back to article 'There was no one driving that vehicle': Texas cops suspect Autopilot involved after two men killed in Tesla crash

Authorities are investigating a Tesla crash in Texas in which two men were killed this weekend. The authorities are probing whether the vehicle was operating in its Autopilot mode with neither occupant in control. According to reports, the collision happened at 23:25 local time on 17 April in the Houston suburb of The …

  1. idiot taxpayer here again

    Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

    Well there is a surprise /s

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

      He had posted a tweet earlier that day claiming cars running Autopilot were 10 times less likely to have an accident than the overall average.

      "Here, hold my beer."

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

        Or, crazy thinking I know, disable all driver aids and let the person with a license drive the damned car. If it goes off the road, we know who to blame.

        Also, having a car company lead the investigation through log retrieval and interpretation is like the mob doing face-to-face witness questioning before trial.

        1. Adam Azarchs

          Re: Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

          Note update, that car didn't even have autopilot installed. So, job done there.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

            It's a very interesting update. Whether it is "job done" when the local police are "100% convinced" that no-one was driving the car is another matter. If both statements are true, then we have to come up with a scenario where both passengers know the car doesn't drive itself and yet neither is at the wheel when it smacks at high speed into a tree.

            Maybe such a scenario exists. My gut feeling, though, is that either the police or Elon are wrong.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

              ...or the driver (or neither) were the cars owner/usual driver and just assumed that since it was a Tesla then "of course it can drive itself". Does the base model have lane keeping or other "assistance" by default? That might have led someone not aware of what autopilot is and how it works to assume it was present and working all the time.

              Never forget the apocryphal story of the camper van driver going back to make a coffee because he'd engaged cruise control.

        2. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

          Or, crazy thinking I know, disable all driver aids and let the person with a license drive the damned car. If it goes off the road, we know who to blame.

          We know anyway - it was the driver who had decided to leave their seat.

          I rely on driver aids, disability is a bitch, but driver aids make it possible for me to achieve the required level of concentration for safe drive for enough time to cover useful distances.

          Note - they *enable* concentration, not replace it.

      2. Mips
        Childcatcher

        Re: Tesla boss Elon Musk has not explicitly responded to the incident

        Who? Me? Nothing to see here.

        Do batteries make hotter fires than good old petrol?

  2. Dazed and Confused

    "more of a super-cruise-control"

    Tesla has always maintained that drivers should keep their hands on the wheel when its Autopilot software is engaged

    Surely it is easier to keep an eye on the driver than the road around the car. Why don't these things have in car monitoring making it impossible for it to drive if the occupants aren't in the driving seat. OK, I get the feature that you can ask your car to come out of a parking space so you can get in easily if the cars next to you are too close, so maybe allow it to move a few yards at 1 or 2 MPH, but hurtling down the highway with no one at the wheel? Come on.

    At the minimum the car should be taking a photo and posting it online to warn all other road users to stay away from the idiot.

    1. Shadow Systems

      Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

      First they need to be forced to no longer market it as "autopilot" as that implies a level of ability/capability/etc that doesn't exist. A plane has an autopilot that allows it to fly itself to specific waypoints along a route, but there still has to be a physical Human pilot at the stick. If you market your car as having an "autopilot" then you are implying it, too, can handle the bulk of any situation the vehicle is likely to encounter. Yet like the airplane it still requires a Human driver at the controls to take over for those times the car can't decide what to do.

      I'm totally blind, I do not have & can not get a valid driver's license, so I can not legally drive a motor vehicle. Unless & until I can legally climb into the no-longer-legally-required driver's seat to have the car take care of *everything*, then you absolutely can not call it a true autopilot. If it might need a legal driver with full Human sensory perceptions to take over control in an emergency, then it's not an autopilot, it's just a bunch of software that lets it try & stay inside the lines.

      1. MatthewSt

        Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

        Apart from that's not what autopilot means. Autopilot is a pilot aid, designed to take the mundane tasks away from the pilot. Eg the "cruising" part of the flight. It doesn't change altitude because of turbulence, it doesn't route around weather, it just flies in the direction you've told it to.

        Hence why 2 pilots are still required on commercial flights.

