back to article How many times do we have to tell you? A Tesla isn't a self-driving car, say investigators after Apple man's fatal crash

The deadly crash of an Apple engineer's Tesla was down to the victim being overly trusting of the car's Autopilot software while distracted by his phone, America's National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded this week. On March 23, 2018, Walter Huang was driving a Model X P100D in Autopilot mode south along the Route …

  1. SJA

    Tesla never said it's driverless

    Contrary to Mercedes with their "DrivePilot" ad, Tesla never said it's a driverless car. They clearly state that option will be available in the future - meaning it's not available today. Also, everyone who has a driver licence should know the basic rules that, as driver, you'll always have to be in full control of the car and dedicate your full attention to the traffic situation.

    1. Raj

      Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

      The problem here - as someone whos driven a Tesla for a few years now - is not bad advertising . Owners know it doesn’t drive itself . The problem is that it does it’s autonomous driving so well that progressively drivers become complacent .

      I’ve done 100+ mile drives with essentially no manual intervention other than hand lightly on the wheel and the odd lane change signal (the car changes lanes itself when you signal it and it sees the adjacent lane free).

      The mental effort of such long drives is about that of one maybe 10-20% the distance without Tesla autopilot . It’s a significant contributory factor to drivers progressively thinking it can just handle itself, when it really can’t.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        There is an entire field of study related to operator attention in safety critical systems, and how automation can decrease cognitive loading to a degree that the operator is unable to handle the sudden increase to full workload once the automation fails. In such situations, the automation may even be deliberately scaled back during normal (no fault detected) operation to keep the operator engaged and attentive for a transfer of control if required. Think nuclear plants, etc.

        This has been a somewhat apparent factor in recent Airbus crashes, and it's also why (paradoxically) reducing speed limits on roads without also making those roads deliberately more challenging (narrower, etc.) can increase risk of fatal collision with bystanders. You can observe this yourself if you like -- find a nice clear stretch of road designed for high speeds, and try to maintain 10KPH for half an hour while staying completely attentive on your slowly changing environment. The human brain does not adapt to this well -- in fact, it treats the external (lack of) stimuli as a relative constant and stops real time processing of the entire scene outside of the vehicle almost entirely. What little remains tends to be focused on "interesting" parts of the stimulus -- that odd cloud formation, some interesting tree, but definitely not the boring, unchanging, monotonous grey road in front of you.

        What Tesla has done here, deliberately reducing cognitive load below safe sustainable levels, would have the researchers that pioneered the fields of cognitive ergonomics and studied human factors as they relate to machine control spinning in their graves. Regulators should give Tesla a copy of the old papers on these subjects and make them prove they are increasing, not decreasing, safety in light of the existing research.

        It'd be safer if the car stepped in only in complex, highly dynamic environments to keep the car in a safe operating envelope -- i.e, the situations where the operator is likely to be overloaded, and might accidentally lane change into another car or run over a pedestrian. Conversely, it might be useful if the car similarly went to full autonomous in the situation where someone erred on the side of caution too much and the operator load would already be near zero in a normal car (the 10KPH speed limit example above). Make the transition between the two modes (full autonomous and "human driving" mode) very obvious, such that operator load never goes below a certain level in human driving mode (thus the car runs off the road or stops if the operator is not paying attention), and it might be a reasonable start.

        The field of safety engineering, much like orbital mechanics, is filled with non-intuitive concepts. Increasing redundancy on a system can make it more likely to fail. Decreasing speed limits can make serious injury more likely. Increasing cognitive load can prevent serious (fatal) incidents. Unfortunately, Tesla seems to have ignored this research entirely and created several makes and models of rolling death traps as a result.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          Thanks for this, very instructive. I deal with risk management in other environments, and it's always good to learn more, even outside your own field of application.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          "What Tesla has done here, deliberately reducing cognitive load below safe sustainable level"

          You need to give evidence for a claim like that. research into a different area does not necessarily prove true for this process. For instance the continuous nag from a Tesla (if not illegally defeated) ensures there is still a certain degree of cognition.

          I would counter that the reduced mental agility required to drive a car on autopilot can allow for greater awareness of surroundings and better able to respond to incidents when they happen, as well as stop them happening in the first place.

          Without thorough evidence of many users it is difficult to say whether either opinion is true and for what percentage for drivers. In nearly every case there has been some evidence of the driver not driving within the requirements of the system. This could equate to someone using the circular saw but removing the guard due to it being a hindrance to quick operation.

          When using other vehicles then the ability to text, or fall asleep while driving is well known and causes many deaths. The fact that a driver could text or fall asleep and potentially travel without issue for many miles using autopilot can be seen as both a blessing and a curse.

          It goes back to the old research that showed that modern cars had more accidents when safety features like airbags were introduced and Jeremy Clarkson's assertion that a large spike should be place on the steering wheel rather than an airbag to reduce accidents.

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            "Put your hand on the wheel"

            *Whack

            "Put your hand on the wheel"

            *Whack

            "Put your hand on the wheel"

            *Whack

            "Put your hand on the wheel"

            *Whack

            "Put your hand on the wheel"

            *Whack

            Is that going to keep you alert? I don't think so.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              *eye sensors detects drivers eyes open*

              *nothing*

              *driver blinks*

              *car turns on stereo at max volume and plays 'Can I play with Madness?' at max volume*

              1. GrahamRJ

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                Good choice of music, sir!

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  Well, I figured if you fell asleep at the wheel you'd be too blind, too blind to see.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                *Driver starts playing air guitar and/or air drums*

                *Car crashes 'cause that is the metal thing to do*

              3. Rich 11 Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                *driver starts headbanging*

              4. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                *Does nothing. Driver is deaf.*

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  But he's no longer too blind to see.

              5. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                But then from the premise of this article, putting your family in a Tesla would seems more akin to bringing your daughter to the slaughter...

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              I actually own a Tesla Model X and have put tens of thousands of highway miles on it while on autopilot. If you think you can play a video game safely while on autopilot you are nuts.

              The car does do some jobs very well. It keeps the car centered between the lines on the highway. It warns you of cars in your blind spot. It's awesome in stop and go traffic. It warns you when you seem to be about to rear-end the car in front of you. But there is a whole lot of stuff it simply does not do and anyone who drives the car for long can figure out what they are. For example, in my experience it doesn't see road debris unless it's the size of a couch. And when it does see road debris the size of a couch it's response is to come to a dead stop in the middle of the highway like it's in stop and go traffic. It won't leave the lane you're in for any reason without direction from the driver. If the car in front of you switches lanes rapidly because the car in front of it is braking sharply it may not recognize what's going on with the new car in time to stop or may stop violently. It currently doesn't recognize when motorcycles are splitting lanes and move over to the far side of the lane. It doesn't analyze the situation very far ahead and won't recognize when there is a slow down clearly visible in the distance and that it's time to start gently decelerating. Instead it will only recognize the slowdown when it is right on top of it and then slam on the brakes. It will occasionally decide that a random puddle or shadow on the highway is an obstacle and brake for no reason.

              So while very helpful, it's not terribly smart. And despite what Elon Musk says I don't see them coming up with a system smart enough to correctly analyze all of the situations I mentioned above anytime soon. Still, I find that the system makes me a better driver. I'm able to devote more of my energy to situational awareness, looking to the sides and far ahead more often than I would when not in autopilot because I need to give less attention to more mundane tasks like staying in my lane and maintaining my following distance. Also, it acts up as a back up system when I'm failing to notice something like the car in my blind spot or the car in front of me that is braking more sharply than I expected, or the car that I didn't expect to be backing up into me in the parking lot, and that keeps me from making dumb mistakes.

              If the system got significantly smarter then you might be in danger of the system dumping too much responsibility on you too suddenly for you to handle, but as it stands if you are not fully paying attention to your situation when you are driving the car you are an idiot, because there a whole bunch of necessary driving tasks autopilot simply doesn't do, and doesn't claim to do. Autopilot is a driving aid, not a driving substitute.

              1. MOV r0,r0

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                "while on autopilot"

                Oops you used the "A" word, five times too - very naughty. You can see the problem here, can't you?

                1. Miff

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  I use the term "autopilot" because that's what the car calls it. The car has a traffic-aware cruise control mode and an autopilot mode. I'm talking about what the car does when it's in autopilot mode. Yes, it's probably a misleading term and Tesla probably should have used something else, but it's the term Tesla uses when referring to these driving modes.

                  1. renniks

                    Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                    The 'car' doesn't call it autopilot - Tesla, the maker/retailer of the car call it autopilot. This is a marketing ploy, but unfortunately, some people believe this to mean press the button & the car will drive itself

                    1. jake Silver badge

                      Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                      "The 'car' doesn't call it autopilot"

                      Go eyeball the controls for yourself. Looks like it says "Autopilot" to me.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            "Jeremy Clarkson's assertion that a large spike should be place on the steering wheel rather than an airbag to reduce accidents."

            I think you'll find that Stafford Beer or maybe Gordon Tullock said that and perhaps Clarkson has repeated it.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              Plus the spike is counterproductive when going against ghost drivers.

            2. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              Clarkson definitely said it on Top Gear. However, whether that was a Clarkson original or a repeat of something someone else said, I've no idea.

              1. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                There is a point there though. If you have a situation serious enough that the airbags deployed then in a car with no airbags (or a spike on the wheel) then you would probably have died.

                If you were the driver responsible then after dying you wouldn't be driving again and therefore by permanent removal of drivers involved in accidents then "survival of the fittest" culls the worst drivers from the road, and improves road safety by the removal of the worst drivers. If the same driver just jumps into another car and gets back on the road having survived thanks to the airbag then that doesn't happen.

                Now I have had a car written off while stationary by somebody driving over the speed limit while on the wrong side of the road, and I think that death would have been a bit OTT in terms of a punishment. I would however observe that a more liberal application of driving bans would accomplish exactly the same result in terms of removal of the worst drivers from the roads without actually letting them kill themselves, or other people.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  "I would however observe that a more liberal application of driving bans would accomplish exactly the same result in terms of removal of the worst drivers from the roads without actually letting them kill themselves, or other people."

                  I would think the worst of the worst would ignore the bans and drive anyway, meaning it's either prison or the grave required to keep them off the road.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                    "I would think the worst of the worst would ignore the bans and drive anyway, meaning it's either prison or the grave required to keep them off the road."

                    So that part doesn't change. Does the rest of the argument make sense?

            3. renniks

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              Spike on the steering wheel AND remove the drivers seatbelt - see if that wouldn't have the effect of sharpening up the drivers awareness, reducing his speed, and keeping a big gap between him & the car in front

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                And if a ghost driver just ups and rams them head-on? "Oh well, it's just their time"?

          3. Fungus Bob Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: You need to give evidence for a claim like that.

            Aren't all the accidents enough proof?

          4. matt 83

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            "I would counter that the reduced mental agility required to drive a car on autopilot can allow for greater awareness of surroundings and better able to respond to incidents when they happen, as well as stop them happening in the first place."

