point?

                        A car like a Tesla could probably stop from those speeds in less than 8 seconds. I should take my old POS with crappy brakes out on a quiet stretch of highway sometime soon and see what time it takes to bring her to a complete stop from those speeds.

                        Just take your foot off the accelerator and check how much your speed has dropped from 70mph (115 km/h) in those 8 seconds

                        I know - I often take the foot off the gas and cover the brake pedal when I see a potential hazard ahead (eg kids/animals on the side of the road). The first thing this does is give me a little more time to respond by the car slowing, second is it increases my reaction time, 3rd is it "reprograms" my brain into being more alert to hazards - I can respond much more quickly if things change. This has saved me from 3 incidents I can think of, 2 of which involved kids darting out onto the road.

                        The fun thing is, the more you slow the more time you have to deal with things. The better you are at progressive braking the faster you can stop as well (ABS helps a lot here for most drivers - not as good as well-practiced progressive braking but much better than the average bear). I always recommend get out to a car park or other quiet safe area every few weeks and practice putting your vehicle through emergency manoeuvres. That way you don't have to think about what to do when you have to change direction in a heartbeat, and you know what your car will do (eg will it pull to the left).

                    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

                      Re: What's the point?

                      I can't think of any land vehicle that would've come to grief under those circumstances with 8 seconds warning.

                      The Velorex*, probably. Although it wouldn't be able to go 68mph as it is, anyway. On the other hand, it would very likely pass underneath the trailer without damage.

                      On one of the 'old' Top Gear episodes, Tiff Needell got to take one for a spin and commented "You don't so much activate the brakes as rather write them a letter requesting them to reduce your speed, oh, sometime next week".

                      * Czechoslovak three-wheeled vehicle, canvas 'body' over tubing, 250cc or 350cc two-stroke engine. Drum brakes.

                      1. Kiwi

                        Re: What's the point?

                        Drum brakes.

                        I always wondered if the "drum" in drum brakes more referred to the drum-roll heard at circuses and other places when someone was psyching themselves up to perform a rather dangerous (at least to the audience) stunt. And with many of the vehicles I've driven with drum brakes, at the delay they seem to have, I do think it's quite an apt definition! :)

                    3. Char Gar Gothakon
                      Pint

                      Re: What's the point?

                      "[*] Not aimed at Char Gar Gothakon, unless CGG is one of those who whinges just because a truck caused them to briefly slow by 3kph or change lane."

                      I assure you that I am not that type of person. I drive pragmatically/defensively. If I need to slow down or take other action to prevent injury, then I'll happily slow down.

                      1. Kiwi
                        Pint

                        Re: What's the point?

                        If I need to slow down or take other action to prevent injury, then I'll happily slow down

                        Thanks. I appreciate people driving to the conditions :)

                        You may want to wait a while though before your next drive - too many of these apparently doesn't help the brain keep the car on the road! -->

                3. aks

                  Re: What's the point?

                  Two things come to my cynical mind.

                  1. Is this Tesla a normal, road-worthy production car and the driver a normal, untrained driver or is Autopilot still being treated as a prototype and the driver a test-pilot?

                  2. Suicide by Autopilot. Engaging Autopilot with 10 seconds remaining before the crash, with the truck presumably in clear sight ahead makes me ask that question (not answer it).

                  What I don't know is whether Autopilot is continuously evaluating its environment or only starts doing so when the driver engages it. In the latter case, how long would it take to evaluate the situation and take a decision?

          4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: What's the point?

            My 2015 Nissan does as well... It doesn't work as well as advised (the dent on my bumper reminds me so....).

            In the flip side, I have cruise control that I do use and lane departure which I don't since it tends to go mental on some of the roads near my house. I'd always trust my own instincts over my car saving me from myself as it proved to me that it's not as capable as it would have you believe (and dont even get me started on the blind spot indicators in inclement weather)

          5. Nifty Silver badge

            Re: What's the point?

            It's called autopilot because the drivers brain is on it.

        2. defiler

          Re: What's the point?

          I would expect the car to record such alarms in some kind of "black box" and/or telemetry. I would expect NTSB to have this info in its reports.

          This is a very good idea, and I have no idea if it's the case. But not just record the alarms. Of course they wouldn't take up much memory in the diagnostic log, but if it were also to include a "flight data recorder" for want of a better name, it could record every piece of data from every sensor in the car for (say) 30 seconds after the alarm. If there's not been a catastrophic event in that time (sudden spike in G-forces, for example, which would deploy the seatbelt pre-tentioners, airbags etc) then the data can be overwritten.

          That level of detail would help crash investigations to recreate the incident fairly accurately and understand why people died. It would also allow Tesla to recover the data and determine why their automation systems failed to prevent a collision (even a non-fatal one).

          Might not be a bad feature to fit to all cars with fancy cruise control, auto-braking and all that malarkey, in fact. And it needn't record any data until the alarm were triggered, so it wouldn't wear out flash storage and it wouldn't be a constant snoop in the cabin.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's the point?

            wouldn't be a constant snoop in the cabin

            On the other hand, why not let them send all the data to your insurance company, with premiums based on how often the electronics has to correct your driving? (I'm not entirely joking here)

            1. defiler

              Re: What's the point?

              ...says the guy posting AC...

              Mostly because people would like a little privacy. I know I would. I'd also like my insurance company not to know if I was doing 85mph to overtake on the motorway, or 25mph in the (ridiculous) 20 zones, or things like that.

              Didn't cause a problem? Fair play - no harm, no foul.

              Crashed? Alright - let's see just how naughty a boy/girl you were, and how hard we need to throw the book at you.

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: What's the point?

                Crashed? Alright - let's see just how naughty a boy/girl you were, and how hard we need to throw the book at you.

                Bit late by then. How's the resurrection technology for your victims coming along?

              2. EN1R0PY

                Re: What's the point?

                Those "ridiculous 20 zones" are usually schools. I genuinely hope you crash into a brick wall before you kill someone.

                1. defiler

                  Re: What's the point?

                  No. Those are sensible 20 zones, and round these parts they're liberally sprinkled with speed bumps. I mean the whole of Edinburgh. I mean the 30 zones that were all redesignated to 20 by the council to "reduce both road deaths and pollution", which the council have openly admitted have actually increased both, and which they've announced that they can't afford to revert to 30. I mean those ridiculous 20 zones.

                  But thanks for judging me as an arsehole on the road.

                2. aks

                  Re: What's the point?

                  They're now everywhere in built-up areas and accidents have risen, presumably because pedestrians wander out into the road more.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's the point?

            Make it 30 minutes of recorded activity and it may be more useful.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: What's the point?

        Given where the truck was in this case,

        With the previous accident similar to this one it appeared that the car's forward vision just didn't detect the trailer body through a combination of "too high up" and lack of contrast with the sky as background. In that case too the driver had about 8 seconds to take evasive action, but didn't as he wasn't paying attention.

        1. leexgx

          Re: What's the point?

          Most USA trucks do not have the side barriers on their trailers (which is mandatory in the EU) the problem is the car is probably perceiving the trailer as an actual Bridge if these trailers had the side impact barriers that should be enough for the car to actually see it the problem is he was traveling at highway speeds so even if it did see it it wouldn't have braked anyway automatic brake system would have not engage because it would have ignored it as being a static object which happens on all cars that have automatic braking when you're travelling above 20 30 mph

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What's the point?

            "Most USA trucks do not have the side barriers on their trailers (which is mandatory in the EU)"

            There are now some dodgy trailers on the road in the UK which can have their length adjusted. The side barriers on these are sized for the "short" configuration of the trailer, but the law apparently recognises them as being adequate when the trailer is in it's "long" configuration with a great big gap to drive into.

            Regardless of the law, there's a company manufacturing trailers out there who should know better. Just because the law allows you to do something it doesn't mean it isn't a stupid thing to do.

            1. aks

              Re: What's the point?

              Sliding under the truck as opposed to crashing into the side barriers seems unlikely to produce a different result at 68 mph.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge
                Pirate

                Re: What's the point?

                It absolutely does.

                Hitting the barrier at 68mph gives the crumple zones a chance to work, while swiping underneath rips your head straight off.

                Do you prefer certain death over likely serious injury?

                For reference the standard Euro NCAP frontal crash test is 40mph.

                1. Kiwi
                  WTF?

                  Re: What's the point?

                  Hitting the barrier at 68mph gives the crumple zones a chance to work, while swiping underneath rips your head straight off.

                  Hitting something that solid at 70Mph is seldom a recipe for survival. At the moment of impact (under these circumstances) your brain is still travelling at 70mph. The airbags may not be the same as your brain suddenly stopping, but there's a pretty good chance that you'll at best suffer some serious brain damage if not death - instant or later.

                  I saw something reported in NZ recently where the car manufacturers have stated that at any speed over 80kph (~50mph) you're dead. There's nothing their systems can do to save you at those speeds (that said, that may have been for a head-on at those speeds).

                  Of course, if you were to treat "autopilot" as "I must be focused on the road, this thing may save me if I screw up buy may also kill me" and keep focused, you'd see the great big truck pulling out in front of you and have oodles of time to think about whether you should slow, stop, swerve, have chicken of beef for tea, engage in that affair with the office secretary, go on a second honeymoon with the wife instead, maybe take the bosses wife along for "research purposes", should you get a new car, and oh yes that's right the truck lemme see I guess I could slow down a little and veer left but no rush still got 5 seconds.......

                  1. werdsmith Silver badge

                    Re: What's the point?

                    "Sliding under the truck as opposed to crashing into the side barriers seems unlikely to produce a different result at 68 mph."

                    ----

                    It might have given the safety system something to detect.

                    1. Kiwi

                      Re: What's the point?

                      "Sliding under the truck as opposed to crashing into the side barriers seems unlikely to produce a different result at 68 mph."

                      ----

                      It might have given the safety system something to detect.

                      Perhaps. Perhaps the "safety system" failed in that had it not existed, said driver would still be alive and said truck driver wouldn't be dealing with that sort of trauma.

                      perhaps the "safety system' could have been designed to do a quick check of the map - is there a bridge here? No? Then it's probably better to assume it's a truck. Is it moving? Probably not a bridge. Or if it is a bridge, it may be in a state of collapse.

                      And as this is not the first time a Tesla driver has died in this way, they need to do something to fix it. One death is more than enough but I get that we can't always think of all issues that could affect us - if the people responsible for this routine only drive in areas with skirts on trucks they probably had no reason to think of that, but now they do there should be efforts to get the car to actually measure the range to the object and measure the height of it. Hell, put a bloody sensor in the roof of the car that simply looks straight ahead - if that detects something lower than the top of the car start slowing down.

                      Not all areas can have trucks that have these side skirts. It'd take a significant change in the way we do things if that was to become fully mandatory. And there will be other times an obstruction occurs that is lower than the height of the car but not necessarily at ground level.

                      If Tesla are going to market their cars as self driving (they do simply by using the term "AUTO PILOT") then they need to make it see things that could cause problems and avoid hitting them. If their car cannot see a large object lower than the height of the car they need to shut the thing down.

                    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                      Re: What's the point?

                      There have been a few Tesla accidents where Autopilot couldn't detect a stationary object. Two that I know of were fire trucks, one was a police car and the last a concrete gore point that hadn't been repaired after the last car hit the crash impact absorber. A truck crossing perpendicular may appear to the Tesla as a stationary object and doesn't get picked up. To date I haven't heard of an accident at a level crossing and it would be interesting to know (lab setting, not real life) if the car can detect the train.