        What Tesla are marketing _is_ autopilot, it's just no one outside of aviation seems to realise how limited autopilot actually is

        1. Falmari Silver badge

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          @AC I agree what Tesla are marketing _is_ autopilot in aviation.

          The problem is with the term autopilot. In aviation due to training pilots know exactly what autopilot can and can not do.

          Outside aviation telling someone this vehicle has autopilot is likely to be seen as that vehicle can be self-driven without human interaction. Because autopilot looks like a combination of automatic and pilot (maybe it is). If it can automatically pilot itself, then it does not need a pilot.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

            And, if it isn't fully autonomous, how the hell was it driving, if there was nobody in the driving seat to monitor it?

            That is the biggest problem with this, the vehicle ignored that nobody was actually sitting in the driver's seat and just carried on "blindly" until it hit a tree, instead of stopping and asking the occupants, if they were totally insane!

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

              My car isn't anywhere near autonomous, but it will do lane keeping and adaptive cruise control...

              So it will carry on driving quite happily on a motorway if I leave the driver's seat.

              Should it cut out and slam the brakes on if I lift my backside off the seat (or unclip the seatbelt)?

              I'd suggest it should loudly complain at me, but continue in the safest possible manner.

              If they just put cruise control on and tried to drive from the passenger seat (reach over to the wheel) then at least they didn't kill anyone else.

              1. Dazed and Confused

                Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                Should it cut out and slam the brakes on if I lift my backside off the seat (or unclip the seatbelt)?

                I'd suggest it should loudly complain at me, but continue in the safest possible manner.

                I'd suggest that if shouting at you didn't get you back where you belong it should pull over and park safely and refuse to restart until the system has been reset by the civil authorities after they've arrested you.

                1. ChrisC Silver badge

                  Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                  "...until the system has been reset by the civil authorities after they've arrested you"

                  ...or have provided you with medical care appropriate to whichever serious condition struck unexpectedly and caused you to no longer remain in control of your vehicle.

                  Not that I'm suggesting this, or any of the other similarly newsworthy Tesla crashes, was caused by a medical issue, just making the point that sometimes crashes are caused by the driver becoming incapacitated, so having a "stop vehicle in safe place and alert authorities" feature which kicks in if the driver no longer appears to be responding could also be promoted as a positive driver-assistance feature, not just as a way to kick the arses of idiots who think it's entirely acceptable to deliberately relinquish control of a moving vehicle, outside of a controlled environment, to whatever level of automation is fitted to said vehicle

                  1. Dazed and Confused

                    Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                    ...or have provided you with medical care appropriate to whichever serious condition struck unexpectedly and caused you to no longer remain in control of your vehicle.

                    As you say, this would also be a good use of such tech. The problem of sudden failure of the driver has always existed and caused crashes. So a controlled stop would be a positive safety boon.

                    But a sudden illness is unlikely to cause the driver to leave their seat and sit somewhere else.

                  2. Boo Radley

                    Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                    In the US, once the car has contacted authorities, the cops will show with guns drawn, and promptly shoot the incapacitated driver when the driver is unable to follow they're shouted, and contradictory, commands.

                2. John Robson Silver badge

                  Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                  "I'd suggest that if shouting at you didn't get you back where you belong it should pull over and park safely and refuse to restart until the system has been reset by the civil authorities after they've arrested you."

                  Great - my car can't do that, it can hold lane and maintain speed and distance to the vehicle in front.

                  How do you propose it pulls over and parks?

                  For autopilot that would seem to be a possibility, but it isn't always.

                  I might have lifted my backside off the seat to adjust position, I might have become incapacitated... there isn't really a "good" option for driver aids in that scenario - hazard lights and gently slow to a halt is probably a "least bad" option in many ways (because the driver needs medical attention or arresting).

                  But at the weekend I was driving home with hands on the wheel and it asked me twice to put my hands back on the wheel (they already were) - so there has to be some checking of the driver's actual status before doing anything other than "continue with the traffic".

                  If, as Elon has tweeted, AP wasn't even installed.... then what capability is there to pull over, park and phone the police?