            You're completely correct. It allows drivers much more awareness of surroundings... surroundings like their phones or any of the other toys they have in the car with them.

            Even if every single one of the tesla crashes has been caused by the driver not "driving within the requirements of the system" it's still a fault of the system. If the system can and is commonly abused then it's badly designed or implemented. To use your saw analogy, if the safety guard is so badly designed or implemented that you have to take it off to use the saw then the saw is at fault not the operator who removes the guard.

            If you want to have automated driving systems that need constant supervision by a driver like those tesla use then they need to be in the background leaving the driving to the driver and only cut in when the driver makes a mistake.

            The only reason you'd want to have it the other way round would be if you wanted the driver to be able to play games on a phone rather than supervise the system.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              It allows drivers much more awareness of surroundings ... starting with the insides of their eyelids.

        3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          There's also the survivor bias (just because we have records of where it certainly failed and killed the driver, how often has there been near-misses?)

          Also why would the car ever allow itself to pull onto an off-ramp without a driver being in full control of the vehicle?

          Same goes for weather conditions? Does the car force the driver to control the vehicle in heavy rain/snow? (not heard what it does either way but I'd imagine large puddles may prove interesting to the Teslas.)

          1. Robert Grant Silver badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            We have those stats, because Tesla tracks them. Some of them are pretty amazing.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              Sorry, but I have to ask you to explain your reasoning here. You claim that "we" have the stats, because Tesla track them.

              If Tesla track these incidents, then Tesla have the stats, not "us". The article claims that Tesla refused to cooperate with the authorities during the investigation into a death in one of their cars. This is evidence that Tesla hold data they refuse to release. Furthermore, they refused to release data to a government/state inquiry. You claim they release all their data to us, the public. What evidence do you have to support your claim that Tesla release these stats accurately, or at all?

              You further claim that the stats are "pretty amazing". Again, what evidence do you have to support this claim?

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                You read it as he works for Tesla. At least then, his statement is more plausible,

          2. Annihilator Silver badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            "Also why would the car ever allow itself to pull onto an off-ramp without a driver being in full control of the vehicle?"

            Presumably for the same reason every Tesla accident happens - because it didn't realise it was doing it.

            1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              And yet the satnav in my car notices pretty well which lane I'm in and tells me off for being in the wrong lane...

              Surely it's not beyond the wit of man to add a check whereby if there's a off ramp in the current lane to ping, increase the pinging, make loud klaxon noises, hurl abuse and generally make life very uncomfortable until the driver takes some sort of affermative action?

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              "Also why would the car ever allow itself to pull onto an off-ramp without a driver being in full control of the vehicle?"

              One of the issues with Autopilot at one time was its propensity of exiting the highway at every exit even though the trip would have the car remain on the motorway. When the report came out of a Tesla leaving the highway in California at speed and crashing not too long ago, I wondered if Tesla has fully conquered that old bug.

        4. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          Thanks Whitepines

          there's also a very interesting paper that suggests that over-confidence in automation results in increased error rates even where real world clues contradict the instrumentation.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            over-confidence in automation results in increased error rates

            "Computer says no."

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              "foolproof and incapable of error" – HAL 9000

        5. Def Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          ...and it's also why (paradoxically) reducing speed limits on roads without also making those roads deliberately more challenging (narrower, etc.) can increase risk of fatal collision with bystanders. You can observe this yourself if you like -- find a nice clear stretch of road designed for high speeds, and try to maintain 10KPH for half an hour while staying completely attentive on your slowly changing environment.

          Or just come to Norway for a driving holiday. Super slow speed limits, and super slow (and quite bad) drivers.

          When I'm stuck behind another driver I often catch myself wondering how I got to where I am (after a few minutes of my mind wandering from abject boredom). When the road is clear and I'm driving at full fart (as the Norwegian expression goes) I'm much more attentive and aware of my surroundings.

        6. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          This is certainly an area of active research (and has been for some time).

          There are a number of sides to automation.

          1 Increased reliance on the automation over time (because it works most of the time) which leads to slower reaction times when a situation it cannot handle appears. There is a reason that aircraft simulator time with nasty failures thrown in is pretty standard - to ensure that if a bad situation does happen, the aircrew still know how to deal with it. If we are going to have auto-pilot equipped vehicles we need to mandate regular training because otherwise drivers will eventually forget what to do (at least, do it quickly enough to avoid a nasty situation). That includes a nasty electric shock to the operator who decides to play a game on their smartphone.

          2 Redundancy (sensors, compute elements). Avionics is a reasonable area for automation for a variety of reasons provided the sensors are all operational. Even if a given sensor is not operational, triplex designs can handle that by voting. The compute elements must also be galvanically isolated so that if a compute device fails hard, it cannot drag down the other computing boxes.

          In the case of vehicles, the number and number of types of sensors needs to be addressed. Cameras are great in some situations but not in others. Likewise Lidar and mm wave Radar. There needs to be a way to use the best sensors at any given time but I have yet to come across serious research into that subject (if you know of any, point me at it).

          The entire design needs to be assessed with a proper FMECA so that no single failure can affect the safe operation of the system or at least require the operator to take control (see training above).

          All this adds significant cost to the solution.

          3 Conditions. Road conditions (road type, visibility, weather, traffic density) have a huge influence on the effectiveness of any automation (and more than in aviation where things are fairly stable). This means that scenarios that are relatively rare in aviation (especially since we got ADS-B) such as a sudden stop in front of you must be considered (there are a lot of these - this is just one example).

          Without a mandated safety standard and a requirement to actually implement it, auto-pilots should not be trusted but people will continue to use it in such a way that is not really safe.

          As always with technology, there are trade-offs to be considered (every system design is a compromise).

        7. Raj

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          "What Tesla has done here, deliberately reducing cognitive load below safe sustainable levels, would have the researchers that pioneered the fields of cognitive ergonomics and studied human factors as they relate to machine control spinning in their graves."

          This thesis is wrong. "Deliberate" is your subjective assertion, which you cannot substantiate anyway. However, they have done opposite of the factual aspect of the claim. The car I bought 4 years ago had a VASTLY different Autopilot in terms of capability and cognitive load, than what is the case now.

          The autopilot software is updated over the air several times a year, when the car is parked and connected to wifi. Four years back, Autopilot lacked a lot of the finesse and detail it has now. Artificially induced cognitive load was basically nonexistent then. There were warnings to hold the wheel, but that's it. It used to accelerate and brake like an inexperienced teenage driver - lacking the smoothness of gradual human control. It simply didn't engage in a lot more situations. It was clear it was an early technology, but still better than its then peers.

          Today, even v1 Autopilot is a vastly different creature. The deceased Mr Huang had a car with v2 Autopilot that's even better. All Model 3s have v2, only the older Model Ss and some Xs have v1.

          The difference is on two fronts. One, it's a LOT more smoother and 'real'. It brakes and accelerates gradually. With hands on wheel as immediate backup, I let it work in pouring rain - it handles the circumstances extremely well, managing astonishing lanekeeping combined with noticeably more gradual acceleration and braking than in dry conditions. It recognizes stopped cars and objects, an early criticism It detects and adjusts to speed limit signs. These are the smoothness and 'realness' factors.

          The other change is in cognitive load. It is much higher now in terms of how often and how much you need to keep telling the car that you're actually responding to it. It has become - as lamented heavily on Tesla forums - a nanny role now. If you do not respond to the car's 'demonstrate attention' notices thrice, it disables autopilot and forces you to stop the car, wait and restart to re-enable it.

          There are therefore two themes here - one is that the car has dramatically more cognitive load applied artificially, on the very basis you claim. The other is that car's Autopilot system has become vastly more capable than it was 3-4 years ago. It's nowhere near Musk's exaggerations, but it works spectacularly well both in stop-start city and highway grand tourer cruising modes.

          I do not think the problem is a lack of cognitive load. Rather, L2+ autonomy is fundamentally a sweet spot of the perfect storm of being competent enough to convince the user that it works great, but it fundamentally does not. Making it either less or more capable would improve things. I do not see even an increased cognitive load compensating for the fact that the system works so well that it engenders complacency, but still lacks the competence to be actually trusted.

        8. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          I grew up on a far. Logged thousands of hours on the back of a tractor at 4-8 mph before driving a car. When (as an adult) I first encountered cruise control, I noticed my drop in attentiveness. I stopped using it and never looked back.

          I can only imagine was "assistive driving" would be like. These things are SERIOUSLY unsafe.

      2. hmv Silver badge

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        I wouldn't be at all surprised.

        It would also be interesting to see statistics on how 'autopilot' equipped Teslas compare for safety compared with conventional cars. It may well be that despite the best efforts of those who pay too much attention to the 'autopilot' word or get overtaken by progressive complacency, Teslas are still safer. Or not.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          Given that this incident was two years ago...

          And we hear about every single one.

          And there are a lot of these vehicles on the road.

          And we don’t hear about other fatal crashes outside of maybe very local news.

          IIRC the stats have autopilot still beating humans. Though that by definition ignores times that the human has taken over because they were paying attention.

          I assume T could dig into their stats and see how often AP was disabled at the end of a clear journey as opposed to how often it was interrupted by a human, and how often it was interrupted only for the human to do what it had been planning anyway. But whether they have done that or not is anyone’s guess until they release it.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            "And we don’t hear about other fatal crashes outside of maybe very local news."

            The cars are well equipped with seat belts, airbags and crumple zones to protect the occupants. This means that many crashes will be survivable. A few of the ones that weren't seemed pretty stupid since the autopilot didn't notice that a lorry trailer was across its path and it just sailed under, bifurcating the driver who was watching a video on their phone.

            If you go on YouTube and use "Tesla Fail" for a search, there are lots of compilations (many just copies of the same old stuff) where a Tesla just bangs into something. No blood, no gore, just a totaled car. It seems obvious that the car was navigating itself as somebody paying attention wouldn't have missed that the lane was ending due to construction and they needed to move over but instead side swiped the barriers. There are lots of examples of just horrible drivers too.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              The point being that fatal crashes are the ones that are consistently reported. Actually I don't care that much about crashes that only damage metal/glass.

              Given our extensive history of human drivers simply plowing into the back of emergency services vehicles which are covered in bright retroreflectives, have flashing beacons on them etc... The bar for automation should not be perfection, but the current "average" human driver.

              Given that it is no longer expected that a "careful and competent" driver will slow down if something an unpredictable as the sun happens to be in front of them... that bar is *extremely* low.

      3. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        The problem is that it does it’s autonomous driving so well that progressively drivers become complacent .

        Exactly. If "Autopilot" (or whatever it's called) didn't work pretty reliably, drivers wouldn't use it. Just as they disable electronic "traction control systems" in other vehicles on really slippery roads after their vehicle visits the bushes a few times. The problem seems to be that "autopilot" (like ETC) mostly works. In the case of Autopilot that's probably exacerbated by the fact that at highway speeds, there just may not be enough time for even a fully alert driver to determine that the vehicle is about to to try to kill one and react to defeat its homicidal instincts.