                      1. Glen 1

                        Re: Detecting Trains

                        It might just be better at detecting the signage/warning lights (where they exist)

                        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                          Re: Detecting Trains

                          "It might just be better at detecting the signage/warning lights (where they exist)"

                          Maybe, as long as the equipment is in a standard place. If it's higher up due to a slope in the road, the car might not see it. It might also appear low for the same reason and be interpreted as tails lights of a car way up ahead.

                  2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

                    Re: What's the point?

                    Hitting a stationery object at 70mph...yes... Hitting a truck moving on the same direction.. Relative velocities being what they are means its generally about 10-20mph difference.. So hitting a side skirt will work (and does quite successfully) as it will allow safety features to work as intended and impact zones to crumple as designed as European Road safety stats can help attest to.

                    I mean really... How many stationary trucks have you seen in the middle of a highway waiting for cars to smash into the trailer bed at high speed?

                    1. Kiwi

                      Re: What's the point?

                      I mean really... How many stationary trucks have you seen in the middle of a highway waiting for cars to smash into the trailer bed at high speed?

                      I drive out in the countryside fairly often, and often through dairy country (lots of large milk tankers crossing highways). They are not stationery across the road but they are in the same circumstances as this incident - a truck slowly crossing the road.

                      Then there's tractors and other farm machinery travelling at 10-15mph on 60mph roads. They may be at the end of a long straight where you have plenty of visibility, and they may be just around the corner where you don't.

                      On any trip of more than 50 miles through dairy country? Almost certainly will see at least one tractor and one tanker or other truck pulling in to or out of a driveway.

                      By knowing this is a possibility in a rural area, and by driving to the conditions (including stopping distance and visible clear road) I can easily avoid these vehicles having an impact on my day. If for some reason I was so impaired that I could not see them, I would not drive.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: What's the point?

              About the only thing I see those side barriers on trailers doing is keeping yahoos in low profile supercars from acting out the latest action film. In the case of this accident, maybe it would have kept the car from continuing on, but chances are that the driver still wouldn't have survived a 68mph crash into a fairly solid object. If the side barrier gave way, it may have still sliced off the top of the car as it went under.

              I have good vision out of my car so I'm not going to change lanes and find myself under a trailer. My car probably won't fit either though it could be a close thing.

              1. Glen 1

                Re: What's the point?

                As stated elsewhere, it is relative speed that'll kill you.

                Where a truck wanders across lanes, the barrier means the difference between a nasty accident (but survivable) and getting smushed.

          3. 96percentchimp

            Re: What's the point?

            May I recommend to you, sir, the use of the Full Stop to separate sentences? It is a marvellous piece of basic punctuation.

            1. Kiwi
              Coat

              Re: What's the point?

              May I recommend to you, sir, the use of the Full Stop to separate sentences? It is a marvellous piece of basic punctuation.

              Is a full stop appropriate?

              I mean we are in a thread about Tesla's "auto" safety systems. Discussing a "full stop" may not be the most appropriate under the circumstances!

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Headmaster

                Re: What's the point?

                I mean we are in a thread about Tesla's "auto" safety systems. Discussing a "full stop" may not be the most appropriate under the circumstances!

                There's a fair chance a colon is involved as well in matters requiring car safety systems.

                1. Kiwi
                  Coat

                  Re: What's the point?

                  I mean we are in a thread about Tesla's "auto" safety systems. Discussing a "full stop" may not be the most appropriate under the circumstances!

                  There's a fair chance a colon is involved as well in matters requiring car safety systems.

                  What about for those who've had some bowel resectioning done?

                  1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                    Re: What's the point?

                    Semicolons, obviously.

    2. TGM99

      Re: What's the point?

      The word autopilot does not mean autonomous, it doesn't matter weather it's autopilot on a ship, a plane or a car they're simply there to aid the operator they still need to be monitored closely and overridden as required.

      1. Cessquill

        Re: What's the point?

        Of course, yes. But Joe Public need to understand that, which may require some rebranding. After all, pedantry < life.

    3. JohnG

      Re: What's the point?

      "If you have to keep your hands on the wheel, it isn't AutoPilot. Call me when it is safe to engage before jumping in the backseat."

      Why? The term Autopilot is taken from aviation and enabling autopilot in an aircraft does not allow the pilots to go for a coffee and a piss - they still have to be at the controls and ready to take over at amny time. The public seem to have developed the idea that autopilot means an completely autonomous machine - but it is not the case.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: What's the point?

        The public seem to have developed the idea that autopilot means an completely autonomous machine - but it is not the case.

        You can argue until you're blue in the face that a particular term (technical as well as otherwise) has a particular meaning and the usage by the general public is incorrect, but that's going to change fsck-all. Especially with Tesla's Autopilot, which a) DOES allow you to take your hands off the wheel with initially just ignorable attention messages if you do so for too long at a stretch, and b) can be seen working more or less correctly even with the driver doing, ahem, something else entirely.

        The only way to solve this misconception is by changing the name (and how it's marketed, but even that is secondary)

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: What's the point?

          Put it this wsy. If you want to see what Joe Public perceives to be an Auto Pilot, watch Airplane! and Otto.

  3. Sampler

    Autopilot

    Is it just me, or can a lot of this be fixed if Tesla simply rename it to super-cruise control from Autopilot?

    The latter has a clear connotation that the product doesn't support and people are paying for it, with their lives.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Autopilot

      Why ?

      Real autopilots do even less : they just keep flying straight and level.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Autopilot

        Lots of people do that Friday evening on the motorway Lisbon-algarve

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Autopilot

        Real autopilots do even less : they just keep flying straight and level.

        Nope, you can code in a complete route, with waypoints and all. But such tends to be devoid of other traffic or at least at a sufficient distance to take action before it becomes a problem. It's not a traffic dense environment, nor do planes cross your flight part perpendicularly to your own direction..

        1. Baldrickk

          Re: Autopilot

          So at any point in time, that is what it is doing, but you can have the setting changed. Totally a responsive system then.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Autopilot

          Most plane autopilots don't care about the environment - they just see speed/altitude/heading and compare that with what the pilot set as reference and follow that - even TCAS systems have to talk to each other to avoid a collision. That's enough because usually there should be no obstacles while flying - but very few can actually identify unexpected obstacles and avoid them - usually those used in airplanes for low-altitude, high-speed attacks (and still, could not identify all possible obstacles).

          Anyway, if flying VFR and not IFR, the pilot is still fully in charge to spot and avoid any obstacle - regardless of use of the autopilot (that's why you can't fly VFR if there is not enough visibility).

          Under the stricter IFR rules allowed altitudes and routes are designed to keep airplanes away from fixed obstacles, and ATC will work hard to enforce separation from other flying objects (and anyway, a pilot is still required to be ready to act).

          The road is a very different environment - and far more complex. They should stop to call them "autopilots" until they become completely safe.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Autopilot

            I was in a helicopter once with autopilot engaged. All of a sudden a load of warning lights and beeps went off and the helicopter dropped down and to the left rapidly.

            The pilot looked up from the map grabbed the controls re-levelled it, put it back on course, reengaged the autopilot and said "that was strange".

            Even in an aircraft you have to pay close attention when autopilot is engaged.

            1. Brian Miller

              Re: Autopilot

              All of a sudden a load of warning lights and beeps went off and the helicopter dropped down and to the left rapidly.

              Maybe the autopilot was having a flashback to Vietnam.

            2. fobobob

              Re: Autopilot

              "that was strange"

              Better than:

              "So THAT's what that button does..."

        3. defiler

          Re: Autopilot

          It's not a traffic dense environment, nor do planes cross your flight part perpendicularly to your own direction..

          Last July, on a flight from EDI->TFS, I got a fright looking out the window and watching an airliner heading pretty much straight towards us, perpendicular to our path. It passed directly beneath us. Would have been only a few hundred feet below. Close enough to see the pilots quite clearly.

          So, it does happen from time to time.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            "It passed directly beneath us"

            If vertical separation is within the correct limits it's perfectly normal and can happen often in crowded skies. Usually ATC warns the pilots and asks if they have the other plane in sight, when possible.

            https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Separation_Standards#Vertical_Separation

      3. S4qFBxkFFg

        Re: Autopilot

        I take your point that an actual autopilot has an easier job than with what Tesla's is charged, but that is incorrect - even a not-so-modern airliner, for example, will have a number of autopilot modes: https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Automatic_Flight_-_A_Guide_for_Controllers

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Autopilot

      Or, "Lame Driver Assist"

      You know who you are.

  4. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Apples to Oranges

    "Our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance,"

    Shouldn't they be comparing to attentive drivers operating without assistance - fortunately, they are quite easy to identify, they're the ones who have fewer accidents.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Apples to Oranges

      I'd also like to see those figures independently checked. In general motorway driving is safer than general driving. So the easy way to do this would be to take the accident figures for "autopilot" drivers (who'll mostly be on motorways) and match them against the general accident stats - and they'll automatically be better.

      I could just be being overly cynical here - they may have corrected for driving environment.

  5. rsole

    My how time flies

    We obviously need some way to stop the AI system falling asleep from getting bored after millions of nanoseconds of nothing much happening. Perhaps a human codriver is required.

  6. SJA

    Autopilot and driver's attention

    Autopilot is the correct name for the system. Where do we know that term from? -> from planes.

    Just imagine you being a passenger in a plane. Would you want the pilot and co-pilot to leave the cockpit, drink lots of booze and have party with the flight attendants, all the while the "autopilot" does the rest? I'm sure you wouldn't want that.

    Also, traffic law still dictate that a driver needs to focus his whole attention on the traffic. So the "Drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel, and remain prepared to take control, at all times when Autopilot is engaged." in the article is misleading. Its your legal duty to keep your hands on the wheel and focus your attention to the traffic and surrounding.

    1. ZJ

      Re: Autopilot and driver's attention

      Etymology and original meaning is not a the gospel truth of a word's current commonly used meaning. You need to look at common usage. Most people are not pilots and I think the common meaning of the word by most people (as well as books and films) is closer to "automated driver".

      1. SJA

        Re: Autopilot and driver's attention

        Common usage of the autopilot is in the plane. Ask the passenger if they think the pilot and co-pilot can get pissed and make party with the flight attendants while having auto-pilot enabled.

        The passengers won't be amused by that.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Autopilot and driver's attention

          I know people who think that is more or less what happens - not the booze part, but that the flight-deck crew go off-duty between take-off and landing.

          There are a lot more people than you think who regard "autopilot" as being "automatic pilot". Think of how the word is used in common parlance... it is synonymous with "not paying attention".

        2. Kiwi

          Re: Autopilot and driver's attention

          Common usage of the autopilot is in the plane. Ask the passenger if they think the pilot and co-pilot can get pissed and make party with the flight attendants while having auto-pilot enabled.

          The passengers won't be amused by that.

          Long long long ago passengers (usually children) used to be invited in to see the cockpit of airliners.

          I was one such fortunate on an international flight (NZ-AUS, some time 1989-1992 - can't recall which trip). The crew were chatting with me, attendants and each other. There was no active control of the plane. I am certain had something become an issue they would've been on the ball at once, but for those few minutes I was there they weren't flying or even watching (though at cruising speed, another plane would go from tiny spec to sharing your exact airspace in like .3/sec).

          Pretty sure none of the passengers gave a damn, except those who didn't get invited forward. Most probably assumed the plane had been on autopilot almost the entire trip and the only reason there was a person in the cockpit is they need someone to be able to say "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.....".

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Autopilot and driver's attention

            I was one such fortunate on an international flight (NZ-AUS, some time 1989-1992 - can't recall which trip).

            Same. KLM, once or twice, around 1970.

            and the only reason there was a person in the cockpit is they need someone to be able to say "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.....".