                  1. Dazed and Confused

                    Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                    Great - my car can't do that, it can hold lane and maintain speed and distance to the vehicle in front.

                    I would suggest that any system that is sufficiently good to lull an idiot (I'm not suggesting you are, I think you're arguing a point and not suggesting an action) to try seeing what happens if they climb into another seat while driving, should be allowed unless it is capable of safely stopping. The problem I see with systems such as Tesla's Autopilot is that for a minority of owners they will assume it can do things it was never designed to cope with. The problem isn't so much a technical issue as one of human understanding. If it seems to be able to drive under certain circumstances, some owners will assume it can cope with more.

                    I might have lifted my backside off the seat to adjust position

                    In which case you'd only lifting yourself off the seat squab for a very brief time, too long and the car should be reminding you of your responsibilities, it sounds like it is a little over eager in this respect.

                    If, as Elon has tweeted, AP wasn't even installed....

                    Then either driver left the seat after the accident, we'll have to wait for accident investigators report, but they'll probably know this. Or the driver was being even dafter by trying to control the car from the passenger seat.

                    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                      Holmes

                      Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                      The problem I see with systems such as Tesla's Autopilot is that for a minority of owners they will assume it can do things it was never designed to cope with. The problem isn't so much a technical issue as one of human understanding. If it seems to be able to drive under certain circumstances, some owners will assume it can cope with more.

                      There's also human curiosity, or 'curiosity' when knowingly trying something that might sit beyond the system's capabilities.

                      1. Dazed and Confused

                        Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                        You can be curious and explore some of it's behaviour while still sitting in the drivers seat ready to take over again if it f****s up.

                        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                          And the youngest of the two who sadly died was 59, so it's not "kids" messing about and thinking they are immortal. It all sounds very weird.

              2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

                Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                There's a middle ground, you know. It doesn't have to be at the extremes of "carry on blindly" or "come to an immediate screeching halt, causing a pile-up behind".

                If it can't pull over and stop in a safe, controlled manner when (or if) it detects problems outside its design scope, it has absolutely no business calling itself autopilot or anything else that implies autonomous driving.

                If the design scope doesn't include checking a driver as actually at the wheel while autopilot is engaged, that's a huge oversight at best, and needs to be corrected before any more Teslas with autopilot are licensed to be on public roads, and all existing Teslas lacking this ability should get a mandatory recall.

                1. John Robson Silver badge

                  Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                  "it has absolutely no business calling itself autopilot or anything else that implies autonomous driving."

                  Your misunderstanding of what an autopilot does shouldn't affect the use of that term. It is also fairly well described when you activate it.

          2. rskurat
            Devil

            Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

            You can't argue with the marketing department; they have more pull with the C-suite and are too dumb to understand what you're objecting to.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's more like an actual autopilot actually.

        Yeah, what you are describing isn't an autopilot, it's the kind imaginary tech that allows CSI Miami to zoom in an image that consists of 4 pixels. People need to actually look at what the minimum specs for an airplane autopilot look like. It's more like the mark 1 driver assists. Lane keeping, and speed control. It you set the autopilot while you are pointed at a building, you will park the fiery wreck of your plane in the building, or mountain, or tree. Sure, some of today's modern commercial aircraft are rocking more advanced systems that under ideal condition can even take off and land, but they will still fly the plane into an mountain if miss-configured by suicidal pilots or left unattended by the crew in obstructed airspace.

        airplane autopilot!=robopilot

        car autopilot!=robochauffeur

        Tesla did sticks it's face in a bear trap by calling its "Full self drive" patch "self drive" I think. The autopilot name was a dumb choice IMHO just because of the CSI factor, doubling down with another name doomed to cause confusion and dead stupid operators is a head scratcher.

        WTF was the idiot doing in the back seat is the real question here. I'm sure I can find an old Pinto for far less $$ if they wanted to die in the back of a flaming wreck.

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: It's more like an actual autopilot actually.

          If Tesla didn't call it autopilot some other manufacturer would have tried to own it.

          You can only call it autopilot if it does what people think it should do, auto steer, auto brake & accelerate, collision avoidance.

          It's obviously too early for autopilot. When Tesla get it right, hopefully they will let other manufacturers use their system.