        I think that it is past time to for regulators to step in and develop RIGOROUS standards for ALL automated safety aids in automotive applications. If that delays the accumulation of untold wealth by autonomous vehicle mongers a bit, I suppose that's unfortunate. But it really does seem to be necessary.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          I thought that most people who disengage traction control do it for macho reasons.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            I thought that most people who disengage traction control do it for macho reasons.

            Some do, but although it works well when you're overcooking it on an ordinary or wet road, it's a PITA on snow. When climbing a moderate hill with icy patches, every time a wheel slips the TCS backs off the throttle so that you end up stuttering along barely at stall point. Much better to disable it, let a wheel skip occasionally over the ice, but still keep up steady progress.

          2. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            I thought that most people who disengage traction control do it for macho reasons.

            Not always. Try stopping a 10 year old Renault Megane in the snow and report back. The ABS/ESP et al are truly woeful in adverse weather and routinely took 3 times longer to stop the car than disabling them and using cadence braking.

            I'll freely allow many people disable them because of the Dunning Kruger effect. Most drivers think they're above average, yet haven't taken a test since their L test, often many moons ago, so there's no logical reason to believe they would be above rather than below average, when the latter is statistically more likely.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              Either the Renault Megane has a poorly designed ABS system, your particular car has a defect, or (more likely) you're backing off on the brake pedal when the ABS is engaged. That's a very common reaction to the sensations of ABS, and is not consciously noticed by the driver.

              The ideal way to know for sure would be to record the applied brake pressure in ABS situations. A simpler method is to try engaging ABS sometime and concentrate on pressing the pedal very firmly. Repeat a few times with increasing pressure (pretend you have no understanding of static vs. sliding friction and assume more pushy stoppy pedal = more car stop rolling).

              1. LucreLout Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                Either the Renault Megane has a poorly designed ABS system

                Possibly, I'm not an engineer.

                your particular car has a defect

                It was a rental, but no I checked the brake system myself afterwards to ensure it was functioning as "expected".

                (more likely) you're backing off on the brake pedal when the ABS is engaged

                No, sorry I've been an advanced driver for 10+ years, an amateur racer for 15 years, a driver for 30 years, and an amateur mechanic for 20 years. I know how to drive and functionally what each part of the car is doing for a given input.

                The software simply wasn't up to scratch in terms of correctly controlling the car in conditions that seem to have escaped the designers notice. Cadence braking, once learned and properly applied, is trivially easy to do, and braking improved markedly once I pulled the correct fuse.

            2. Wellyboot Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              >>>there's no logical reason to believe they would be above rather than below average, when the latter is statistically more likely<<<

              Statistically, it's 50/50 that any individual driver is above or below average.

              (and it's not just old Renaults, ABS on packed snow is potentially dangerous when running summer tyres, winter wellies make a huge difference)

              1. LucreLout Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                Statistically, it's 50/50 that any individual driver is above or below average.

                Only if they've all experienced the same training, which isn't the case. I was specifically talking about drivers that have taken only an L test as opposed to drivers generally.

                An average L test driver will always be below par compared to an average driver, because there's any number of advanced driver training courses (IAM, HPC, RoSPA etc) that will ensure you are far above average once completed, and those people drag up the average.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  "Only if they've all experienced the same training, which isn't the case."

                  Even if they do experience the same training it's not the case. Some people are naturally good drivers, while others probably should never be allowed behind the wheel. This is true regardless of training. (Why is a matter of conjecture; I'm not getting into that issue here.)

                2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  "Statistically, it's 50/50 that any individual driver is above or below average."

                  How big an area are you averaging? If you take your stats on a Sunday around the retirement community, the center point might shift a bit to the left.

              2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                Statistically, it's 50/50 that any individual driver is above or below average.

                Only if by "average" you mean "median of a single scalar metric".

                Since it's hard to imagine the median of a single scalar metric is a meaningful way to measure competence at a complex task such as driving, that would appear to be a pretty vapid statement.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  " that would appear to be a pretty vapid statement."

                  NO, no. I thought the same thing for a sec. The statement is entirely correct, but it includes a huge number of assumptions. If you take the average with people that haven't passed their test after 5 tries, the competency metric is very low, but the 50/50 statement would be valid.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              ABS isn't intended to improve braking, it's designed to prevent wheels locking so that the driver can maintain steering control. It's well known that it can increase braking distances in snow, but you should allow for that anyway.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                ABS is also intended to reduce stopping distances because the ultimate retardation force is available with the tire s gripping and not sliding. Maintaining control is almost a side-effect.

                ABS is less effective in a few scenarios, notably where there is loose material on the surface that can accumulate in front of a locked wheel and increase the stopping force. Loose gravel/shingle is a classic example, snow is often a case but not necessarily as small amounts of snow don't built up enough to help. Best thing to improve snow grip is to use proper snow tires, or better chains (mostly better especially on ice but a pain to drive with as well as to fit), or best of all, spiked tires.

            4. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              "so there's no logical reason to believe they would be above rather than below average"

              You could be the best driver for 3 counties and it might not make a blind bit of difference if the person on the opposite end of the spectrum pulls out of a blind alley right in front of you. If you see that they are going to do something stupid from up the block, you can anticipate their stupidity. An automated system will remain clueless right up until the smash.

              How many times do you just know somebody is about to do something brainless? If you drive a lot, the question would be "how many times per day".

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          "there just may not be enough time for even a fully alert driver to determine that the vehicle is about to to try to kill one and react to defeat its homicidal instincts."

          As a driver for many decades, I haven't had that sort of experience. It was close one, but I managed to stop the car before damaging any more than a bumper of the car in front. One of those instances where traffic goes from full speed to full stop. I can recall lots of times where I can see the slow down up in the distance and start slowing down long before or see that people are swerving to avoid something in the roadway. For automation to be able to do that, it will need a lot more computing power and training. I'm not convinced that technology is at the point where one could put any sort of date on that happening.

          The pilot of an aircraft has a lot more time to asses a situation where the autopilot kicks out and they have to take control. Somebody driving a car may only have a fraction of a second and they don't spend time in a simulator practicing those situations.

        3. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          "If that delays the accumulation of untold wealth by autonomous vehicle mongers a bit, I suppose that's unfortunate. But it really does seem to be necessary."

          Hmmm, lose seventy people or so per day, every day or add ten bux to the cost of a twenty-thousand bux car by installing a seat-belt, noting that the additional cost will decrease shareholders' dividends by 0.000000001 cents this year. "Oh, that's a real dilemma," say the Auto-makers, "I guess we'll just have to fight the legislation ... no matter how much that costs."

          Tobacco and cancers. Every safety device ever suggested for trains, aeroplanes and automobiles. Many other instances.

          Corporations are not charities. Absent compelling legal structures with massive penalties for non-compliance, they will never make anything safer.

          Unless doing so makes it cheaper to make yet more profitable to sell.

          The only way to make a car's "autopilot" safe would be to jail the entire Board, including such as Mr. Musk, *automatically* for first degree murder the instant one kills a user. Make the penalties for non-compliance *hurt*.

          Had we done this with cars when first they arrived, there would be no need for RoadPeace. [ https://www.roadpeace.org/ ].

      4. NoneSuch Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        Any driver who needs an auto-pilot should automatically lose their license.

        1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          I'm normally against such binary statements, but in this case I absolutely agree with you. If the deck officers on an ocean going cargo ship (with all that open space around them) are required by the IMO to keep a watch at all times, then I fail to see why in this instance, we're not all calling out the driver of this Tesla as a complete fucking idiot seeing as he was seemingly playing on his phone rather than paying attention to the road.

          I get there are issues with (seemingly) autonomous cars - but there is just no need for them in the same way that there is no real need for an internet connected lightbulb or fridge.

          And yes... the makers and sellers of "autonomous" cars do need much more regulation in terms of advertising.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          "Any driver who needs an auto-pilot should automatically lose their license."

          It depends on how you define it. I use cruise control a lot of the time. I wish the car had adaptive cruise. I find I save a bunch on gas if I let the car keep to an even speed rather than me speeding up and slowing down according to the song on the iPod.

    2. Dinanziame
      Unhappy

      Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

      They call it autopilot, which is as misleading as it can be...

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        I don't know how thick you have to be to assume to understand the functionality of something by its marketing handle, but it's way down there with the plant species.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          Pretty fucking thick. Which Tesla owners all seem to be, at least from a technological perspective. And sadly, the so-called "autopilot" seems to be better at controlling the vehicle than most of the dim-bulbs behind the wheel.

          (Source: Direct observation in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties these last several years.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            Pretty sure no Tesla driver thinks their car is fully autonomous, only people who don't have a Tesla assumes that Tesla drivers think it is.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              Except this guy was apparently playing a game while his car drove itself.

              It was a Tesla.

              He was the owner.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                So I presume by your reasoning you think that people who drive a Ford Fiesta while texting at the wheel and then crash believe their car is self driving. Because there is obviously no other reason they would do it?

                Maybe you can both understand that the car is not fully autonomous but still choose to doing something unsafe. The fact he knew the car reacted dangerously at this very junctions shows that he knew the car was not sufficiently autonomous the drive past this junction.

                1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  Ok, maybe you can understand this... he was playing a game on his phone rather than paying attention to the road. If he had been paying attention to the road as he should have been, and not playing a game on his phone, then I'm pretty sure he'd still be alive.

                  Get that?

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                    You're right you are a bit dimwitted. There is a difference between should he have been playing a game on his phone and would he still be alive. I don't believe there is any opposition to that.

                    Someone texting while driving also is responsible for their actions and subsequent result of those actions.

                    The statement made was that because they were playing a game means they thought their car was fully autonomous. No it doesn't mean that. People do risky behaviour all the time. It doesn't mean you can say it was the fault of the car or the marketing, it does mean you can say that it was definitely a fault of the driver.

                    It may well be that the driver, if he were still alive would be able to state that although the car had had issues before and although he had read and understood that the car was not fully autonomous he was under the impression that there had now been an update that made it fully autonomous and he was now safe to play a game while 'driving' the car. I would counter that his is unlikely and he knew the car was not autonomous but decided to take the risk anyway and the risk didn't pay off.

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            purchasing power =/= technological literacy

            correlation between purchasing power and dick-headedness still being researched.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              This is basically why Apple has a huge cash pile and other phone makers don't.

              I am not knocking professionals in non-STEM fields. It is wrong to assume that lawyers and the like should be technically literate (unless that's their field). But Apple persuaded many people that their products were reliable and easy to use, and that's why they are expensive.

              Personally, and this is personal anecdote not data, I do not find Apple products easy to use. I personally find their UI confusing. But lots of people do not.

              Tesla is marketing on three factors: "greenness", safety and ease of use. The last two are the dangerous ones since their buyers may assume that (a) they are so easy to use that autopilot does what the uninstructed think it does and (b) they are so safe that a collision won't hurt anyway. Tesla buyers earn way above median income and we can assume that they are busy and probably don't have any real mental space to think about cars, which (see my factors above) may explain their purchase.