            And what could actually have been said was the First Officer announcing "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain snoring ... "

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Autopilot and driver's attention

              And what could actually have been said was the First Officer announcing "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain snoring ... "

              I think that was AF 447

          2. LDS Silver badge

            "but for those few minutes I was there they weren't flying or even watching"

            I think they chose the proper time and situation for that - when they weren't probably flying in crowded skies and ATC kept any plane properly separated - separation on oceanic routes where planes are outside radar control are usually even greater, and there there are "very little chances" to find the rogue Cessna 172 flying VFR without a clue.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: "but for those few minutes I was there they weren't flying or even watching"

              " there are "very little chances" to find the rogue Cessna 172 flying VFR without a clue."

              The chances you find a C172 flying in Class A airspace is zero. The floor of Class A is 18,000 ft. Not something the 172 can do. 15,000 is pretty much the limit depending on the atmosphere. Most commercial flights are up around 30,000' or so anyway unless they are transitioning up or down.

  7. Little Mouse

    "Anticiptation"

    A good driver spends pretty much all of their time second-guessing what unexpected crazy shit other drivers might suddenly pull out of the bag, and making sure they're in a good position to deal with it.

    But if your own car is liable to behave in ways that you don't expect, how do you even begin to factor that in?

  8. Andre Carneiro

    "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

    The above statement seems misleading. Autopilot doesn't "pay attention" as such. The sensors are constantly scanning and they either detect something or they don't and the system logic either does something with those inputs or it doesn't.

    The circumstances are interesting. AFAIK the lorry was doing a 180 turn on a dual carriageway (not sure whether that's legal or not there, but sounds dodgy) and the sun was right behind it thus making it difficult to see.

    It's plausible (and even likely) that the driver may have been paying attention and failed to see the obstacle and autopilot had the same problem.

    This suggests a data input (sensory) issue rather than a concept-wide problem as such.

    DOI: I have ordered a Tesla without the Full Self Driving thingy.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

      AFAIK the lorry was doing a 180 turn on a dual carriageway

      There's a link to the (preliminary) NTSB report in the article. I suggest you read it.

      1. Andre Carneiro

        Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

        That was a really helpful comment, thank you.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

      "The circumstances are interesting. AFAIK the lorry was doing a 180 turn on a dual carriageway (not sure whether that's legal or not there, but sounds dodgy)"

      In the US (and Canada?) they have large dual ( / triple / quadruple...) carriageways that are NOT motorways (highway / freeway) and so there is a break in the centre strip at every junction. It is perfectly OK to turn left* and even to make a U-turn. I have limited experience of driving in US but it happens to be in Florida in the Fort Lauderdale area fairly close to where this accident happened, and what I noticed is that the left turn lane in many cases is the same as what would otherwise be the 'fast' lane. In many cases of similair roads I've driven in Europe it's either illegal to turn left OR there is an extra 'turn-left' lane, which I've never seen in the US.

      I also suspect that since i was a large trailer with a large turning circle, to do a U-turn it would have to start from one of the middle lanes, not the leftmost lane, to be able to complete the turn.

      In other words, the lorry's maneuver was probably legal but also extremely dodgy maneuver and shit road planning and traffic regulations from the Yanks.

      *driving on the right, so crossing opposing traffic.

      UPDATED - I just saw the linked report - the highway does actually have a left-turn lane, but the truck wasn't U-turning, it was coming out from the side road, across the highway, and then slowed down, presumably because it was waiting for traffic in teh opposite lane. So really shit traffic management to have such a junction without traffic lights where vehicles can go across traffic travelling at up to 55mph. Also noted the Tesla was travelling at 68mph in a 55mph zone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

        Also noted the Tesla was travelling at 68mph in a 55mph zone.

        Will Musk get the speeding ticket and points on his licence? IANAL, but I suspect there is a claim there for allowing the car to travel above the limit.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

          "Will Musk get the speeding ticket and points on his licence? IANAL, but I suspect there is a claim there for allowing the car to travel above the limit."

          If it was travelling at this speed it's most likely that this was the speed the human driver was travelling at when handing over. I am pretty sure there is no claim to be had, simply because cars have had cruise control for many years, and knowledge of speed limits through combination of sign recognistion and GPS also for a few years now. None of them has ever been sued for allowing their cars to go over the limit even though it's technically possible to do so.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

          "but I suspect there is a claim there for allowing the car to travel above the limit."

          Going above the limit may have a valid reason, but allowing AP to be set over the speed limit is problematic. Tesla's have a comprehensive set of maps on board that get updated constantly, so there's no excuse there. Hell, I have a SatNav that barks at me if I'm over the limit that I haven't updated in a year or so.

      2. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

        "shit road planning and traffic regulations from the Yanks."

        Also shit lorry design. Once again this has involved a car being essentially decapitated going under the middle of a lorry. In Europe, lorries are built specifically to prevent that kind of thing being possible. These crashes keep happening to Teslas not simply because they're unable to detect lorries, but because there genuinely isn't anything there for them to detect, just a big hole that turns out to be not quite high enough to fit a whole car under (although if The Fast and the Furious has taught me anything, in some cases you actually can just drive under lorries if you fancy it). Obviously this doesn't excuse Tesla, since the cars should be designed knowing what conditions they need to cope with, but it certainly doesn't help that some of the things they need to cope with are, quite literally, terminally stupid.

        1. SJA

          Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

          Tyrion Lannister wouldn't have lost his head over such a triviality :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

          I bet lobbying from Hollywood movie studios is the real reason the US has never introduced side barriers to prevent cars driving under truck trailers.

      3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

        "So really shit traffic management to have such a junction without traffic lights where vehicles can go across traffic travelling at up to 55mph."

        Come and visit us in Massachusetts sometime. It'll blow your mind. The MUTCD manual is seen as a guide for "lesser" states, because, here in Massachusetts, we *invented* traffic.

        Couple of gems from past and present MA traffic regulations:

        1. For a short time in the late 60s, drivers *entering* the roundabout had the right of way, meaning drivers *in* the roundabout had to stop for them. This resulted in no one going anywhere, until the state hired a traffic engineer who had passed his queuing theory course.

        2. In all other states, a red right arrow means "no right turns". In Massachusetts, it means the same as a stop sign, "right on red permitted after stop, unless otherwise posted".

        3. If the speed limit isn't posted, "reasonable and proper" is the appropriate speed. What the cop pulling you over considers "reasonable and proper" may differ from your opinion.

        4. Towns can modify traffic rules as the see fit. This results in weird signs with lots of fine print: "No travel in the parking lane except weekdays between 7 AM and 8:30 AM"., to give but one example. (Actually, there's no travel in the parking lane anytime, because people park there, even between the hours of 7 AM and 8:30 AM)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "This results in weird signs with lots of fine print"

          I noticed that in the US they like a lot to print long text on signs, instead using "icons" like in most other places. While I'm all about literacy, having to "read" signs instead of just "understanding" them looks to me something good only when the max speed of a car was 30mph.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: "This results in weird signs with lots of fine print"

            We have solved that problem in Massachusetts!

            We have eliminated the signs* (one by one, on a random schedule using a snowplow, or occasionally an inebriated resident). If you need signs, you must not be from around here, so "F U!"

            *the legal requirements on the former signs remain in force -- it's your responsibility to know what the signs used to say (not really, but you have to go to court and by that time, the sign will have been replaced, so you better have a picture to prove it wasn't there)

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

          "3. If the speed limit isn't posted, "reasonable and proper" is the appropriate speed. What the cop pulling you over considers "reasonable and proper" may differ from your opinion."

          Most states have that. It's called the "Basic Speed Law". If you are going 75mph where it's posted 75mph max but it's blowing snow, you can get a ticket for speeding and just about any judge is going to uphold the ticket since the officer will have written in the notes the conditions at the time you were stopped. If it reads Pavement-covered in snow, Weather-blizzard conditions, just pay the fine, you aren't getting out of that one.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

        "So really shit traffic management to have such a junction without traffic lights where vehicles can go across traffic travelling at up to 55mph. "

        This is disturbingly common in rural Texas, with e.g. crossings on 70MPH roads just past hills.

        1. Kiwi
          Holmes

          Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

          This is disturbingly common in rural Texas, with e.g. crossings on 70MPH roads just past hills.

          We have the same here in NZ as well - sometimes a blind corner just before a junction or driveway or hill or bridge or....

          The strange trick is to be driving at such a speed that you can stop within the range of the road you can see ahead. Or, on a narrow single-lane road, to stop in 1/2 the distance of what you can see ahead.

      5. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

        "So really shit traffic management to have such a junction without traffic lights where vehicles can go across traffic travelling at up to 55mph."

        The US is really big, I mean if you think it's a long way to the chemists..........

        Many parts of the US don't have traffic control devices (signals) on roads like this. If they did, it would brown out the grid and double the national debt. The traffic in those areas is usually very light with good sight lines. If a lorry is crossing the road, you see it from plenty far back. It's the same thing with level crossings (railroad crossings). The ones way out in the boonies won't have signals and gates and the trains can still be going 70mph or more. There is a very notorious example near where Burning Man is held. It's not a a main road but a few people have managed to get smashed by trains from not paying attention.

    3. 's water music

      Re: "Neither the human driver nor the AI-powered Autopilot were paying any attention."

      DOI: I have ordered a Tesla without the Full Self Driving thingy

      I'm pretty sure you have that in common even with those people who have ordered a tesla with the 'auto-pilot' option

  9. thosrtanner

    Tesla claim logs indicate autopilot was first engaged by the driver just 10 seconds prior to the accident. I presume these logs are open to 3rd party checking and they're not making this up. But this does raise other questions about what was going on.

    Why would you enable autopilot if you thought you were about to be involved in an accident? The driver must have thought the road was clear (or he thought it'd take better corrective action than him I suppose, which I don't recall being a claim made by Tesla).

    And 10s is not really a lot of time for even the best autopilot to take corrective action, and I can't help feeling if the driver hadn't engaged autopilot/cruise control/whatever the result would have been the same.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      FAIL

      10 seconds

      And 10s is not really a lot of time for even the best autopilot to take corrective action,

      Ten seconds is a hell of a lot of time, in traffic situations. Doing 68mph you cover 300 meter (330 yards) in that time, and if you react properly you can stop a car from that speed in a third of that distance ON A WET ROAD, including accounting for (human) reaction time.

      And wetware is said to be slower than software.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 10 seconds

        If it could not see and avoid hitting a 50 foot truck and trailer combo weighing more than twenty tons, how would it see a child on a bike or me ?

        1. aks

          Re: 10 seconds

          It wouldn't. It would squash you, a child, a bike or a squirrel who wandered out into the road without looking.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: 10 seconds

            "t wouldn't. It would squash you, a child, a bike or a squirrel who wandered out into the road without looking"

            There used to be a fetish with Tesla's system to go after bicycles traveling in the same direction. Owing to no headlines for that, they must have figured that one out.

      2. Alan_Peery

        Re: 10 seconds -- not on a *wet* road

        Your distances align with official stopping distance estimates -- but note the "The distance will depend on ... weather conditions" caveat:

        https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/559afb11ed915d1595000017/the-highway-code-typical-stopping-distances.pdf

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: 10 seconds -- not on a *wet* road

          10 seconds? Less than 1 second when a pedestrian stepped out in front of me. I went for the brake but the brake was already applied by the forward emergency braking. Stopped with about 2 metres to spare.

          I doubt I could have done that. These systems are awesome.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: 10 seconds -- not on a *wet* road

          Your distances align with official stopping distance estimates

          Note that the braking distance I gave actually was for a wet road.

  10. Lee D

    All the other stuff doesn't matter:

    Autopilot could not "see" an 18 wheel truck. Literally, didn't even know it was there, couldn't tell it was an obstacle, still drove straight at it.