          Sadly many people have died for Tesla to own the word AutoPilot.

          1. boblongii

            Re: It's more like an actual autopilot actually.

            "If Tesla didn't call it autopilot some other manufacturer would have tried to own it."

            And that manufacturer should be told that you can't trademark a generic word and you can't call the very limited automatic system in "self driving" cars an autopilot because non-pilots will take that to mean more than it is.

      3. bazza Silver badge

        Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

        I suspect Tesla rely on the small print to absolve themselves of responsibility. I also suspect they rely on the capital 'A' in Autopilot, thus presenting it as a name, rather than a function. Apparently in Germany Tesla has been prevented by law from using the word Autopilot to describe their cars' functionality.

        I second your views on what can and cannot be called "autopilot", or any other phraseology indicating that the car need not be human controlled.

        It's easy to appreciate that a proper, trusted, fully self-driving car could make a big difference to people such as yourself. If you don't mind my asking, what would your views be on how such a car should handle thing such as a puncture? For me as a sighted driver, it's a nuisance but I can deal with it (until spare tyres get outlawed, like the EU was talking about before Brexit). But I can imagine that a blind person would be more reluctant to have to deal with that themselves.

        The reason I ask is because there's a number of things that a car manufacturer could do that could significantly decrease the odds of getting stranded. For example, if it's an electric car, two motors instead of just one would mean that a motor fault results in arriving late instead of getting stranded. Similarly with division of battery packs; two half-sized batteries is better than one big one, but weighs about the same. Run flat tyres are an extant technology. Modern cars already have built in mobiles that call the emergency services in the event of a crash, but there are additional possibilities (e.g. Iridium SBD modems for when there's no cellular coverage) that could be incorporated. That could be an optional extra, but it would only be an option if the car's design had taken that into account in the first place.

        And then there's day to day stuff. Does the car (if it's electric) have to plug itself in? Or if it's fossil fueled, do we start needing automated pumps? Or would touch cues here and there to help a blind person do things like this themselves be adequate? If it's electric, the car might have to be able to reliably park itself within a tightly controlled distance of the outlet. The safety design of petrol pumps (if we still have them) would need to be reappraised from a blind person's point of view; there's an assumption that a sighted person will see fuel leaking, or a fire break out, etc. And there's the matter of which pump hose is which; currently, they don't have braille. Self inflating wheels / tyres are an existing technology, which would mean not having to inflate the tyres oneself. Breakdown organisations like the AA or RAC could adapt their systems to record customers who are blind and will need specific assistance (e.g. they already prioritise stranded women drivers).

        It would be a pity if the manufacturers did only the self driving bit but missed out other things such as those that might be just as important for people such as yourselves. The entire car industry is pretty much totally unused to the needs of blind people, and they probably haven't thought about what else they need to do in the basic design of the car and associated infrastructure to compliment the self-driving bit. Given that the tech is likely to be an expensive option to begin with, it could be that a large fraction of the early adopters would be people who are blind. It would be nice if they were properly catered for from the beginning.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          > until spare tyres get outlawed, like the EU was talking about before Brexit)

          LOL. um.. no!

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

            I don't know what your lol is for. The idea has gained a lot of traction because punctures are very rare and carrying around unnecessary weight is bad for the environment. This is a real policy.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

              punctures are very rare and carrying around unnecessary weight is bad for the environment

              Or you could go half-way and use one of those "space saver" tyres. Get you going in 20 minutes, or however long it takes you to change the wheel, much lighter than a standard spare wheel and - I would contend - safer to drive on than a tyre full of gunk. Waiting for the recovery truck is never fun, not even if you can say "I'm a young mother with two kids under five in the car" (which I can't). And what if you can't get a phone signal?

              Oh, and last time we needed to use the recovery people - after moving a couple of hundred yards up hill from the car in order to get a signal - the system wouldn't let us talk to anyone and insisted that we needed to log the call via the web interface! RAC in case anyone's interested.

              Run-flat tyres never caught on because they are expensive and use-once. Apparently they also compromised handling due to having a stiffer sidewall or something.