              It seems to me that the overall combination is what is dangerous, and that Tesla's engineers and management, precisely because they are technical and think a lot about cars, are the worst possible people to understand the problem.

              1. Wellyboot Silver badge

                Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                >>>Tesla is marketing on three factors: "greenness", safety and ease of use<<<

                I'll agree with you about the safety & ease.

                The 'greenness' is mostly just marketing the running requirements & ignoring the production methods.

                Running a Tesla is only as green as the electricity source: solar, wind, nuclear, gas, coal...

                All Teslas required large oil burning machines to pull the various battery metals out of the ground and ship it to the processing plant & then on to the factories. It can take a very long time for an electric car to become more 'green' overall than a petrol/diesel motor, (German Teslas run on about 30% coal & lignite).

                1. JohnG Silver badge

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  "All Teslas required large oil burning machines to pull the various battery metals out of the ground and ship it to the processing plant & then on to the factories. It can take a very long time for an electric car to become more 'green' overall than a petrol/diesel motor, (German Teslas run on about 30% coal & lignite)."

                  UCUSA reckon it takes from 6 to 16 months of driving for an EV to have offset the increased impact of it's manufacture, compared with an ICE vehicle.

                  https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/cleaner-cars-cradle-grave

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                  I wrote that Tesla was marketing on "greenness". If I believed everything marketing people say I would have to be extremely stupid.

                  I do think that for people doing high annual mileages in the US, buying a Tesla is a lot better than that other fashion accessory the F-150. But the really big elephant in the room for the US is how their cities and transport system are designed so people have to drive high mileages.

                  The CO2 emissions per British person is under 40% of that for the average American, and replacing every car on US roads with a Tesla would make very little difference.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

                    " do think that for people doing high annual mileages in the US, buying a Tesla is a lot better than that other fashion accessory the F-150."

                    I completely disagree. Quite the opposite, in fact ... Stopping to recharge several times just to go to San Diego and back would completely cock-up my itinerary. Besides, have you ever tried to tow anything with a Tesla (or other electric vehicle)? The range positively plummets! As for off-road use ... forget about it, the range is even worse. I'll stick to my pickup, ta you very much.

                    "But the really big elephant in the room for the US is how their cities and transport system are designed so people have to drive high mileages."

                    Well, the place is a little bit bigger than Blighty. Kind of hard to change that aspect of the equation, now isn't it?

            2. Doctor Evil

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              "correlation between purchasing power and dick-headedness still being researched."

              Results now in: Int J Psych: Not only assholes drive Mercedes. Besides disagreeable men, also conscientious people drive high‐status cars

              1. Doctor Evil

                Wait! There's more!

                This just in:

                Estimated car cost as a predictor of driver yielding behaviors for pedestrians

                TLDR: as you might intuitively have expected, more expensive car == bigger asshole driver

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          I don't know how thick you have to be to assume to understand the functionality of something by its marketing handle, but it's way down there with the plant species.

          Its akin to people complaining they got burned when they started the fire with SAFETY matches.

          It takes a special kind of ignorance to think that a car with a steering wheel and other assorted driver controls can drive itself - if it could you'd not be fitting any of that space stealing stuff.

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        It has more control and adaptability than a typical aircraft autopilot system.

        It can also automatically pilot you straight into a parked fire engine; that doesn't make it any less of a pilot, it just doesn't correlate with what people wish it would do.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          It has more control and adaptability than a typical aircraft autopilot system.

          It can also automatically pilot you straight into a parked fire engine

          Well, yes, that's not often a problem for aircraft in mid flight..

          :)

      3. steelpillow Silver badge

        Stop calling it Autopilot

        The name should be banned.

        Something like "Smartcruise" would wholly alter people's perceptions of it.

        1. 0laf Silver badge

          Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

          People will hear what they want to hear and will convince themselves that what they think should be true is true.

          Many people who pay for 'Autopilot' want a self driving car. The feature is called "Autopilot". "Auto" implies autonomous driving of the car.

          The car really will drive itself largely without input from the meatsack in the seat.

          Therfore it's not a massive leap for an idividual to decide that they have bought a self driving car. The marketing and the evidence thay have supports this, the small print is just legalise after all.

          I would have to say is WTF is going on where we have 'beta' versions of software on two ton vehicles carring a large box of volitile chemicals.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

            How about they rename it to Russian Road roulette?

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

            Even though the big screen that dominates the dash of a Tesla repeatedly tells the driver that the car is not the driver.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

            I would suggest that there is no owner of a Tesla who thinks it is autonomous. It is only non-owners who assume that.

            You can't hep be reminded of the non-autonomous nature of it from the moment you research it, to the moment you activate it and every so often when driving it.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

              "You can't hep be reminded of the non-autonomous nature of it from the moment you research it, to the moment you activate it and every so often when driving it."

              --

              You can't say that here. People need something to scoff at.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

              Well, there is one less Tesla owner who thinks that apparently.

              Why are you so keen to deny the facts?

            3. Doctor Evil

              Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

              "I would suggest that there is no living owner of a Tesla who thinks it is autonomous. It is only non-owners (or ex-owners) who assume that."

              There -- FTFY

          4. SJA

            Autopilot is the correct term.

            You do know that cars are also automobiles. auto indicating autonomous. Because when I'm in an automobile I naturally assume it will autonomously bring me to my desired destination....

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Autopilot is the correct term.

              Automobile means self powered, not self driven. The word autopilot is short for automatic pilot, which is quite a different context, n'est-ce pas?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

          Maybe "Let's roll the dice" would be a better name.

          Not that it's working that badly, but it only takes one error to get you into an accident.

        3. Nifty Bronze badge

          Re: Stop calling it Autopilot

          Just like the phrase 'self charging car' should be banned.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        I know right. I used autopilot once and my car ended up on runway 2 at Heathrow. I wouldn't mind but I set off from Coventry.

        1. Symon Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          There is no 'runway 2' at LHR. You've got 27R & 27L or 09R & 09L depending on the wind. Sorry --->

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            Aww, c'mon you downvoters. They said "sorry".

          2. Negative Charlie

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            > You've got 27R & 27L or 09R & 09L depending on the wind.

            Depending on which way you're facing, surely? Otherwise both runways would disappear on calm days and the departure lounges would get very crowded.

            1. Symon Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

              I know you're being jocular, but if you're interested, you can read all about it here!

              https://www.heathrow.com/company/local-community/noise/operations/wind-direction

              https://www.heathrow.com/company/local-community/noise/operations/runway-alternation

              This is all necessary to avoid an 'airjam' situation, as occurred in the 90's.

              https://youtu.be/faAg3YXpmBI?t=710

              "A large build-up of air traffic over London has tonight jammed solid in the sky. Thousands of aircraft have ground to a halt in mid-air and may soon start falling like massive buses. The air jam started around two o'clock this afternoon, bringing chaos to Heathrow and Gatwick, both airports, today. In an air jam, there's a 3-D gridlock in the air and no way out. The planes just slow down and stop. It's been known for years that airjam could happen, but no emergency measures were ever made. The last-minute efforts of Transport Secretary John MacGregor this afternoon did little to help."

          3. Neal L

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            Whoooooooooosh

        2. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
          Joke

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          And someone even managed to go on top of a rocket once and is now drifting between the stars...

      5. JohnG Silver badge

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        "Autopilot" or similar systems in aircraft and ships do not provide autonomous flying/sailing and crew are required to be ready to take control at all times - just like Tesla's Autopilot.

        Autopilot does not provide autonomous driving, flying, sailing, etc.

        1. SJA

          Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

          If autopilot would really make people think it's autonomous, then I wonder why not more people are complaining that their flights have a pilot and co-pilot on board. Without those two, the ticket fares could be lowered...

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

            "Without those two, the ticket fares could be lowered..."

            By maybe 5p. Fuel, the aircraft lease, airport fees/staff and maintenance is far more of the cost per flight than the pilots. Autopilot in a commercial aircraft lets the plane figure out how to be as fuel efficient as possible as well as keeping on course. Pilots have a pretty big workload already and there isn't any need for them to be working out the trim when a computer can do it far better and faster. On long trips they get a bit of a quiet period, but they still have to monitor the radio and scan the instruments.

    3. baud Bronze badge

      Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

      Perhaps not calling autopilot what's already in the car would be a good first step?

    4. Richard Scratcher
      Facepalm

      Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

      It seems there may be some Tesla owners who aren't clear on this. I (nearly) watched this recent video from an owner of a model 3 Tesla.

      About 2 minutes in he's talking about the various options on the car and says something like "...or pay an extra $7,000 for the full self-driving capability".

      I stopped watching after that comment.

      1. JohnG Silver badge

        Re: Tesla never said it's driverless

        "About 2 minutes in he's talking about the various options on the car and says something like "...or pay an extra $7,000 for the full self-driving capability"."

        FSD is an option which provides some features to Tesla cars now but promises to provide "Full Self Driving" at some future but as yet unknown date. Buying the option would cover any software or hardware upgrades needed to achieve FSD, if it ever becomes reality. But a fair proportion of Tesla owners consider FSD to be a unicorn that will never be seen.

  2. David 132 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

    What's this blame-diverting BS? “We have one recommendation to Apple Inc which reads: develop a company policy that bans the non-emergency use of portable devices while driving by all employees and contractors driving company vehicles and operating portable electronic devices or using a portable electronic device to engage in work related communications.”

    Yeah. I can only pray that my employer hurries up and creates a "don't do murder or animal buggery or stick crayons up your nose while on company time, m'kay" policy, because frankly, it's an epidemic in some departments, and we need HR to keep us on the straight and narrow. *rolls eyes*

    Far be it from me to second-guess the NTSB or speak ill of the dead, but I think the blame here lies squarely with the person who had noticed his Tesla's AutoPilot functionality behave erratically on that section of road on multiple occasions in the past (source: other news coverage of the same incident), and yet still decided that getting a high-score in Tetris was more important than concentrating on safely controlling his two-tonne metal juggernaut.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

      At most of the companies I've worked for, there has been a policy manual for most things, including driving company vehicles, which includes not using the phone whilst driving, for example.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

        It's there so you can be fired for doing it, and managers can be fired for asking you to do it, even if it's never proven in a court of law.

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

        OK, I shouldn't use my cell phone while my vehicle is moving. I'm fine with that. (But what if it's providing driving instructions -- as many are able to do)?

        But checking my fixed mount GPS, speedometer, dash panel gauges, and rear view mirrors or cameras are every bit as distracting, and I'm supposed to check most of those regularly. How do we reconcile that with simplistic notions about driver attention?

        1. D@v3

          Re: vtcoder

          because glancing at information on a display, or looking in a mirror is not the same as playing angry birds, or sending a text or whatever.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

          Deliberately missing the issue. Android Auto or Carplay integrates the phone with the screen so you don't have to hold it. Audio directions mean you don't need to look at it. Answering a call means pressing a button on the steering wheel. And all these things are legal in the UK.