    No matter what the driver should or should not do, no matter what the truck was doing (e.g. merging, crossing the road, or anything else) there's no suggestion of any foul play on the part of the truck driver and yet - the Tesla DID NOT EVEN SEE IT.

    If that does not immediately make you turn the damn system off, I don't know what does. If it can't see a huge truck, it isn't going to see a small child, or a motorbike.

    Your conscience is not good enough to "explain away" your complete inattention when you have deliberately trusted a computer not to kill people, and it does. Whether that's yourself or - as is always worse - people who made no decision at all about what kind of car to risk driving.

    Because of the driver deaths, we aren't prosecuting. One day, we're going to need to start prosecuting because we'll be killing others than the idiot in the car not paying attention at 68mph (and quite possibly "driving with his knees while not looking").

    All the camera tech in the world and the post-mortem doesn't have the facility for the most important camera of all - one facing the driver, primarily to detect fatigue, but really there to record when they are utter suicidal, murderous morons. Maybe if we had that, we'd have a few less irresponsible drivers taking their hands off the wheel and engaging autopilot to pick up the sweet that dropped down the seat...

    1. SJA

      the driver DID NOT SEE IT

      No matter what the autopilot should or should not do, no matter waht the truck was doing (e.g. merging, crossing the road, or anything else) there's no suggestion of any foul play on the part of the truck driver and yet - the driver DID NOT EVEN SEE IT --> despite the driver being legally obliged to put his full attention to the road and traffic.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      "If that does not immediately make you turn the damn system off, I don't know what does. If it can't see a huge truck, it isn't going to see a small child, or a motorbike."

      It's worse than this though, because it didn't see a huge lorry doing exactly the same maneouvre that ended with the first Tesla death. You would hope this had been fixed.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        "it didn't see a huge lorry doing exactly the same maneouvre that ended with the first Tesla death"

        apparently it's an issue with the trailer being at a higher level. Terribly from tesla to not see it in the first place, terrible that it happened before and they didn't fix it. Also terrible that in the US, trailer rigs aren't required to have bars between rear wheels to prevent exactly this type of accident with cars going under (such bars are obligatory in Europe)

        1. Kiwi

          Also terrible that in the US, trailer rigs aren't required to have bars between rear wheels to prevent exactly this type of accident with cars going under (such bars are obligatory in Europe)

          Personally, I don't give a damn about the skirts on the side of trucks (not mandatory here, sometimes a problem due to the rougher terrain our trucks are more likely to traverse). The one simple feature that should be mandatory that would prevent these and most[1] other accidents is an attentive driver in a reasonably maintained vehicle. Punishments for inattention should fit the crime, and the crime is damned near "attempted manslaughter" (not quite the same as "attempted murder". Cop sees someone texting while driving? That should be that for their freedom for at least a couple of years. Sorry, hate prison but until people realise that not paying attention while driving comes with serious consequences, make some bloody examples of people. The sort that has your kids crying in terror (or laughing with glee depending on your parenting skills) because the parent who is driving is likely to be locked up for a few years. Make it career-ending, your boss won't want you doing it and if you're seen by anyone at your firm or any customer you're without work and without income for yourself (support your family but let you starve - fostering your kids out to decent carers might help).

          And where it's a car's console or computer that's at fault, make damned sure the company and especially the upper exces feel it. I often turn the radio off (if it's on) when I am in trickier situations. I have a big knob that I can easily reach for, but many modern radios only have touch screens where you have to look away from the road to have a hope of operating it. They also do this for heater etc controls. Alternatively, link it to the GPS so the controls cannot be changed while the vehicle is moving.

          If it distracts the driver, get rid of it (including any assistance that reduces driver attention (not counting stuff that aids when the driver is impaired (momentarily or otherwise). If the distraction is a factor in a crash, punish the execs as well.

          [1] Mechanical failure can be hard to predict, as can landslides and various other things - but in more than 99% of the time it is the driver who fails - either failing to see what is going on, failing to stay in the correct place, of failing to take appropriate action when things go wrong!

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Personally, I don't give a damn about the skirts on the side of trucks (not mandatory here, sometimes a problem due to the rougher terrain our trucks are more likely to traverse).

            USA has lots of decent engineers. They could easily deal with rough terrain.

            The one simple feature that should be mandatory that would prevent these and most[1] other accidents is an attentive driver in a reasonably maintained vehicle.

            This is true, but we are dealing with human beings. They are a very variable species and subject to considerable weakness. Often attentive drivers in reasonable cars do everything right but still die because of other drivers who don't.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              USA has lots of decent engineers. They could easily deal with rough terrain.

              As a colleague once remarked: "The Caterpillar Series 9, with which you can reshape small mountain ridges to your liking."

            2. Kiwi

              (skirts)

              USA has lots of decent engineers. They could easily deal with rough terrain.

              There's a rather a high cost involved with that though, some of which is in removing some of the bits that actually help keep people awake!

              You'll also have to fix every driveway (those that need it), every farm race, every railway crossing (this is the US, if that crossing had never had a crash then some twit decides to race a train and dies trying, those who made it a better and much safer crossing will be getting sued because obviously they messed up the crossing...), re-grade the tops of many hills and many intersections. Even just the camber of many small roads can be concerning. Maybe they should've been built better, maybe there's good reason for them.

              Of course the use of smaller "feeder" trucks could be used to cover those areas and move goods to a larger depot or (my own personal preference) a railway depot - get the trucks off the road as much as possible.

              There's a cheaper option. Drivers pay attention to the road. Bring back the idea that it's a bad thing to keep pushing yourself. Leave with sufficient time, pay attention, or go to prison. There is absolutely no excuse for poor driving behaviour - and yes I have done stupid things on the road and have made simple mistakes (including paying attention to the wrong hazard). I've also saved myself and others from being in a bad smash from doing the right thing.

              And I've lost friends due to people making mistakes. There's a world of difference between someone crossing the centreline due to a moment's distraction and a drunk taking out a couple of boys walking to school.

    3. Alan_Peery

      "If it can't see a huge truck, it isn't going to see a small child, or a motorbike."

      Not necessarily true.

      Higher up in the comments there was a suggestion that an "ignore the bridge" bit of code was getting confused, and applying that logic to the truck as it could see underneath it. If that's the case, then there is little implication to the system's ability to spot a child or motorbike.

      1. Lee D

        Re: "If it can't see a huge truck, it isn't going to see a small child, or a motorbike."

        When you're "AI" has to be told "the rules don't apply at this GPS location", what you have is a anti-death whitelist, not an AI.

        And to reply to the other comment - the driver clearly wasn't paying attention and died, hence he got the "easy way" out of all the responsibility. But was mistakenly thinking that the functionality must be sufficient because of Musk's advertising and comments on it.

        Tesla's features failed to function in any significant manner. It's like saying "the driver didn't press the brake, but the brake would never have worked anyway, so we don't need to do anything about the brakes not working, or hold anyone responsible for that, or ask questions about that, because obviously it's all the driver's fault anyway".

        When this kills a kid, are we still going to only ever blame the driver? Or is Musk going to stand up and say "We need to fix this, drivers CANNOT have their attention veer for even a second as our system can't identify quite obvious obstacles and therefore is unfit for purpose"?

        The driver was a prat. He died for being a prat. But the box that's still sold as "this is safe to be steering your decisions with only minor oversight at 70mph" is *not functioning* and goes unpunished?

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Alert

        "ignore the bridge"

        ...and not always a good idea

        But, in the case of the Tesla, I would assume that anything in front of the vehicle, not moving, should be considered a hazard unless you have proof otherwise.

        1. kwhitefoot

          Re: "ignore the bridge"

          What, like bridges and overhead gantries, huge billboards, etc? Radar is not precise enough.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: "ignore the bridge"

            Radar is not precise enough.

            Tesla uses optical imaging.

            Which opens up possibilities for putting the URL for Joe's Fender Bender Shop or ambulance chaser landsharks on the trailer skirts.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "If that does not immediately make you turn the damn system off, I don't know what does. If it can't see a huge truck, it isn't going to see a small child, or a motorbike."

      Yep, it's important that the system can detect those things. How about a lamppost that's lying across the road or a 10cm tree branch? Big chunk of lorry tyre tread? Hit those and the car might wind up in a ditch upside down or take a detour into a building. The lack of comprehensive information and no standardized and required tests for automated or "assisted" driving systems is not a good thing.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Sometimes, no assistance is needed at all. Why not spikes in the steering whell? Because they don't want their significant other to die as a result of an uncaring suicidal ghost driver aiming directly at him/her: IOW too much risk of collateral damage.

        As for truck skirts, locally-maintained (read: poorly-maintained due to budget constraints) roads and especially railroad crossing are notorious for issues of ride height (so bad sometimes trailers can get STUCK), which means many need their full unobstructed undercarriage just to complete their trips.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe it is Tesla's way of proving Darwin's survival of the fittest by weeding out those too stupid to understand that they are responsible when behind the wheel of a car, not a badly programmed computer.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Yeah, you can't really say that of, for example, Boeing though.

      1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

        Which is safer?

        Curious to know, in terms of passenger miles traveled, what's safer a Tesla on autopilot or a 737 Max 8. Any capable statistician out there?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Which is safer?

          Miles travelled or journeys made?

  12. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    What Tesla need to say is...

    What Tesla need to say is that these idiots are actually part of it's beta test programme. It's similar to Oracle or SAP throwing out half baked and half tested software as "production ready".

    If the great and shiny future is fully automated and auto-piloted cars, then what's the real issue if a few dumb meatsacks sacrifice themselves on that altar for a few more grains of knowledge to make it happen.

    Dumb is as dumb does.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What Tesla need to say is...

      I am willing to bet Tesla use agile development and iterative learning.

    2. Kiwi

      Re: What Tesla need to say is...

      If the great and shiny future is fully automated and auto-piloted cars, then what's the real issue if a few dumb meatsacks sacrifice themselves on that altar for a few more grains of knowledge to make it happen.

      One of, if not the biggest factor in ending a long-distance truckie's career is when someone dies in an accident with their vehicle. Hell, sometimes even with coming across a bad crash too often (which, given the distances and times these people operate, is quite likely).

      I knew a train driver who'd been driving for 20+ years before someone decided the warnings were there to be ignored. He was never the same afterwards. Became much of a shut-in, struggled with all sorts of "survivors guilt" wondering if there was any way he could've prevented their deaths (he was on schedule, good driving conditions, working signals - car driver totally at fault). These sorts of accidents can take quite a toll on the drivers of the other vehicles, and on those who help out at the scene.

      Also, when these cars crash they don't crash in a vacuum. There is potential for other innocent people to be involved.

  13. cb7

    I know this is really quite dark and somewhat inappropriate, but that Tesla looks like a convertible in that photo. And a damn fine looking one too.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much longer?

    As long as Teslas only kill Tesla drivers, it's likely to continue on its current path. However, when it starts killing drivers and passengers in other vehicles is when the big law suits start flowing in, and attorneys for the plaintiffs start tearing Testla's assumptions about "autopiloted" cars, and exception handling (the bane of all such slick software), to shreds in front a jury.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For a start, stop calling it Autopilot

    Tesla is not helping themselves by calling it autopilot because that does lead to assumptions. Give it a snazzy acronym (I suspect that suggestions will form a thread on their own :) ) or call it something else that is less suggestive of it being a fully automatic, no-need-to-pay-attention-to-the-road facility that takes over the responsibility of driving safely.

    We in IT know the users aren't the brightest (yes, I know that's an understatement), so suggesting something that isn't true is not exactly helping.

    Alternatively, upgrade the drivers..

    1. Kiwi
      Mushroom

      Re: For a start, stop calling it Autopilot

      Something like Urban/Road Driver-Enabled Automated Defences?