          The guy I saw on the A303 the other day looking down as he was sending a text message or playing a game on his hand held phone deserved to go to prison. What he was doing was illegal.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

            And talking while driving is a distraction, full stop, whether the other party is in the car or not. Frankly, drivers should be kept in a soundproof booth and forced to drive with nothing but a little background music to reduce highway hypnosis.

            PS. To the people providing the report, did they include phones used as navigators in their smackdown?

      3. Drew Scriver Silver badge

        Re: Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

        The Fortune 500 company I work for specifically states in the HR-manual that the use of corporate devices is not allowed while driving.

        Curiously, it is silent on the use of your own device - even if it's used for company business (e.g. receiving pages for on-call engineers).

        However, engineers who are on call are still expected/required to respond to pages within a certain time-frame (10 minutes, I think) but the company does not engage in any effort to ensure that the on-call duties are covered by someone else while the primary on-call engineer is en route.

        Seems pretty shaky legally if the intent of the corporate phone safety policy is indemnification.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Company Policy: "Don't Do Illegal Stuff"

          Just checking my company guidelines. Bunch of stuff about travel to China, nothing about use of nuclear weapons in the office <evil grin mode >

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But how about those batteries?

    Still putting out energy days later, and after a crash!

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: But how about those batteries?

      Physics has a bunch of conservation laws. One is conservation of energy. When you charge up a battery you put energy into it. If you do not drive the car then that energy is not going anywhere fast. (Batteries have a self discharge rate - anything from a month to a decade depending on chemistry - where the stored energy is slowly converted to heat energy.)

      Electric car batteries have a bunch of safety features that make it difficult to accidently set them on fire. The initial fire after the crash is a cause for concern that should be (was?) investigated. Two obvious methods to damage the safety features are to put the batteries in a fire and to soak them with 200 gallons of water so the second fire is not all that surprising. I would expect that a site responsible for vehicle crash investigations has expertise in dealing with a damaged half full fuel tank. Electric car batteries store a similar amount of energy and will do a similar amount of damage if that energy is released in a small amount of time. The thing that really does surprise me is that professional crash investigators did not take sufficient precautions to prevent the second fire.

      1. Barrie Shepherd

        Re: But how about those batteries?

        https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Publications-and-media/NFPA-Journal/2020/January-February-2020/Features/EV-Stranded-Energy

        More worrying observations about (what I think is the same accident) and the challenges faced by Emergency Services in dealing with EV car accidents and breakdowns.

        Especially an issue with smart motorways where EV cars just stop, so can't cruise to a safe locations. Most can't be towed making recovery a dangerous exercise.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: But how about those batteries?

          Most can be towed, a short distance.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: But how about those batteries?

            A lot can't be towed at all without putting them into a special towing mode, because the electric motors will attempt to push power into the system.

            A few feet can be sufficient to destroy the drive electronics.

            There have even been a few vehicle fires caused by towing hybrid or electric vehicles without putting them into towing mode.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: But how about those batteries?

              There's a few videos on YouTube of people charging batteries by towing the cars. But most recovery vehicles can lift the drive wheels on the spectacle lifts.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But how about those batteries?

          There's also the problem that a lithium fire is nigh impossible to extinguish once it starts, having lead to discussions about banning EV cars from underground parking garages as the ongoing fire could cause structural damage and so endanger the whole building on top.

          Hearing that made me wonder about Eurotunnel - they already have a ban on LPG vehicles..

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: But how about those batteries?

            Yes, a few months ago TSLAQ were foaming at the mouth about the Tesla fire in the undercover car park in the Norwegian airport. It took out most of the cars and the building and took hours to get safe access.

            Great, but it was later shown to have been started by a diesel vehicle and not an EV at all, let alone a Tesla. Of course, it wasn't news then because ICE cars go on fire quite often.

            "Each year, from 2014 to 2016, an estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States, resulting in an annual average of 345 deaths; 1,300 injuries; and $1.1 billion in property loss. 1 These highway vehicle fires accounted for 13 percent of fires responded to by fire departments across the nation."

            1. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

              Re: But how about those batteries?

              Hydrocarbons aren't self-oxidizing, so a fire in a confined space will be self-limiting. Lithium ion batteries, on the other hand, are very much self-oxidizing and will continue burning until they've burnt themselves away or have been deliberately extinguished(which is just a bit more difficult than for normal fires).

              In other words, just because the Tesla wasn't the spark doesn't mean it didn't take the fire to the next level.

          2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: But how about those batteries?

            There's also the problem that a lithium fire is nigh impossible to extinguish once it starts
            Fortunately, Lithium-Ion batteries contain very little Lithium, and none of it is in elemental form.

            So a burning Lithium-Ion battery is not in fact a Lithium fire.

            1. vtcodger Silver badge

              Re: But how about those batteries?

              I'm inclined to agree, that the contribution of Lithium per se to battery fires is not all that big a deal. What **IS** an issue is that electric car batteries pretty much by definition contain a lot of energy in a small volume. If they didn't, they wouldn't be much use. The question is how one safely discharges a "fuel tank" that potentially contains several hundred million Joules. Especially when the control hardware and maybe even the external connections are possibly damaged. There's quite likely enough energy there to heat a house in a mild climate for months. In many cases, simply waiting for the battery to self-discharge may be the simplest and safest way to deal with it. (A fence and a few warning signs might be appropriate precautions).

              1. katrinab Silver badge
                Meh

                Re: But how about those batteries?

                100kWh, 360MJ. Enough to power a 3kW heater for maybe 2-3 days depending on how long it is actually on for. 33 hours if there is no thermostat on it.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But how about those batteries?

          "EV cars just stop,"

          No they don't

          "Most can't be towed"

          Quantify most, because most can, at least onto the back of the trailer of the recovery truck.

        4. Monkey&Typewriter

          Re: But how about those batteries?

          EVs and hybrids aren't necessarily more dangerous in fire and breakdown emergencies. They're just dangerous in different ways than ICE vehicles. They require different methods to deal with them safely. Emergency personnel have been trained in dealing with ICE fires and breakdowns for almost 100 years. As pointed out earlier dowsing them with water is ineffective and likely to cause new hazards... electricity and water, you know. Different equipment will be required as well as training on that equipment.

          Emergency personnel will learn to deal with high density batteries, but it will take time and money to train them.

          I'd be interested to know how many cities are budgeting for that training and equipment.

          1. Brangdon Bronze badge

            Re: dowsing them with water is ineffective

            No, it isn't. Dowsing with copious water is the recommended approach because it cools the batteries to below the point where they can burn.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: dowsing them with water is ineffective

              ...IF you can be sure the battery will not discharge. A cell phone by its lonesome is pretty safe to throw in a bucket of water because it remains electrically isolated.

              An electric car is a whole other story because you now have to take the ground into consideration. If the water becomes electrolytic from dissolving stuff and then somehow reaches the ground, you've just made a short circuit, as electricity by default will attempt to return to the ground.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: dowsing them with water is ineffective

                Nope, that's not how electricity works.

                Electric current will try to return to the other side of the battery or generator, dissipating its energy on the process.

                Mains electricity connects one side to the Earth, so passing through the ground is one route back to the other side of the generator. The ground is quite massive, so the heating is more or less negligible.

                A battery in a car is not connected to the ground, so there is no path.

                However, if the cells are damaged such that the current can flow through the battery to get to the other side, then that's going to dump a lot of energy straight into the battery. Which is going to ruin your day unless you can dissipate the heat.

                Hence dousing it in lots of water. It'll destroy it, but keeping it cool is more important.

  4. Raj

    The explanation doesn’t make sense . The 85 carpool exit on 101 southbound is on the left, not right . It has a long poorly demarcated split off area leading to the gore point . Cars often cut across lanes there because the exit lane it much faster . The guy was playing and video game and didn’t even listen to the car . I know firsthand that a Model S warns you it’s losing lane delineation there , and to take over .

    1. jake Silver badge

      Frankly ...

      ... anybody who trusts a computer to drive their car within a mile or so of the Northern 85/101 interchange is asking to die. It's one of the worst sections of freeway in the country, and has been since the intersection opened in 1965.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Frankly ...

        The US sucks in marking and designing it's intersections/lane splits in general imho. I haven't seen the very clear "off-lane"/"on-lane" as used in the entirety of Europe anywhere in the US, when it's such a simple and clear improvement. Instead often in the US it's basically just "ohh, there was my exit" as you drive past a badly marked exit that splits off the highway at 45 degrees. On-ramps are almost the same. Better pray there's room at the end of that very short ramp or you're buggered...

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: Frankly ...

          "I haven't seen the very clear "off-lane"/"on-lane" as used in the entirety of Europe anywhere in the US

          No offense, but I can't figure out what you're talking about. I wouldn't argue that all US traffic control markings are great, because many are less than superb. But I've driven in Germany a bit, and I don't recall that the road markings there were especially awesome. Could you perhaps clarify a bit?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Frankly ...

            I suspect the meaning here is that e.g. on UK Motorways, there are clear markers leading up to a junction, and the left most lane(s) split off well before the turning, so you have lanes that are: |<|<|^|^|^| for some distance beforehand.

            In the US, it seemed like the first indicator one had of a junction was as it passed by in the rear view mirror.

          2. Annihilator Silver badge

            Re: Frankly ...

            Yeah I'd echo that - a lot of the French off-lane's are terrifyingly short, meaning you have to brake on the 'autoroute' to make it, or brake very heavily in a very short space on the off-lane.

            British roads have a lot of improvement left in them, but their approach to exiting and entering motorways (and major dual carriageways) is superb.

            1. Lorribot

              Re: Frankly ...

              Unfortunately most UK drivers are pretty inept at joining and leaving a motorway, speeding up to 40 miles an hour to join traffic moving at 60 and then slamming the breaks on at the end of the slip road.

              I have seen numerous cars sideways across the front of trucks because of muppet drivers not getting their foot down at busy intersections and match speed of the cars in the lane they are joining

              The biggest safety improvement would be an auto join function.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Frankly ...

                At some busy motorway junctions in the UK (eg, the M90/M9/M8 series of junctions), the speed limit is reduced from 70 mi/h (~110 km/h) to 50 mi/h (80 km/h) from a few hundred metres before the junction, which makes merging in and out of traffic so much less stressful, and much safer. Trying to merge into traffic at faster speeds is a fairly difficult skill to acquire, and the consequences of anyone unfortunately getting it wrong much more serious.

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: Frankly ...

          Yeah, the problem in the US is that the Interstate system has standards, but they are not/can not be met in some places.

          There's an interstate near me which has an exit to another interstate, located at the bottom of a long hill. Traffic routinely backs up the hill as the semitrailers slow down to climb the exit ramp, which causes the entire exit lane to slow down. New cars come over the crest of the hill, discover the backup in the exit lane, realise they've missed their opportunity to exit, and stop in the travel lane, trying to merge in.