      --> Could even be equipped with a friendly icon to remind you what it does...

  16. Mystic Megabyte

    Stop this sort of accident

    Please fit side impact bars on your semi trucks, see photo. SFW

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rYn9jyut-txkIUA7LAYWqcj3Y3q6x9Ra

    1. Fred Dibnah

      Re: Stop this sort of accident

      I believe they're not fitted because a lot of railway crossings in N America have steep ramps either side. So yes, fit side bars, but do it at the same time as altering the crossings, otherwise there will be trucks stuck across railway lines.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Stop this sort of accident

        Pivoted so they swing forwards and backwards if they catch a hump. The purpose of them is not so much to deflect a car, more as to provide optical & lidar "infill" in the gap between the road and the truck body that to a dumb silicon shit it doesn't look like open road or a bridge or something otherwise 'not-truck'.

    2. Lee D

      Re: Stop this sort of accident

      If you hit a truck at 70mph, whether or not it has side-bars, you're likely dead or seriously injured.

      Side-bars are there to stop cyclists, pedestrians, motorcycles, etc. going under and people being trapped underneath by the following wheels. Hitting the vehicle at 70mph side-on is not more than a minor use-case for them.

      Yes, they're a good idea. No, they aren't a factor in this case, really.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Stop this sort of accident

        If you hit a truck at 70mph, whether or not it has side-bars, you're likely dead or seriously injured.

        With side bars the detect-object-ahead subroutine would likely have returned True instead, due to the sensor systems not being able to see a clear area ahead like it appears to have done in both these cases.

        Actually stopping the car after a collision matters less if there's no collision in the first place, or one at a much reduced speed because the detection system took appropriate action.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Stop this sort of accident

        Side-bars are there to stop cyclists, pedestrians, motorcycles, etc. going under and people being trapped underneath by the following wheels. Hitting the vehicle at 70mph side-on is not more than a minor use-case for them.

        The don't actually help much with cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrains. They still can and do go underneath.

        They are the side version of the "Mansfield bars" which are fitted at the back of the trucks after actress Jane Mansfield came to an unfortunate end going under the back of a truck in a Buick in 1967.

        Terrain and rail crossings are not an excuse. A system for that could be developed. And accidents going under are usually not square on so high speed accidents can still be mitigated by deflection of angular impacts.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Stop this sort of accident

          "Terrain and rail crossings are not an excuse."

          He'll yeah they are because they're getting stuck WITHOUT those bars...and then getting rammed by trains (some were compressed flammable gas trucks; the results will be as you picture them). Anything fitted to those undercarriage is only going to worsen the problem, and local budgets mean you can't expect the roads to be fixed (suits would get deflected to the state instead).

    3. Kiwi

      Re: Stop this sort of accident

      Please fit side impact bars on your semi trucks, see photo. SFW

      Strangely, we don't have these on our trucks in NZ that often, nor do we have these sorts of accidents. We do have terrain that would make them an issue for a lot of trucks.

  17. 0laf Silver badge
    FAIL

    Worst option

    I thought we'd established that this sort of autopilot is the worst sort of cludge.

    It disengages the driver and it has been shown that human are not capable of maintaining concentration on an process they are not involved in.

    Really we should have cruise control (even advanced cruise control) but then stop until full automation is approved.

    1. Trollslayer

      Re: Worst option

      The people who created the software did so as an ASSISTANT.

      Musk thought it would be cool to rename in Autopilot so he bears some direct responsibility for the deaths.

      1. SJA

        Re: Worst option

        Yet, the name Autopilot is perfectly fitting. think of planes. You want the pilot and co-pilot to get drunk, make party with flight attendants while autopilot is engaged? Or do you want pilot and co-pilot to be attentive and see how the autopilot fares?

        1. Kiwi
          Facepalm

          Re: Worst option

          You want the pilot and co-pilot to get drunk, make party with flight attendants while autopilot is engaged?

          Most people are not pilots (>99% of the population - is even 1 in 1,000 a properly trained pilot?)

          Most people watch movies.

          Most people have seen movies or "documentaries" where A/P allows the plane to fly for considerable amounts of time without input (and in reality, with enough separation, planes can do just that) - or others where the plane is completely able to fly by itself (after all, we're well past August 1994 - didn't that fella design a chip that could make planes fly with a "perfect operational record"? - I think Arnie had one implanted in his head or something).

          Most people don't realise that the sky isn't the same as a motorway, and has a teency bit less traffic.

          Ergo, most people believe "auto pilot" means "completely controls itself" and doesn't need any pilot etc input.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Didn't see it coming.

      There is a fundamental error here based on human interaction with technology.

      Good pilots always monitor the autopilot and look out of the cockpit even on autopilot. Most drivers want to look at their phones in the cabin when on Tesla "autopilot".

  18. Trollslayer
    Flame

    Musk is dangerous

    The driving assistant software was renamed as Autopilot by Elon Musk despite it not being designed or tested for that purpose.

    He should be held at least partially responsible.

    This is the guy who called a volunteer rescue diver a paedophile when his submarine wasn't used in the cave rescue.

    1. KEITH71

      Re: Musk is dangerous

      It not marketed are an auto pilot plus if it where on a plane someone would be monitoring the situation ready to take control. The fact is driver need to take more responcibility. Stop treating car as extensions if there living room or office . They are dangerous 2 ton machine.

      Equally why gave trailer not anti run underside why gave government not made road haulage safer stop blaming Tesla look to the driver. First thing you are told when you learn is that you the driver are in control no one else and if you cannot control your passengers then stop and get them out .

      It's time peopke started to respect what's car us it a dangerous piece of machinery

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Musk is dangerous

        Not when for most people it's simply "their only option". It may be dangerous, but it's that or starve. Why do you think taking away the license of a breadwinner is always such a problem? (Because you have more to consider than just the driver)

        1. Kiwi

          Re: Musk is dangerous

          Not when for most people it's simply "their only option". It may be dangerous, but it's that or starve. Why do you think taking away the license of a breadwinner is always such a problem?

          In smart countries taking away the license of a dangerous driver is never a problem. No one gives a damn if they're the "breadwinner" or not.

          Just because they earn a living for their family they should be given carte-blanch to endanger the lives of other people who, and this may come as a shock for you (or it may be well beyond your abilities to grasp), are out earning a living for their families themselves.

          Read this :

          Funeral of man killed by fleeing driver (stuff.co.nz article)

          Now tell me why, in your world, the kid who caused that shouldn't be punished simply because he may have a family to provide for. How about the victims of those hurt and killed by reckless drivers?

          Nope. Those who put others lives at risk, especially more than once, do not deserve to be allowed to drive again. It's a priviledge that is earned. not a right that cannot be taken away.

          And if you lose your job through reckless driving and cannot provide for your kids then the answer is simple, you don't deserve to have them so give them to someone else who can provide a better life for them. There's many people who will do so much better than you will.

          Nothing "hard" about it. Drive dangerously, then lose the privilege.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New Tesla coming soon.

    To be known as the Tesla Kamikaze.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do Boeing and Tesla use the same developers ?

    1. MrXavia
      Big Brother

      That's a bit of bad taste..

      The Boeing developers would have developed to an exacting spec and would have provided exactly what was asked for.... Don't go blaming them.. I don't know who signed off on this update, but i doubt it was the developers fault.

      Even the Tesla developers are not going to be responsible, it will be the management/marketing that push the tech out before it is ready... IF it has been marketed better, as a driving assistant rather than an autopilot then it would have been perfect, because if every time a driver took control it was checked for the reason behind that driver intervention, then the system could be updated to respond to it.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asimov's laws of robotics.

    This autopilot broke all three laws.

    He travelled about 300 metres between engaging autopilot and death. He was either blind or not paying attention. No system should allow people to initiate an action that may harm others.

    1. Andre Carneiro

      Re: Asimov's laws of robotics.

      That's really interesting but impossible, in practice.

      When your plane takes off, you "may harm others", for example. The ability to harm others is an unfortunate inevitability of most of modern life's actions.

      We can try and reduce the risk of said harm (until the minute improvements in risk lead to unacceptable reductions in efficiency) but we will never make them disappear.

      The trick is to be able to decide when risk is "low enough" to be acceptable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Asimov's laws of robotics.

        "The trick is to be able to decide when risk is "low enough" to be acceptable."

        The trick behind the trick is to know when "low enough" isn't really low enough, yet it's in such high demand that you end up in a dilemma of being demanded something inherently dangerous to the customer (or they'll find someone else and blame you anyway).

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Public Misconception

    There’s a misconception in the public’s understanding of the word “Autopilot”.

    Using an Autopilot in an aircraft, we’re taught to monitor it and intervene when it gets it wrong (and they do sometimes get it wrong!).

    Autopilot does not mean you get to switch it on and forget about it.

    Mercedes have a remarkably similar feature, called Drive Pilot. When used properly (enable it, monitor, intervene when it doesn’t know what it’s doing) it’s a brilliant safety feature, allowing you to focus on everything around you, checking your mirrors properly and not drifting into a twilight zone of lane keeping. You even get to glance at the scenery.

    They should really be providing some hands-on training with these automation systems at the point of retail as understanding their shortcomings isn’t obvious to those who don’t understand how they work and assume it’s like having a chauffeur.

    1. Kiwi
      Coat

      Re: Public Misconception

      They should really be providing some hands-on training with these automation systems at the point of retail as understanding their shortcomings isn’t obvious to those who don’t understand how they work and assume it’s like having a chauffeur.

      Just change the button to "Kill Driver" and that should help some.

    2. KEITH71

      Re: Public Misconception

      They do provide training the hand over on my Volvo and Mercedes took to 2 to 3 hour showing how to use system ECT. But you are responsible to read the hand book and learn about the car. I do not understand these peopke who do not learn about the cars they drive. They should be prosecuted for working a machine they not learnt to use.

      Auto pilot is a driving aid it very clear how it should be use the press maje up stories about musk and Tesla because they are being paid to by the big motor corps

      1. Kiwi
        WTF?

        Re: Public Misconception

        <blockquoteThey should be prosecuted for working a machine they not learnt to use.</blockquote>

        It's a car, not an aircraft. There may be features that can take some getting used to, but a normal person should be able to hop into the damned thing and drive it without any more training than they've already had. The controls you need to be familiar with are brakes, steering, gears (where they are/which pattern if manual, where Drive, Neutral and Rerverse are if AUTO), clutch (if it has one) and accelerator - and in that order. Quirks (like a bit of a pull to the left) shouldn't take much to deal with.

        Auto pilot is a driving aid it very clear how it should be use the press maje up stories about musk and Tesla because they are being paid to by the big motor corps

        Does Musk/Tesla call it "AUTO" (self operating) "PILOT" (driver/operator)? If they call it a "self operating driver ('AUTO PILOT' for short), then it's a bit of a stretch to claim that the press are being made to make up stories', no? If your car has an AUTOmatic gearbox, you don't need to think about changing gears, it does it on AUTO.

  23. Simon Millard

    Making a drink

    Wasn't there a story many years ago, or an urban legend, that I winnebego driver set the cruise control on and left the drivers seat to make a drink?? Have we learned nothing.

    IMHO, there is too much reliance on technology and not enough on the skill of the driver.

    Can you imagine the cost of insurance?

    Just my two-pennarth!

    1. KEITH71

      Re: Making a drink

      True story, the one common factor is it Americans who are driving

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge
        1. Kiwi
          Facepalm

          Re: Making a drink

          (winabagel driver using cruise control while making a drink and crashing)

          No it's not, it's an urban legend.

          The case snopes mention may have been untrue, but I'm pretty certain that it or something much like it has been done. I do know without any hint of a doubt that some drivers of large vehicles have parked a kid (who has no hopes of reaching the brakes/gas etc) in the drivers seat for a bit while they did something else (I know it first-hand because, well no that'd be breaking a promise I made to tell no one back when I wasn't even into double-digits).