          Yeah, it's a horror show, and there are frequent accidents there. Have been for years. It's incredibly dangerous and to have a chance of making it through at highway speed, you absolutely need to be over in the high speed lane as you crest the hill. I have not seen any attempt to mitigate the hazard, even with signage before the crest of the hill, which would help a lot (bonus: there's another exit at the crest of the hill).

          Honestly, I wonder if Massachusetts even has any experienced traffic engineers on staff. Some of the designs I have seen lately look like they're hiring kids right out of school and putting them on as the lead engineer on projects.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It was the same split that at least one, non-Tesla had driven into recently as the original lawsuit was also against the highways dept due to not replacing the safety crush thingy that had previously been destroyed.

  5. tcmonkey
    WTF?

    "Drivers should keep their hands on the wheel when the software is engaged"

    And I'LL ask again (though for the first time on El Reg, admittedly): why does the software not instantly disengage and sound an alarm the moment the driver takes his or her hands off of the wheel?

    They keep telling them not to do it, and then turn around and keep building solutions that enable them to do so.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      It pretty much does these day, the article suggests a few seconds is what’s programmed in. But I wholeheartedly agree, an instant response from the car to hands off would be best.

      However people find ways of cheating the hands on wheel detection. Clamps, etc, anything that suggests to the car that it’s being handled by something convincingly like hands. I know Tesla drivers who go to quite some lengths to fool the car, just so they can keep reading their book; etc. Yes, they’re idiots.

      What Tesla have not installed (where others have) is eye tracking optics. This allows the car to have a better understanding of what the driver is doing. Take your eyes off the road for long enough and the car knows you’re not paying adequate attention irrespective of what the steering wheel is sensing. It’s a lot harder to fool the eye tracking.

      1. 9Rune5 Silver badge

        eye-tracking

        How does that work when the driver is wearing sunglasses?

        1. Barrie Shepherd

          Re: eye-tracking

          "How does that work when the driver is wearing sunglasses?"

          IR sensors ?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: eye-tracking

          Well, the most obvious way of "working" while the driver is wearing sunglasses would be:

          <sound alert>

          Eye-tracking unable to confirm that driver is paying attention. Disabling all automatic features. Reverting to manual control.

          <sound alert>

          It's a safety system, so it should fail safe and fall back to the base level. Make the driver drive the car rather than play Candy Crush or watch movies.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: eye-tracking

            "Well, the most obvious way of "working" while the driver is wearing sunglasses would be:

            <sound alert>"

            Good idea. Let the driver drive whilst blinded by a low sun.

            1. sabroni Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Good idea. Let the driver drive whilst blinded by a low sun.

              It is a great idea. The driver drives with their glasses on and the "autopilot" is disabled.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Eye tracking is prone to errors, so is steering wheel detection.

      It registers when resistance is on the wheel. Using some normal driving styles can result in no detection of hands on the wheel. Therefore it gives a few seconds before asking for some slight resistance. If the software disengaged it would not be a workable solution at all.

      It seems to work fine for people who use it properly, but people can use any machine incorrectly. Why does a normal car not instantly stop if it detects no hands on the wheel, or if you drive faster than the speed limit in that country, or if you turn the wheel at a junction without indicating, or not stop you drifting over the line into oncoming traffic?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Eye tracking is prone to errors

        Yeah, I think it's clear the auto pilot is too. As long as it fails safe what's the problem?

  6. werdsmith Silver badge

    My car has a number of self driving features, and when it was new to me I quite enjoyed watching the car do its thing.

    However, the problem on our crowded UK motorways is that it is too easily affected by the actions of other drivers and I find I am constantly taking control to deal with situations. So over time I found that I was just driving and not engaging the fancy tricks. Except when the roads are virtually deserted.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      My car has a number of self driving features

      Mine has one - a specific feature on my must-have list: Adaptive cruise control.

      Which is great (most of the time) but meas I have to adapt my driving style (including not driving into the system detection zone for other cars if they are moving significantly slower than me).

      Most of the other stuff (lane keeping and lane departure warning for example) I've turned off.

    2. Annihilator Silver badge

      "I find I am constantly taking control to deal with situations"

      And this is the problem demonstrated in one sentence - there is never a point in the car where you are *not* in control, regardless of the driver aids that are in effect.

      This isn't a dig at you, it's likely just a turn of phrase, but it is very much the view of a lot of people.

  7. werdsmith Silver badge

    He also singled out Apple, Huang’s employer, for building a smartphone that was too addictive to put down, even while driving.

    Shifting the responsibility off the drivers. I can't say that I feel withdrawal pain for any phone, ever.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Not to mention that I don't think I've ever seen an Out Of The Box smartphone with any apps even vaguely approaching addictive levels, let alone apps produced by the phone manufacturers. It's suspected the driver was playing a game. I don't think most modern phones come with pre-installed games these days. Ain't no Snake on my phone. I don't think anyone can blame Apple, LG, Samsung, et al for making addictive phones. Maybe blame the app creators? Then there the call for phone makers to disable features while driving. IIRC we had this discussion before and most people agreed there was no way to tell if the phone user is a driver or passenger, let alone maybe on a plane, train or bus.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well...

    Huang reportedly experienced the exact same system failure that led to his fatal crash at the same location on at least seven occasions.

    In short, Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me eight times...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: well...

      Was he going to the Darwin then?

      Personally I am grateful for all the testing that these idiots are doing for Tesla. Maybe when he have them charging from Fusion power and we are factoring numbers using Shor's Algorithm on Quantum computers the technology will have matured.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: I am grateful for all the testing that these idiots are doing for Tesla

        You're happy that a man lost his life because he was stupid and it was his fault?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I am grateful for all the testing that these idiots are doing for Tesla

          He didn't say that, don't misrepresent.

          But if someone is going to die in an accident to make clear that a system is defective, I'd far rather it was someone being incredibly stupid who should, by his occupation and experience, have known a lot better. Rather than some unfortunate family in a Honda Fit, say, having him plough into them at 85mph.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I am grateful for all the testing that these idiots are doing for Tesla

            Thanks. But I am neither he nor a she, but an it.

            I believe that the blame should really go to Tesla for not disabling the vehicle by moving to the side of the road when the user has stopped monitoring the AI. It's not a plane, it can just come a to a complete stop in the "I am too lazy to drive lane"

            1. JohnG Silver badge

              Re: I am grateful for all the testing that these idiots are doing for Tesla

              "... disabling the vehicle by moving to the side of the road when the user has stopped monitoring the AI."

              The system does do this - but after warning the driver a few times. The gap between warnings is based on distance travelled.

              One problem has been that of stupid drivers using devices designed to defeat the detection of the driver holding the steering wheel, so that they can play video games, watch films or do other things that they have been told they should not do when driving.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heretic!

    The hardcore Teslarti will not like this one bit.

    There are many longing for the day when they can go to sleep during their commute. They believe that Tesla's will be the only cars on the road by then.

    Just go look at the Tesla forums and you will see the vitriol that is spouted when anyone dares to criticise something (such as rust) on their Tesla.

    It is just one of the reasons why I didn't buy a Tesla even though the Model S is a nice car. I drove two of their cars for a week each on my last trip to California. The Model 3 was just bland and boring.

    I'll wait for something a bit more exciting to come onto the market. 0-60mph times are not everything to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Heretic!

      Yep, love those knobs and dials everywhere, stops a car being boring. Tesla should just add loads of random knobs and dials like other cars, even if they don't do anything, they wouldn't be so boring then.

      1. parperback parper

        Re: Heretic!

        Yup - I want getting into my car to be like Han Solo prepping the Millennium Falcon for take off.

        Even if it is only adjusting the wiper speed and defrosting the headlights.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Heretic!

          I'm with the "have a snooze on the way to work" crowd. I want getting into my "work" car to be like getting into a taxi. I drive about 1000 miles per week. It'd be great to be a "passenger" for that time. Although I'm sure my boss would probably have me connected into the hell-desk taking calls while traveling between jobs.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Heretic!

      I too would like my car to drive me to work while I sleep in the back, drop me off at work, go off and find a parking space somewhere, then come back to pick me up and take me home. I just don't expect it to happen any time soon, unless we redesign our roads to be more like railway lines.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Heretic!

        Or inequality rises to Indian levels and people like Huang employ drivers, which he could probably have afforded.

        It amused me to discover that the stereo systems on even quite small Indian cars come with remote controls because of course the owner is sitting in the back while the driver drives.

      2. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Heretic!

        If the car's so smart it should leave you at home sleeping and do your job for you.

      3. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Heretic!

        I too would like my car to drive me to work while I sleep in the back, drop me off at work, go off and find a parking space somewhere, then come back to pick me up and take me home.

        Me too, although I think just occasionally I would like it to call me in sick and drive me to Las Vegas to hook up with Raoul Duke as a nice surprise

    3. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: Heretic!

      "Just go look at the Tesla forums and you will see the vitriol that is spouted when anyone dares to criticise something (such as rust) on their Tesla."

      Product fanbois brutally mob product critic in online product forum shock

      From my experience, postings on product forums are people complaining that the product or customer service is useless, fanbois saying that the product and company are wonderful and other people asking a question asked every two weeks, the answer to which is in the product manual.

  10. Barrie Shepherd

    Take a lesson from railways

    Railway driver safety systems have evolved, mainly as a result of accidents.

    Trains don't need steering but they still need attentive drivers hence the introduction of Driver Safety Devices (PC term for Deadmans), but those had failure modes (usually cunningly devised by drivers), so Driver Vigilance Devices were added, random interval time alerts that have to be acknowledged within a time. The time interval can be adjusted if the drivers is showing attention by, for example using the horn, adjusting speed etc. Behind that system is a signal warning system which requires driver intervention when approaching signals.

    Those techniques could be added to a car. If the car detects diverging roads or traffic lights alert the driver and require some form of input, even a twitch on the steering wheel, if a long road with no signals or turn offs a random interval altert also requiring driver attention. Sensors to detect that either a hand is on the wheel or a foot on a peddle or even eye movement sensors - which I have heard some railways are experimenting with.

    It's not rocket science and even if it were Elon is in the right business to solve it!

    1. johnfbw

      Re: Take a lesson from railways

      Deadmans switches in trains are fine - the train can stop safely. In a car it can't just grind to a halt in the middle of a highway - that would cause accidents. It also can't pull over to the side (no driver to check it is safe)

      IMHO a deadmans switch in a train is a result of not advancing technology enough to do away with the driver who (if there at all) should be there to handle non-standard situations that a computer can't (moving a car/person/tree off a track). A computer will always be able to react much quicker in the controlled environment of a train track and it shouldn't be the case a driver if expected to

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Take a lesson from railways

        Agreed, in this day and age there is no reason to have a train driver at all. It's on rails, it knows the speed limits the detection of objects is far easier. A train could easily handle being automated if only the humans would allow it.

        1. Lorribot

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          Docklands Light railway https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docklands_Light_Railway

          mining trains in Australia https://newatlas.com/autonomous-train-australian-outback/51631/

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          "A train could easily handle being automated if only the humans would allow it."

          Hell no!. The UK train companies can't even get the Unions to agree to getting rid of the gaurds on trains without walking out on strike.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Take a lesson from railways

            Hence the part about "if only the humans would allow it" both train drivers and unions are humans.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          "A train could easily handle being automated if only the humans would allow it."

          In Western Australia there is an ore train that is automated. I imagine that there are detection devices at level crossings that can tell if a vehicle is between the gates, but a big heavy ore train isn't stopping in time to not hit them. An impact sensor on the front of the train would tell the remote operator if they did hit something and the train could be stopped for the investigation and emergency services notified.

          A human driver doesn't materially add any safety to that line.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Take a lesson from railways

      A simple approach: make the in-car entertainment system play some Justin Bieber and time how long it takes for the driver to smash the 'off' button. Any more than half a second and their obviously either dead, a sadist or too thick to be driving.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Take a lesson from railways

        I've never sat in a Tesla, so others may have better information than me, but one criticism of many modern cars is that there are no separate controls for in-car systems any more, just a touchscreen.

        In that case, what would happen would be:

        Driver looks up from phone. Driver then stares at touchscreen. "O.K. Entertainment sub-menu... no. Driver awareness menu... Activation menu... Alerts... Bieber alert... Acknowledge... Acknowledge that it will return if I don't start paying attention... Cancel alarm! Return from Bieber menu... Return from Alert menu... Return from Driver Awareness menu... Now, where's the setting to re-connect to Spotify... I wonder if I should look out of the windscreen for a bit..."

        Modern modern UI design is rubbish.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          I wonder if I should look out of the windscreen for a bit...

          Reminds me of the Heinlein qote (is Starship Troopers?) about an armoured space marine having their head bashed in by a caveman with a rock because they were too busy tryingto read the displays in their helmet..

          The moral being that if you are doing something dangerous, maintaining situational awaress is a Good Thing.

          1. alisonken1

            Re: Take a lesson from railways

            IIRC (it's been quite a few years since I've read Heinlein), he was describing why the "Gorilla Suits" of the Marauder class of armor was designed with simple displays and controls - instead of having to spend 6 months learning what the suit does, the suit was designed so you 'just wear it' - otherwise, when you're too busy trying to figure out the technology in the middle of battle, you lose sight of the fact you're in the middle of a battle.

            When that happens while you're fighting, you're so distracted trying to figure out what each control does and what the displays mean that you don't notice the caveman coming up behind you with a rock and bash your head in.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Take a lesson from railways

              "Game over, man, game over!"

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Take a lesson from railways

              "When that happens while you're fighting, you're so distracted trying to figure out what each control does and what the displays mean that you don't notice the caveman coming up behind you with a rock and bash your head in."

              When I see stories about "modern battlefield systems", I recall Starship Troopers and Ian Malcolm. Lots of analysis of the Vietnam war showed how the VC gained a huge advantage by being lightly equipped over US soldiers lugging loads of stuff all over the place. It wasn't universal across the whole theatre, but a lesson to keep in mind.

        2. FlossyThePig

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          ...modern UI design is rubbish...

          In my old Peugeot 307 there was a button to turn the Traffic Announcement (TA) feature On or Off. In my 6 year old Toyota Auris requires a button to put the "infotainment" system into admin mode followed by a sequence of four on-screen touch buttons to turn TA on. A similar sequence is required to turn it off.

          I'm curious to know what the process is required in a Tesla Model 3.

          Remember folks it User Experience (UX) these days not useability!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          This is why I just bought a car with a standalone touchscreen that handles phone integration, satnav and audio, and a completely separate system for all actual car functions. With knobs on.

          There is also the satisfaction of knowing that a car system isolated from the Internet is rather less vulnerable than an integrated system.

        4. jtaylor

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          "one criticism of many modern cars is that there are no separate controls for in-car systems any more, just a touchscreen."

          Indeed. When I was recently shopping for a car, I told salespeople that I cannot safely operate a touchscreen while driving*. If a feature requires me to use a touchscreen, it will be inaccessible to me. That certainly limited my options, but in the end I got a good, reliable car with safe controls. (The same car in higher trim puts stereo and climate controls behind a touchscreen.)

          *I don't know anyone who can, but that's not something to argue with a salesperson.

    3. Dvon of Edzore

      Re: Take a lesson from railways

      Example from Japan. I recall Shinkansen cab videos where the driver must regularly check the status of the two braking systems, as there aren't many signals to point at on the high-speed lines. Looks something like doing The Macarena, but I suppose it keeps one alert.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Take a lesson from railways

        " I recall Shinkansen cab videos where the driver must regularly check the status of the two braking systems,"

        That makes sense. If there is a glitch that prevents the braking system status from being reported to the control center, the "driver" can report it over an alternative link or slow/stop the train. They are also on hand in case there is a reason that the train shouldn't leave the station. They can also react to being flagged by somebody near the tracks indicating that there is a problem ahead. The train is going so fast that anything too close is going to be fatal one way or the other.

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Take a lesson from railways

      These lessons have also been implemented in maritime systems. So a ship (or yacht) bridge might have motion detectors & other systems to make sure the person(s) on watch is awake, and hopefully paying attention. But that's as a result of a few centuries where vessels & crews have been lost due to inattention. And despite technology making it 'safer'. So GPS and nav systems means a vessel should know it's position, so why have a warm body on anchor watch? It can sound alerts if it detects drifting, but that assumes it's working.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Take a lesson from railways

        vessels & crews have been lost due to inattention

        I presume that the US Navy either doesn't use these devices or regularly turns them off..

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          Dunno.. But Captains would be expected to explain themselves. I suspect it's like your Heinlen example, and crew might be too busy/too distracted by other things, and not looking out the windows.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          You can read some of the reports into recent US Navy foulups. The tl;dr is that the captain and officers can't see out and the touchscreen interface is not very good. Destroyers that somewhat resemble surfaced submarines. It seems they are going to have to go back to actual controls.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Take a lesson from railways

          "I presume that the US Navy either doesn't use these devices or regularly turns them off.."

          There was the hilarious BSoD on a brand new US naval vessel that required them to be towed back into port.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Take a lesson from railways

      A tesla already does. It requires steering input/resistance to be felt every so many seconds (varies by country). If you don't react it will eventually slow the car to a halt.

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    If I can put down my cellphone for the duration of the trip and pay attention to the road to office/home, then surely others can do so as well.

    Self-control it is called, I think.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      There are studies that say it's actually a BAD thing because it raises stress and that it's better to not have the temptation in the first place.

  12. SonofRojBlake

    "develop a mechanism or app that would automatically disable any handheld's “driver distracting functions” while in a moving car"

    A suggestion obviously made by a bureaucrat with no children. Long car journeys without a handheld distraction? What is this, the fucking 1970s or something? You develop a mechanism that means your gadget doesn't work when my car's moving, all that guarantees is that I'll buy your competitors' gadgets instead.

  13. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Coroners Verdict

    Death due to stupidity/gullibility. Bring on the down-votes TeslaTwits! :-)

    As for disabling cellphone functions whilst the car is moving, how do they discriminate between the driver and the others in the vehicle? What about disabling the Radio, GPS, heating controls, electric seat controls, not to mention the eternal distraction of The World and all the wonderful things in it. STOP trying to blame an object for the failure of an idiot to behave in a way that ensures their own survival. The only problem is that these idiots often kill others because of their selfish stupidity.

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: Coroners Verdict

      Apple already has a feature which disables certain functions while in a moving vehicle. You have to click on a notification saying that you’re not the driver to use them. This can become quite annoying.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Coroners Verdict

        "Apple already has a feature which disables certain functions while in a moving vehicle. You have to click on a notification saying that you’re not the driver to use them. This can become quite annoying."

        I bet it's even more annoying when you ARE driving!

  14. Robert Grant Silver badge

    “So given that, I'd say that Apple has yet to recognize their own responsibility as an employer; that they have failed to say, of our over 135,000 employees, that we care about you, and we don't want you to go out and kill yourself or others on the roadway,” the chairman said. “Apple has failed in that respect.”

    ...

    Sumwalt slammed Apple again later: “We have one recommendation to Apple Inc which reads: develop a company policy that bans the non-emergency use of portable devices while driving by all employees and contractors driving company vehicles and operating portable electronic devices or using a portable electronic device to engage in work related communications.”

    Why should Apple only care about accidents related to devices? Why not care more about their employees and ban all behaviours that can lead to car accidents?

    And why is the Register reporting this tripe without any awareness that it is indeed tripe?

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Because the Register has had a feud with Apple for a very long time, and likes to post stories that make Apple look bad.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      So, was this guy "at work" and driving an Apple owned/supplied Tesla then? If not, then his employer, no matter who it was, has no right or obligation to tell them what to do outside of working hours. I'm sure if Apple ordered all their employees to forego alcohol and red meat as a "health and safety" measure, it would go down really well.

      The guy was an idiot for what he did, but it's neither device makers nor his employers fault, even if the are both the same company in this case.

  15. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Duh!

    "...was described as a "beta"-grade feature..."

    "...The board noted Tesla had improved the built-in warning system that flashes alerts if a driver has let go of the steering wheel for too long when Autopilot mode is active. In Europe, that time is 15 seconds..."

    Err, shouldn't that 15 seconds be reduced to something lower. Like zero?

    Why don't Tesla just switch this thing off? Clearly some people are too stupid to use it safely.

  16. khjohansen
    Coat

    "driverless car"

    Well this particular Tesla seemed to be working towards that end!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    How is Tesla allowed to not cooperate with NTSB investigations?

    If they don't already have it and haven't used it for some reason, maybe they need the power to ban sales of cars from automakers who don't cooperate?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: How is Tesla allowed to not cooperate with NTSB investigations?

      Elon often seems like a little kid that pushes the boundaries of what they can get away with. If you have to be in by dusk and nothing happens when you come in 15 minutes past, all well and good. A few nights later you come in 20 minutes late, etc etc until you hit the limit and you get grounded or paddled. If you just get a bit of a lecture and next week you push it again and get nothing more than a sharp word, maybe you stop worrying about it. Elon's favorite pastime is baiting the Securities and Exchange Commission. A $20 million dollar fine for you can me is massive, but for someone like Elon, it means buying the next mansion next month instead of this one. No real boundaries. No real punishments.

      If Tesla had to stop selling its Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving options, maybe that would be a big sting. The hardware is already on so it's a beautiful pile of banknotes to enable the feature in software. If people can't get it until Tesla stops stonewalling the regulatory agencies, it's a big problem. Most cars are financed so adding options at a later date is nigh on impossible to add on to the existing loan. What bank/finance company is going to give a loan for a software option? How many people will just live without the options and think about getting it with their next car if it's actually all working by then?

  18. Lorribot

    Two things here

    "Tesla refused to cooperate with the probe." really are they allowed to do that? US justice seems a little toothless.