          It may not've been used to make a coffee, but it has been used to play on the phone, watch movies (sadly yes, I know someone who has done that - too much water between us for me to 'fix' that problem for other drivers with my current budget), have sex and all sorts of other stuff.

          The actual specific case may not be true, and maybe no one's even made a coffee using cruise control (though I doubt it), but there's plenty who have been caught doing stuff that is not even remotely close to "paying attention to the road".

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Making a drink

            "The case snopes mention may have been untrue, but I'm pretty certain that it or something much like it has been done."

            If there were, it would've made the news. More than likely, such an event would garner Darwin Award attention, too. IOW, much like the incident of the sex-in-the-car-on-camera incident, stuff like this would grab instant attention...IF it actually happened (which would mean one would be able to nail down the time and place--funny thing, though: multiple versions of the story have turned up in the past, NONE have been actually supported by actual news articles).

            1. Kiwi
              FAIL

              Re: Making a drink

              "The case snopes mention may have been untrue, but I'm pretty certain that it or something much like it has been done."

              If there were, it would've made the news.

              True.. None of them have. Oh wait a minute, we're in a comment thread on an article where one such case appears to have made the news. We don't know why this driver engaged the AP and took their hands off the wheel but there's possibilities including stuff done on the phone, sleeping, reading a book or newspaper. We do know from other articles and many many many many many many many youtube videos that people do these things. So I base my "pretty certain" on a great deal of known fact, or at least on a number of news reports and large amount of video footage.

              I guess you need this stuff explaining to you.

              For something to be in the news it has to be witnessed, has to pass through any editorial checks (not common these days I'll grant), and be of more interest than other items vying for inches that day. For you to see it one of the bits of press you read has to cover it, or a search you perform has to bring up an item that you choose to read.

              There are probably hundreds of thousands of news outlets that you don't know exist, and millions of articles published hourly that you will never hear about.

              More than likely, such an event would garner Darwin Award attention, too. IOW, much like the incident of the sex-in-the-car-on-camera incident, stuff like this would grab instant attention...IF it actually happened (which would mean one would be able to nail down the time and place--funny thing, though: multiple versions of the story have turned up in the past, NONE have been actually supported by actual news articles).

              And yet again, we're in a comments thread on an article where one appears to have actually happened. An article that links to other articles containing links, and likely those articles also link to more articles and reports.

              As to pinning down a date.. Here's one for sex in a car caught on video on 15 Sept 2018, assuming the source can be trusted (The Sun) : https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7566523/couple-have-sex-video-car-madrid-motorway/. No idea if AP was used.

              Lots of stuff happens that is not witnessed, or does not get reported to the press. Lots of stuff happens, has video submitted to the press, but for various reasons (usually coming down to "something else will sell more ads") it does not get published.

              But there you go. One search, 20 seconds of effort, and I give you supporting news articles. Do search engines not exist in your weird little world or something?

  24. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Happy

    RARE Tesla 3 convertible for sale!

    Only one owner*. Low miles.

    *some cleaning may be required.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: RARE Tesla 3 convertible for sale!

      I did look at the photo and think, "That's a nice looking car" before realising it wasn't actually meant to be open top.

  25. Kicker of Metaphorical Cats

    A deeper issue

    What I want to know is how what is keeping them from admitting the sensors and camera setup is shit. White truck or not, aero barriers hanging down the side of the truck or not, driver paying attention or stroking in the passenger seat or not, the fact that they cannot detect a vehicle is about to be a square peg in a round hole with all that tech on board says they have a shit setup.

    1. KEITH71

      Re: A deeper issue

      The systems are very good if you use them correctly they do monitor and anticipate put the driver is the ultimate control device on board. These are driver aids not driver replacement.

      Peopke have to be in control and keep control at all times.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Peopke have to be in control

        Also of their keyboard, and of their vocabulary and syntax.

        Try learning to write comprehensible sentences before attempting posting again.

  26. quicklookoverthere
    Pirate

    Can we put this into perspective

    Global RTA deaths - 1.339 million per annum

    Tesla Autopilot deaths in 3 years - 3, so 1 per annum.

    Yes, I realise miles driven will be different and affect the true values of the figures, but I don't have enough time to go and check each country and add it up

    https://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/world-rankings-total-deaths

    1. Carpet Deal 'em
      Boffin

      Re: Can we put this into perspective

      Some types of roads are more dangerous than others - and Autopilot only works on the safest. Unless you can locate statistics on deaths per freeway miles, there's just no honest way to make such a comparison.

  27. Milton

    Warm human skin, please

    "... Tesla's means of assessing whether drivers have their hands on the steering wheel – as advised when Autopilot is active – ... only measures torque – force applied by the driver to turn the wheel"

    I am seriously surprised to hear this. I'd assumed that touch was sensed using some combination of IR, capacitive sensing and/or CMOS-based proximity detection—I would have flat-out disbelieved anyone telling me that torque alone was the indicator. I understand that even on a long straight, the driver's hands may be exerting a static torque (resistance to a slight turning movement, rather than initiating a corrective twist) but ... it brings to mind the driver who's decided to wedge a knee under the wheel for 20 seconds while he sends a text. There's still torque there (even if it is force applied to prevent the wheel turning), so the car will still think the driver is hands-on when he is not. Heck, you could run the seat belt through the spokes and the resistance would presumably be detected as "hands-on".

    I don't much like the smell of this and would fully expect the system to do its best to confirm the presence of warm human skin on that wheel ....

    1. KEITH71

      Re: Warm human skin, please

      Your missing the point . The driver should not need to be monitored they should be doing there job 20 second on knees try 20 minutes plus . Driver are to blame the driving test are not strict enough, therevshiukd be retest at regular points peopke need to demonstrate they are competent to drive fines stronger.

      Itvshoukd not be up to manufactures to baby sit drivers

      1. Kiwi

        Re: Warm human skin, please

        Itvshoukd not be up to manufactures to baby sit drivers

        I agree with most of your post, and even this to a degree. However, manufacturers (especially Tesla) are working hard to fill their cars with all sorts of gadgetry and other utterly rediculous and even dangerous stuff.

        How many cars these days have the "entertainment" and "climate control" systems on touch-screen displays? Not so bad perhaps if you have steering wheel controls, very bad if you must ALWAYS take your eyes off the road to operate them.

        My car - hand on gear lever outstretch index+middle finger, there's the volume control for the radio (also press that for mute). Move hand to the left a little and there's the controls for skipping the next track or radio station. Slide my fingers up gently and I'll find the SOURCE button to change from tuner to USB to bluetooth. All else I don't need while I am driving, and can stop and look. Oh, skip buttons also has the call answer and hang up should I receive a call while driving AND have actually turned BT on the phone on plus paired it.

        Heater controls are similar - reach for the middle of the dash and then move hand depending on what I feel. Sliders or dials and physical buttons it all works the same, feel for what you need then twist/slide/press as necessary.

        Putting these things into touch screens means I need to move my eyes away from the road, read the screen to determine what I am looking for, then tap the buttons. I am switching my brain from looking at the road to reading text, and it is going to take several seconds to adjust especially if I need to remind myself how to change modes or something else on the screen is a bit off.

        It's not long ago that car makers were putting HUDs in (at least with speed) to help lessen the need for the driver to look away from the road. Now they're adding stuff that increases the likelihood of the driver's attention being diverted. While the driver should (if it is possible) chose another car, the manufacturers are still culpable for coming up with these designs.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting

    Since a high percentage of fatalities amongst the early adopters of self driving cars will probably be people who are better at certain things than their peers, is this reverse Darwinism?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Interesting

      people who are better at certain things than their peers

      Better in:

      making money

      showing off

      Substandard in:

      using brain.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Interesting

      No. On the contrary, it is a way of filtering out those who acquired the money without being smart enough to earn it.

  29. KEITH71

    Stop blaming tesla

    I am fed up of these stories many other companies gave auto drive systems. What you should be asking is why a car can still hit a trailer and gave it's roof removed.

    These semi should be design to stop car going under them there should be side walls or the height off the trailers lowered so the deck us in Line with the front of cars so that the cars crumple zones impact. The real story here us why the road haulage inn the is a had so much power and so little regulation. It time road safety and transport g It together and band the cabin height trailer it's time the deck where lowered and trucks and trailers made safer in collusions.

    Next autopilot use driving aid like cruise control. The drive is totally responsible for the vehicle the Tesla is not a fully automated car and this is made quite clear in all the owners inform, Americans need to take responcibility for there actions and stop treating cars as extension of there homes or offices. It's a dangerous piece of heavy machinery that needs respecting. I do not expect my city safe system to taje icer my responsibility to stop jy car in city traffic it's there as a back up system I as a driver am ultimately responsible.

    I do not understand the American presses over zealous attacks in Tesla. I can only concluded it being funded by the established motor industry.

    The driver dies because he collided with a trailer that had no side safety equipment prevent a car going underneath the flat bed, how thus is allowed is beyond me, it's time trailer design was changed there us no need for trailer to be so high off the road surface.

    You do not shut down when you put cruise control on so why would do that with autopilot

    It's time drivers accepted responcibility for there driving. Tesla is not a fully automated car so the driver is the person who is responsible not the autopilot not Tesla the driver.

    There need to be a major shake up of driver training in the usa yiu do not train you drivers to a high enough standard's that why your licences are not accepted in the eu

    You need to educate drivers that a car is not an extension your house it's not s place to watch tv or play games eat and drink it a transport machine a 2 ton high speed machine.

    Maybe it's time more people had to retake there test abdca harder test.

    Americans are lazy and do not take responsibility

    There us nothing wrong with the Tesla it does what it says the problem 7s with ignorant owners. Same as the gear selectors in the Chrysler only Americans had issues. Why don't you use your hand brake when parked

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stop blaming tesla

      Because the sales pitch is to dumb down the driver's role to the driver is no longer responsible for the car's actions.

      Despite the hype, the AI necessary to make this happen won't be available for several decades. And the fatalities during those years won't exactly make adoption a selling point.

    2. Kiwi
      FAIL

      Re: Stop blaming tesla

      The driver dies because he collided with a trailer that had no side safety equipment prevent a car going underneath the flat bed, how thus is allowed is beyond me, it's time trailer design was changed there us no need for trailer to be so high off the road surface.

      Yes, the driver is at fault however the matketing that it is an "AUTO pilot" plays a very large role in that.

      All trucks have a safety device that should prevent cars from going under the decks regardless of whether or not they have side rails (which, at 70MPH, would NOT save your life!) - and that safety device is THEY'RE BLOODY BIG THINGS THAT YOU CAN SEE FROM MILES AWAY!. If you can't see a truck in time to avoid it you shouldn't be driving (with the obvious exception where a truck suddenly crosses the centreline).

      The design of the trailer height is NOT something that has just happened by accident or negligence or anything like that. First, the height, width and length relate to load capacity as well as stability. We don't want to wait for stuff to come in by rail or boat, so we need trucks. We don't grow our own veggies or visit smaller stores, we need big super markets and they need lots of big trucks. Our society either gets lots of big trucks or gets lots of big changes - and the changes wouldn't be popular today even if they'd make everyone's life better.

      Next is the issue of the size of the truck. Both the height of the deck and the lack of skirts are common in trucks that have to go over rougher terrain. Park your car next to a trailer some time, so your entire car fits between the front and back wheels of the trailer. Notice how much longer than your piddly little car the truck is. When you go over a slight hill (eg a number of driveways, railway crossings, small humps in the road - or even the peak of a great many large hills) your wheels are close enough together that your entire car is pretty much on the same plain. With a truck however, it is quite possible for the front to be past the downhill side before the back has even started the uphill side, with the middle of the truck being across the hill/hump/whatever. Truck then becomes stranded if it is built too low.

      Teach people not to drive under trucks. We don't need side skirts in NZ to prevent drivers doing things like that, most of our drivers know full well that if you see a truck across your path you stop or take action to avoid it. Demanding a change to the design of trucks that would also make them less useful is the same as demanding all cars get fitted with current-quality Tesla autopilots - it's a poor substitute for proper driving skills and attitudes.

      if you're driving in such a way that you might not see a truck, then stop bloody driving - one way or the other.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Stop blaming tesla

        You have to assume the driver who has NO access to mass transit is going to be too stupid unless you're willing to kill your relative for being too stupid: "Too bad, game over, better luck next life." If a driver MUST drive to live but is incapable of learning AND won't take "Game Over" without revenge, what do you do?

        1. Kiwi
          Facepalm

          Re: Stop blaming tesla

          WTF?

          Those drugs really are messing with your mind.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Stop blaming tesla

            What drugs? I'm posting a real-life dilemma here. Many drivers are such by necessity, not by choice. Their home or work is not conducive to mass transit, so it's the car or bust. And due to it being the car or bust, taxi rides are completely unaffordable. So now you have a bunch of drivers who don't want to drive and can't afford to let someone else do it. How do you solve this problem?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Stop blaming tesla

              That's untrue. I don't know how little you pay to travel or run your own car, but for journeys longer than a few stops then taxis are far more affordable than coach or trains.

              1. Kiwi
                Thumb Up

                Re: Stop blaming tesla

                That's untrue. I don't know how little you pay to travel or run your own car, but for journeys longer than a few stops then taxis are far more affordable than coach or trains.

                That would depend a lot on where you are and what the fares are like!

                Here (Lower Hutt, New Zealand), for $15 I can get a ticket that lets me travel on any bus or train from Paraparaumu and Upper Hutt into the sourthernmost parts of Wellington. For that price I doubt I'd even get a taxi to my next door neighbour's! (I haven't looked for a while but I think the 'flag fall" charge is $15 alone). Looking at the page at https://www.wellingtonairport.co.nz/transport/taxis-shuttles/, it costs $30-$40 for the 8Km trip from Wellington Airport to the CBD - for 1/2 that I can get an all-day ticket mentioned above.

                That ticket can also be cheaper than the car if you've got a lot of running about to do and little to carry. It can also be much much faster than the car as trains don't get held up by traffic jams (if you schedule your trip right - leaving about when the train would leave, travelling during peak hours etc). It's gonna get much worse when they open 'Transmission Gully" - so many extra lanes to become a carpark!

            2. Kiwi
              Facepalm

              Re: Stop blaming tesla

              What drugs? I'm posting a real-life dilemma here.

              You write :

              "...You have to assume the driver who has NO access to mass transit is going to be too stupid unless you're willing to kill your relative for being too stupid..."

              That ain't reality.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Stop blaming tesla

                " "...You have to assume the driver who has NO access to mass transit is going to be too stupid unless you're willing to kill your relative for being too stupid..."

                That ain't reality."

                WHO'S on the drugs. I deal with this kind of stuff almost on a daily basis. I myself live too far from a bus route to be practical and the base (flag-fall) cab fare around here makes taxis prohibitive for all but money-loaded tourists. And this is all first-hand experience. For many it's the car or bust, even if they would prefer otherwise?

                What do you call people forced into things they don't like? Grouchy is a start.

                1. Kiwi
                  Paris Hilton

                  Re: Stop blaming tesla

                  " "...You have to assume the driver who has NO access to mass transit is going to be too stupid unless you're willing to kill your relative for being too stupid..."

                  That ain't reality."

                  [need more ways to break down chains of quotes :)]

                  WHO'S on the drugs. I deal with this kind of stuff almost on a daily basis. I myself live too far from a bus route to be practical and the base (flag-fall) cab fare around here makes taxis prohibitive for all but money-loaded tourists. And this is all first-hand experience. For many it's the car or bust, even if they would prefer otherwise?

                  What do you call people forced into things they don't like? Grouchy is a start.

                  'Tis funny.. I know a guy who recently got a lifetime ban for drink driving. He lives out in the country yet gets to work every day. He now lives alone (missus finally had a gutsful of his abuse and left him) and has no friends yet still manages to get someone to pick him up and drop him off every single day.

                  Even so, he could've taken different living or working arrangements. Jobs are tight and housing is expensive in many places, yet I'm still to find an actual real-life case of someone being forced into the conditions you claim (that said, you appear to live in yankeeville which is perhaps the worst place in the world for the abuse and mistreatment of those who're struggling, perhaps there really are people forced into such conditions in "the land of the free" although I seriously doubt it).

                  If they can afford all the dugs you claim they're taking, perhaps they quit and then could afford a taxi or uber or afford to get a mate to drive them in/out each day.

                  And if you know they're taking drugs etc and driving, why aren't you taking some responsibility for not only your own safety but the safety of those around them? Do you really hate their kids and your neighbours so much you''ll let someone so dangerous continue to act like this unchecked?

                  If you do you must be one seriously disgusting selfish piece of work. I hope there's a really really good reason why you're letting others be so at risk like that (and BTW, if you live in the USA and admit to knowing people like this then if/when they crash you yourself are culpable and available to be sued or charged... Assuming any of what you say is realistic of course...)

                  Come on Charles. If you're going to wait 5 months to get the last word in, at least make a better effort and make it something worthwhile! :)

                  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                    Re: Stop blaming tesla

                    Then let me ask you: What are you going to do with the REJECTS? The ones who simply will not (and probably CANNOT) learn? Especially when you find others dependent on this individual, meaning a simple FOAD (which I've yet to hear from any public figure) means collateral damage?

                    1. Kiwi
                      Holmes

                      Re: Stop blaming tesla

                      Then let me ask you: What are you going to do with the REJECTS? The ones who simply will not (and probably CANNOT) learn? Especially when you find others dependent on this individual, meaning a simple FOAD (which I've yet to hear from any public figure) means collateral damage?

                      As I said. Lifetime loss of license. In other countries it can happen with a single incident.

                      No one gives two fucks if you're the breadwinner with hungry kids to feed or not. A license is a privilege that can easily be revoked.

                      I can think of a number of cases here in NZ, but perhaps one that stands out in many reader's memories is a video where a couple of brits followed a crazy woman till she hit an old man at a pedestrian crossing - and she actually crossed into the opposite lane despite traffic islands. One guy got out to help the victim while the driver chased her down and eventually forced her to stop.

                      Courts didn't care that she was late for her rather important job. I'm certain the "bad drivers UK" type of show I first came across her on said she got a lifetime loss of license, but it seems she got a 12month prison sentence suspended for 2 years, 3 year driving ban with extended retest before she could drive again, 200 hours community service and had to pay the victim 500 (not too badly injured) for acting selfishly and placing herself above others. You can see this working mother of 3's[1] wonderful driving at https://www.reddit.com/r/Roadcam/comments/a8pyhf/uk_female_hitandrun_driver_gets_caught_hitting_an/, or look up her name which seems to be "Rubia Hamid".

                      Being a "bread winner" may help reduce the sentence, but it's no guarantee. Courts all over the world sentence fathers and mothers to prison every day. Hell, in the US they sometimes sentence parents to be executed, kids be damned.

                      Temporary or permanent, loss of license is a common consequence of bad driving. No matter what weird claims you might make or 'interesting appeals to leniency for the sake of the kids' (I mean if they cared about their kids they wouldn't be driving badly on drugs now would they? And yes I know too well what it takes to beat an addiction!)

                      No matter what "what if" or "what about" you dream up, driving is a privilege not a right, one that can be revoked quite easily if you drive badly enough often enough.

                      [1] According to the comment on the video linked from the Reddit post above as well as other comments - and one comment suggests that was a big factor in her getting such a light sentence.

                      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                        Re: Stop blaming tesla

                        My situation is not hypothetical. This is just one of many stories of breadwinners sent to full time prison. Which means the scenario you describe WILL (not may) cause innocents to suffer through no fault of their own.

                        Frankly, it seems what we have is a Trolley Problem: no matter what happens, innocents suffer.

                        1. Kiwi

                          Re: Stop blaming tesla

                          Frankly, it seems what we have is a Trolley Problem: no matter what happens, innocents suffer.

                          Not anything near the same. Your solution leaves the kids at the hands of a violent drunk, and has said violent drunk driving a rather large truck on public roads. My solution has him looking for another job where he cannot DUI, and leaves the missus and kids able to move on without fearing him beating the kids up again in a drunken rage.

                          The two aren;t even close to comparable and there must be something seriously screwed up in your brain if you think they are. You need professional help, whether it's getting off addiction or a damned good psych.

                          1. Charles 9 Silver badge
                            Flame

                            Re: Stop blaming tesla

                            "You need professional help, whether it's getting off addiction or a damned good psych."

                            I'm a teetotaler. I'm not on anything, I'm always like this. And the last psych who tried needed a psych herself.

                            "Lifetime loss of license. In other countries it can happen with a single incident."

                            So again, what do you tell the dependent spouses and children of the people you force off the road and out of their breadwinning jobs? "Life sucks. You lose. Better luck next life."?

                            1. Kiwi

                              Re: Stop blaming tesla

                              "You need professional help, whether it's getting off addiction or a damned good psych."

                              I'm a teetotaler. I'm not on anything, I'm always like this. And the last psych who tried needed a psych herself.

                              Not surprised. But you can do lots to improve yourself y'know. Some of it takes effort, but it can be done. I'm the poster-boy for rising above your status and improving your lot in life (though I do have to credit God with most of the work, I was just willing to act and allow myself to be treated :) )

                              "Lifetime loss of license. In other countries it can happen with a single incident."

                              So again, what do you tell the dependent spouses and children of the people you force off the road and out of their breadwinning jobs? "Life sucks. You lose. Better luck next life."?

                              I've been over this several times. How do you justify your claim that the dangerous driver who is a "breadwinner" is more important than the many other decent drivers who are also "breadwinners"?

                              I would tell them what the courts tell them. There are laws. Those laws are in place to protect other people from harm. Your partner broke those laws. Your partner knew that breaking those laws could lead to a lifetime loss of license yet still chose to act. Your partner got the known consequences of breaking those laws.

                              That's why we have things written down in law and that's why the consequences of breaking those laws are often part of the driving test questions or "driver's ed". It's so people know that driving is a conditional privilege, and if you break the conditions you lose the privilege. No one who is capable of passing a driving test should be able to claim they didn't know the consequences of bad driving.

                              I'm sure you can look up the judge's decision and sentencing notes in many such cases yourself if you want to see what people get told in these cases. Or go and sit in your local traffic court for a few hours, listen first-hand.

                              For drunk/drug driving, I'd give 1st offence a fairly light sentence, maybe a few hours community service and a suspended sentence. 2nd offence within 20 years is at least 5 years prison plus lifetime loss of license, no excuses. 3rd offence life in prison with no possibility of parole, OR amputation of arms and legs so you cannot operate a vehicle again (got to give them some hope of release). I might consider raising the alcohol limits some above what NZ laws currently have though, as they are quite low.

                              I've lost friends to drunk drivers and had people hurt by dangerous drivers, myself included. In the last few days I was nearly in a head-on by someone desperate to complete a passing move after the passing lane ended (rather than waiting less than a minute for the next one). I have no issues whatsoever with removing their ability to drive for a very long time if not permanently.

                              What would you "tell the dependent spouses and children of the people" who are killed by a dangerous driver you would allow to keep driving?