    Autopilot, given this is the US, surely someone should be suing Tesla for misappropriation of a term, their solution, at best, is advanced cruise control, it most certainly isn't an Autopilot as installed in Aircraft, though I suspect some slimy lawyer would argue the case given the more limited requirements of that device. At the very least Tesla should be sued for over inflation of capabilities.

    It does remind me of the story of the person making a cup of tea after activating cruise control in their RV, unsurprisingly it didn't end well. This was mostly urban myth but did actually happen in the UK in 2018 https://www.suffolkgazette.com/news/motorhome-crash/

    1. alisonken1

      Re: Two things here

      "Tesla refused to cooperate with the probe." really are they allowed to do that? US justice seems a little toothless.

      Minor correction - NTSB is NOT part of the justice system.

      National Transportation Safety Board .

      Note - Even the title shows that they're part of an investigation group, not a prosecution group.

    2. MJB7 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Suffolk Gazette

      You do know that the Suffolk Gazette is a parody site (like TheOnion) right? It it publishes something, it guarantees it is not true.

  19. EBG

    unbelievable

    Boeing : regulatory capture

    Tesla : hold my beer. pre-emptive regulatory by-pass

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: unbelievable

      Yeah, because Tesla is the new kid on the block. The NTSB is likely restricted in it's powers thanks to the lobbying over the years by the likes of Ford, GM, Chrysler et al back in the day. Tesla are just following the established rules.

  20. wolfetone

    Caltrans, Cones, & Autopilot

    So the attenuator was broken, they put cones up to repair it later. What were the cones meant to do? Notify the incoming vehicle that they're better of crashing further up the road where there's another attenuator?

    I know people have noted that Tesla have never called it Driverless, but they have referred to it as Self-Driving. So for as much as words matter, Self Driving means Driverless. But even calling it Autopilot means there is a minimum level of pilot input. On an aircraft the pilot must be there and keep an eye on things, but they don't have to put their hands on the column all the time.

    So no Tesla, it's not driverless or self-driving. Its glorified cruise control.

  21. GeordieSteve

    Who was responsible

    From reading the article I get the impression the blame lay everywhere but with the loose nut attached to the wheel (or not in this case).

    Surely if these vehicles are that dangerous, then would the Insurance companies not price them off the roads?

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: Who was responsible

      Direct Line gives a 5% discount for Tesla cars that have Autopilot, which I guess they based on empirical evidence.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Who was responsible

        "Direct Line gives a 5% discount for Tesla cars that have Autopilot, which I guess they based on empirical evidence."

        Is that discount strictly for liability or does it include collision and comprehensive too? The cost to repair a fender bender on a Tesla can be massive.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlJ7lPdazyw

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Who was responsible

      " then would the Insurance companies not price them off the roads?"

      Tesla has started selling insurance in California. With the various state laws, you have to qualify in each state to sell insurance. I'm sure every country is also going to be a labyrinth of red tape to navigate. The more independent insurance companies push back, the faster Tesla will work on being able to sell insurance in different places.

  22. sabroni Silver badge
    Boffin

    I would never be stupid enough to make this mistake

    So fuck anyone who is.

  23. tekHedd

    Because in California there are no victims

    "It's Tesla's fault! It's Apple's fault!" Executive decisions about how to drive were made by one person. It's the driver's fault, and he has taken responsibility for his actions by dying.

    I agree that Tesla could do more, but shifting responsibility to a game or the car is the reason everything sucks now.

    1. jtaylor

      Re: Because in California there are no victims

      "shifting responsibility to a game or the car is the reason everything sucks now."

      I share your sentiment, but I think we must find a way to improve the situation. The driver was clearly at fault. He won't make that mistake again. And our roads aren't measurably safer for it.

      Where I live, most people treat driving as a right, not a privilege. The bar to entry is low and renewal requirements are almost purely financial. If you qualify in a small family car, your license entitles you to drive a 24' moving truck. Crashes are relatively common and being "at fault" means your insurance rises, not that you are disqualified from driving.

      Aviation has a deep cultural emphasis on safety. Owners are directly responsible and liable for condition of their vehicles. Pilots are directly responsible and liable for safe operation of vehicles. If a pilot is involved in a mishap, the burden is on them to show that they acted reasonably and safely. Accidents are not random events: we can understand the causes, we can observe patterns, and we can often predict future problems. And therefore, we can act to prevent them.

      I don't think drivers would accept being held to aviation standards, but heck. It's not a technical problem, it's a social one.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Because in California there are no victims

        And given today's car-centered world, denying someone the ability to drive essentially denies some the inaliablw God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Plus if he/she is a breadwinner, what of the spouse and kids?

        As they say...it's complicated.

  24. Stuart Halliday
    Pirate

    When companies in America brought out devices to attach to your Tesla Steering Wheel to evade it's safety measures, then that's when the Driver is too stupid to live....

  25. Beachrider

    Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

    An interesting (and much lower selling) alternative to Autopilot is GM's Supercruise. Its literature/marketing is quite different. Consumer Reports rates it 'safer' than Autopilot. You cannot get it in the UK, so far. It coordinates car-data with a very detailed road-surface map and will assimilate V2V (vehicle to vehicle) information, too. Supercruise spends a LOT of its focus by tracking the driver's eyes and doesn't need any hands on the steering UNTIL. When UNTIL happens, it begins a warning regimen that could result in stopping the vehicle. It doesn't change lanes for you. It only works on 200,000 miles of limited access highways. It will stop driving when roads are merging, etc. Supercruise is only offered on SOME Cadillacs until Fall 2020, when it expands to some non-Cadillac SUVs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

      "Cadillacs" and SUVs? I'm not an American, but both of these are basically gas-guzzling bricks, right? Is there really no chance of the US designing and selling smaller and more fuel efficient cars, or <shock> investing in high quality public transport? As a country you should be doing far more to reduce your environmental impact, rather than tinkering with gimmicks.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

        Funny you don't demand the same of Canada and Russia, the two countries BIGGER than the US.

        1. gotes

          Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

          I would say the U.S. has the monopoly on manufacturing "gas-guzzlers" though. Canadian & Russian vehicles are not that common.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

            "I would say the U.S. has the monopoly on manufacturing "gas-guzzlers" though."

            Starting with those great Yank marques like Rolls Royce, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Ferrari, right?

            1. gotes

              Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

              So, Europe manufactures some high performance & luxury vehicles? You don't see that many Rolls Royces on the road though, not like the likes of the Ford F series and Dodge Ram in North America.

              Why not name a few aircraft/ship builders, too? Those are the real gas guzzlers.

        2. gotes

          Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

          Also, USA is "biggest" by population, second "biggest" of the three by land area, so I'm puzzled as to what you mean by BIGGER.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

            It's actually third-biggest in BOTH terms. Canada and Russia are larger in terms of land area while India and China are larger in terms of population.

            But I'm going more towards land area; this is because distance matters when you're talking transportation. For example, one can drive from one side of England to the other pretty easily in a single day, whereas a road or rail trip from New York to Los Angeles usually requires planning for at least two overnight which is why it's usually more practical to fly people and small cargo. But then you get into the middle ground cases like from the East Coast to the Midwest (depending on the specific distance, you could be pushing it for a one-day drive).

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

              "one can drive from one side of England to the other pretty easily in a single day"

              Try a couple hours. The furthest point from the sea in the UK is only 70 miles. It's really a tiny little place in the great scheme of things, which tends to colo(u)r their perspective on World events. It doesn't help that for some reason they tend to think that anything more than a day's walk away is "far". As a Californian, living in Blighty is an adventure.

      2. Beachrider

        Re: Alternatives to Autopilot in the USA

        @Coward, Cadillac CT-4 is a LUXURY vehicle that can get Supercruise. Its EPA Highway mileage is 34 MPG (6.9 l/100km). Not a gas guzzler. The 10 speed transmission helps on that, a lot. Certainly the biggest SUVs don't meet your criterion, though.

    2. Beachrider

      FWIW SuperCruise is available on Canadian roads, too

      Coverage with SuperCruise in Canada is well established. 'Above' Quebec-City to Detroit is mapped. Winnepeg to Calgary and Edmonton is also mapped. Maine to Halifax has also been added. They have LOTS of work to complete their 'map', GM is CLEARLY trying to reap price-margins to pay for this infrastructure investment.

  26. 2much2young

    What's the "playing a game" evidence ?

    How much evidence is there that the driver was playing a game on his phone ?

    I ask because it seems to me there are at least two parties, Tesla and the highway patrol, who would like to distract interest from their part in the incident and painting the victim as clueless seems like a handy way to do it, it certainly seems to be working for a lot of people in this thread.

    The quote from the report is "likely from a cellphone game application" but there's no information, in the Register report, about how the NTSB came to that conclusion. Logs on the mobile ? If that were so I would have thought the quote would have been a bit stronger than "... likely ...".

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What's the "playing a game" evidence ?

      "I ask because it seems to me there are at least two parties, Tesla and the highway patrol, who would like to distract interest from their part in the incident"

      Plenty of comments about Tesla refusing to respond to the investigation. As for the Highway Patrol not reporting the damage to the barrier, or the Highway Authority not noticing it sooner, that really depends on whether that barrier and it's safety measures are a mandated bit of infrastructure or if it's an "optional extra".

  27. YARR
    Boffin

    Autopilot 4 less

    Tesla opted for inexpensive sensors over LIDAR to keep costs down. Perhaps a miniature fly-by-wire camera drone could give the car a better view of the road ahead, if that technology has reached an affordable price point? Just brake if it hits anything.

    (Or a camera on a long retractable muscle wire)

  28. osxtra
    Gimp

    What's In A Name?

    Wrote to Tesla's board through a link on their website a while back. Never got a reply, of course, but did mention to them that they were using the wrong word for their self-driving tech.

    It's not Auto-Pilot. The underlying tech is too new and unreliable, but that phrase makes folks think the car is ready to drive itself, when we sadly hear, all to often, that it is not.

    Until the tech reliably works, they should instead call it Co-Pilot. At least then folks would have the understanding they still need to be involved in the process of not accidentally killing themselves while behind the wheel.

  29. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    WAT?

    "Members of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), questioned during the hearing, said Tesla snubbed requests to describe how its cars were designed to operate under specific conditions, and that Elon Musk's engineers did not intend to take any actions regarding NHTSA’s recommendations in its previous safety reports."

    Then recall every one of their vehicles and have this "feature" removed. Full Stop. If this is not a violation of the law (as some have suggested), then it needs to be.

  30. The Codfather

    Human v device - who wins?

    Basically, AI is not what it always what it seems. And the human always the one ultimately accountable.

    A combination of mobile stupidity and shiny new toys always ups the risk.

    A sign of what awaits our humanity, methinks. Hmmm...

    Data good, when used correctly? Time for an options appraisal, perchance

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Human v device - who wins?

      IOW, how many times do they have to tell us? Until they're blue in the face and it still won't help. We believe what we want to believe and disregard the rest. Then again, while it seems forlorn to fix Stupid, we still can't ignore the very real risk of Stupid taking the rest of us with them; to ignore that is to condemn ourselves. So now what?

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