                              I'm not a teetotaler, but I've also never been drunk. I have often had more than enough to put me over the legal limit. My rule is quite simple though, if I have had any alcohol in the last 8 hours I am not driving. If I may need to drive in the next 8 hours I am not drinking. It is really easy to manage, and if anyone cannot manage that then they cannot manage to safely drive and thus should not be driving. If someone as bad as me can manage it, anyone can.

  30. ratfox
    Mushroom

    The real problem is Elon Musk claiming that Teslas will be able to drive themselves without anybody inside by the end of the year. It seems incredible to me that he can assert this without being sued, if only by Tesla investors.

    1. KEITH71

      But thus is a fact driverless cars are on the roads now numerous countries have allowed it be tested that how it works he not doing anything wrong he does not force you to drive bad or use systems. Americans need to take responcibility for there actions and stop blaming others.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Do said countries include countries like the Philippines with highly chaotic traffic systems?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Thumbing me down doesn't make it less true. I've experienced Philippine traffic firsthand (particularly downtown Metro Manila). I'll believe a car can drive itself when it can negotiate a road such as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue during evening rush hour without dinging itself or another car, without clipping a passing bicycle or moped threading the gaps, and without running over dirt-poor street vendors who take advantage of the gridlocked cars to hawk their wares.

  31. DrXym Silver badge

    Simple formula

    Attentive driver + Car > Attentive Driver > Inattentive Driver + Car

    While Tesla or any other manufacturer allow the driver to become inattentive, arguments about safety fly out of the window.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simple formula

      OK, what about an inattentive driver versus an UNWILLING driver? Does Road Rage get taken into consideration?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still called Autopilot

    It's still being sold as "Autopilot".

    It doesn't matter what small print you put underneath that, what people see is "Autopilot".

    And it isn't Autopilot at all, that's literally a bloody lie.

    Why is this conman still being allowed to sell this shit?

    1. KEITH71

      Re: Still called Autopilot

      Autopilot just a me auto drive, palm pilot park pilot ect. They are a name they are not a description. The vehicle can steer change lanes avoid obstacles part the car can even drive it's self with no one on board so auto pilot is a good name.

      There pages of instruction on how to use it correctly so what is there sue about.

      Tesla should sue the drivers for being incompetent working on your way of thinking.

      There are lots of things that have name that gave no relations to what they do or what they are

      1. Kiwi
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Still called Autopilot

        Tesla should sue the drivers for being incompetent working on your way of thinking.

        Just out of interest... You're not one of Tesla's software engineers are you?

        Your defence of their terrible practices and your seemingly taking the criticism of their software rather personally, plus your failure to grasp how we humans parse certain words or phrases (and the Latin( or whatever) root of those words...

        Well, I just have to wonder if this is your baby we're all pissed off about? It would explain a few things about your posts if so.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Still called Autopilot

        Names can have inherent meaning. Perception matters. One of the catalysts to the Great Depression was the failure of a Bank of the United States (unrelated to the actual federal government).

        Whenever someone mentions autopilot, I instantly think of Airplane!. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and some of them may actually believe it.

        1. Kiwi

          Re: Still called Autopilot

          Whenever someone mentions autopilot, I instantly think of Airplane!. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and some of them may actually believe it.

          Which is why many of us are against the name. Most people tend to believe that AP's can perfectly fly a plane through complex manoeuvres, not realising a) the sky is pretty empty and b) the pilots are still fairly well engaged in flying. Oh, and of course c) there's at least 2 often 3 or more crew on a plane capable of piloting.

  33. dakin80

    I don't think anyone's commented on a rather interesting statement in the NTSB report: This Tesla that had ripped its roof off in going completely underneath a trailer ended up 1,600 feet away. How on earth did it it end up nearly a third of a mile away? You might even think that it carried on driving itself. If it did then you'd have to wonder what sort of incident has to happen for a Tesla to decide to stop on its own volition. It might even decide to carry on and deliver the dead driver to his destination.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Possible that the brakes got broken when the top came off, so it couldn't stop quickly even if it tried.

      Once catastrophic damage has occurred, you can't really assume that any particular system is still working.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Brakes

        Possible that the brakes got broken when the top came off,

        All the actual brake parts are well below the hood/bonnet, which appears to be just a little scratched (and not in a Black Knight way). So the brake circuits should still be fully functional.

        What appears to have happened is the logic or the brake controller kicking the bucket.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Brakes

          "All the actual brake parts are well below the hood/bonnet, "

          Yes, but there is a lot of tech up in above the sill which means the CANbus may have been shorted out. Or, one of the busses. It's hard to say what that might mean in terms of the brakes. Too bad there is no way to get service docs for the car.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      No braking

      With the previous accident, the full NTSB report includes part of the vehicle logs. From 13:36:12.7 (US Pacific time, so 17:36:12.7 local time, the time of the accident) through 13:36:25.8 the car's data logging reports "Vehicle alert consistent with collision damage", and a number of sensor fault/sensor missing messages, including "Brake controller CAN node is MIA". So even if a brake command was issued, there would have been no response.

      We'll have to wait for the full report on this crash to see whether something similar occurred.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      I knew somebody would get to this part. The forward looking cameras are up high on the center of the windscreen. That assembly went missing about the same time as the top half of the driver. A question to ask is what the system does when it loses those 3 cameras? Did it just keep driving while blinking a message on the screen and start beeping before stopping the car? Did the car bereft of most of it's forward looking sensors just veer off of the road some distance down the road?

      Inquiring minds want to know.

  34. TSpoonEars

    I can’t say I’m entirely surprised about this. Just last week I saw a driver of a new Model 3 driving along the freeway, no hands on the wheel, looking down playing on his mobile phone. Both hands were on the phone and he had no idea what was going in front. Next thing I knew he’d dropped his phone and was busy performing an emergency braking manoeuvre!

    How people trust the autopilot so completely is beyond me , we are years away from that capability yet. Part of problem is that it’s good enough to work most of the time so people begin to trust it completely and their concentration then naturally drifts.

  35. Kiwi
    Facepalm

    Time for Musk and the next level or few of managers/CxOs etc to face some real prison time. A day in prison for every day a person spends injured, and 5 years for every person killed.

    At the first few incidents it could be seen to be teething problems, even if tragically someone died. But given there was an almost identical fatality fatality and I believe several more similar incidents far enough back for it to be a known problem, that they let it ship puts them up there in the culpable homicide/negligence leading to death/manslaughter area. Not quite murder but I think many juries would happily find them guilty of that.

    As said by myself and others, calling it "auto pilot" is a big part of the issue as the general public equates "auto pilot" with "automatic driving" ie "fully self driving". No, we're not airline pilots - we're people who watch movies and "documentatires" telling us that autopilot systems can fully control and even land a plane.

    I also mentioned that years back I had experience with exercise equipment that had the ability to measure your pulse via simple metalic plates placed in the hand grips - Tesla could make these types of things a stylish and functional addition to the steering wheel and if the car detects no pulse or situation where the driver is almost certainly unconscious (a "wrong" pulse rate) then the car can sound an alarm for a couple of seconds, start slowing down (instantly), and if no action is taken after 5 seconds start pulling over to the nearest safe stopping point. They are capable of doing this, they've chosen not to, they're culpable for these deaths and need to be dealt with effectively.

    This stuff isn't hard. Tesla's engineers are way above me in levels of what they can think of and what experiences they've had. They're capable of coming up with this stuff, but someone said "no". They don't want a car that automatically comes to a safe and complete stop as soon as the driver stops responding, they want a car they can pretend requires the driver to be active and in reality can drive you to your destination while you read a book.

    And they name their things with stupid names like "auto pilot". If they really don't believe the name matters, name it "Kill your children" or "Murder the Driver" or even the time-honoured "Murder Death Kill" which has its own catchy acronym.

    Time for heads to roll. Not the little guy who is doing their best but limited by management, but the management who have decided that lives are expendable.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Facepalm

      Time for Musk and the next level or few of managers/CxOs etc to face some real prison time. A day in prison for every day a person spends injured, and 5 years for every person killed."

      That could dampen innovation quite a lot.

      What IS appropriate is a mandatory certification process for these systems that includes navigating a standardized closed course loaded with all sorts of hazards. While the course my be "standardized", the particulars of the course would vary and only be described in general terms. Cars would have to be submitted to be run with no direct contact between manufacturer's staff and the testing officials on the course. Re-certification required periodically and if certain software/hardware undergoes any changes. A new cataloging layout for stored music wouldn't trip the recertification process but a new CPU might.

      The program could be run by the Government or an organization such as Underwriter's Lab. It would be a good use for close military bases.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Question: Who PAYS for all this?

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Question: Who PAYS for all this?"

          The manufacturer.

          If you make an electrical appliance that's used in a hospital, it has to be independently certified by a recognized lab to published standards. If you make parts for an aircraft, same thing. It adds costs to the product, but only once unless it changes.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Or the TEST changes. Hospitals and aircraft are limited environments where all the x-factors can be put into consideration. A device intended for mass use can't go that far. Not even Underwriters Laboratories can cover ALL the x-factors (Utter Fools and Murphy see to that). Plus Hospitals and airlines can budget for the increased costs at least to some extent and pass the costs along. Mass markets are more price-conscious, putting manufacturers into a pinch.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who knew?

    Tesla made a convertible.

  37. joe bixflics

    Tesla steering-wheels do not have a capacitive ability similar to smartphone screens. The only way the vehicle detects hands on the wheel is by requiring the driver to exert a slight force when requested. If autosteer had been on for only 10 secs., there is no way to know where the driver's hands were.

    1. Kiwi

      Tesla steering-wheels do not have a capacitive ability similar to smartphone screens.

      I'm pretty sure there's a number of ways such a system could be implemented without noticeably affecting the design aesthetics of the steering wheel.

      As I mentioned earlier, there's devices that are able to not only tell if someone is in contact with the wheel but could even keep a watch on their heartbeat. I know a guy who has a pocket-sized ECG device that he uses to monitor his heart health.

      Fit one so if the driver takes hands off, car starts to look to stop (however a voice sensor listening for indications the driver is wanting to get away in a hurry could be implemented). And to be really fancy, if the car detects a driver having a heart attack, it could call emergency services, find a safe place to stop, and actually save lives instead of taking them.

      But this is Tesla.. there's probably some part of the aesthetic design that might be messed up by a micrometer, or some finely balanced weight that would be put out by a few ounces, therefore life-saving tech cannot be fitted.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Kiwi, it almost sounds like you are talking about the mythical Tesla Solar Roof Tiles.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Or a problem concerning GLOVES...

    2. Smoking Man

      Or say it differently:

      He was holding it wrong. Own fault.

  38. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Still safer than no autopilot

    According to Tesla, drivers have driven on autopilot for over a billion miles. Three have died. According to Wikipedia, the US average is 12.5 deaths per billion miles driven, so Tesla's record seems one quarter of that.

    But maybe this is wrong, because you would engage autopilot in situations that should be inherently less dangerous, like on a long motorway drive, where perhaps the average death rate per billion miles is lower.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Autonomous driving will only be safe once the AI has learnt the roads, the cars 'speak' to each other, and non autonomous cars are banned.

    Front assist however can be better than human intervention - in the case where a child runs out from behind a parked vehicle its better at stopping the car than human reactions. This is what NCAP test the systems for at speeds up to about 28 mph simulating an urban environment. At higher speeds it probably won't stop the car but will significantly reduce the speed before impact. Its surprising the Tesla failed to do this - does its radar have limitations ? The front assist system uses a camera and radar.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "The front assist system uses a camera and radar."

      It might come down to HOW the system is using radar and how each sensor's input is weighted in the software. It could be that the radar is only being used for a certain task and the camera for other stuff.

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