              Tyre inflation kits as sold with most new cars these days only work for small punctures in the main tread and from what I've seen I can change a tyre in half the time it takes one of those kits to work. A larger hole, a gash or anything in the sidewall cannot be dealt with by a tyre repair kit. Guess what my last three punctures were? Good thing I had insisted on the "optional" spare wheel with those cars.

              Then again, the last time I had a puncture - a couple of weeks ago and the aforementioned occasion to get frustrated with the RAC - it transpired that the wheel had "frozen" on to the hub and it took a careful couple of whacks with a sledgehammer to dislodge it. No, I don't usually carry a sledgehammer, but a passing waterboard contractor did!

              By the time my wife had got to the part of the RAC web interface which asked for location, we were already tightening the nuts up on the spare wheel.

              M.

              1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                "it transpired that the wheel had "frozen" on to the hub and it took a careful couple of whacks with a sledgehammer to dislodge it."

                Or you can let the jack down (carefully!) and the weight of the car will break it free - it won't go anywhere until you jack it back up.

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                  Nah, tried that, nothing. Even rolled the car half a turn (with three of the five bolts loosely fitted) but it wouldn't budge. Fed a tie-down strap through the wheel and got three of the children to help pull. Not a squeak.

                  I was wary of the sledgehammer due to it being an alloy wheel, but it did the trick (looking back, we were parked in the car park of a recently harvested forestry - could probably have found a large lump of wood to use instead, which might have been a bit less harsh). Thing is, why did it freeze on? I have been driving for over 30 years and have had alloy-wheeled cars for the last 20 years or so and I have never had a wheel do that before. This particular car is only two years old and has only had one service so far (another one due soon) so I'm blaming the garage who probably looked at the mileage, glanced at the disc through the gaps in the wheel and decided not to bother taking the thing off for a proper shufty.

                  With it being such a new car we took it to the dealer, but normally we take cars to "a bloke" who knows us and them well...

                  M.

                  1. Lunatic Looking For Asylum
                    Childcatcher

                    Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                    I take my wheels off, wire brush the bosses clean and the inside of the wheel hub and slather the mating parts with a CopaSlip

                    https://www.molyslip.co.uk/copaslip/

                    Also do the threads on the nuts/studs.

                    Your nuts come loose so much better when well lubricated fnarr fnarr.

                    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                      Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                      CopaSlip is exactly what our "bloke" uses, too. Perhaps I'd better get a tube because obviously the dealer doesn't care...

                      M.

            2. ChrisC Silver badge

              Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

              The impact on the EU emissions test results of carrying a full size or even space saver spare has encouraged some manufacturers to drop them as standard fit (and I suspect some other manufacturers have then seen a way to boost their profits a little more per vehicle sold by similarly deleting them), but manufacturers choosing to stop providing them whilst still giving buyers the option of adding them as optional extras, is a far cry from the EU having plans to mandate their removal from all cars.

              So unless you can point us in the direction of some evidence to support your claim, then you're going to have to count me amongst the ranks of the disbelieving incredulous here.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          "what would your views be on how such a car should handle thing such as a puncture? For me as a sighted driver, it's a nuisance but I can deal with it (until spare tyres get outlawed, like the EU was talking about before Brexit)."

          https://www.bridgestonetire.com/tread-and-trend/drivers-ed/run-flat-tires. Not perfect, but combined with the "low pressure in tire" warning my Toyota has, it would get you somewhere safe to wait for service.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          I think the summary of issues firmly points at some mobility solution that is a taxi but costs less.

          Driverless cars are an interesting idea, but we're not there yet despite what Musk & co are claiming (they only stop claiming this when yet another person has met an untimely end).

        4. juice Silver badge

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          > until spare tyres get outlawed, like the EU was talking about before Brexit

          Citation needed. A quick google for "eu ban spare tires" (and "eu ban spare tyres") has turned up zero hits for this; instead, there's just a few articles commenting on how some manufacturers are omitting the spare tyre to try and reduce weight.

          Personally, I've had four incidents where "reinflating goo" wouldn't have worked. Admittedly, one of them wrote off the car I was in, but at least I got to see the somewhat surreal sight of the rubber rim of the tyre rolling past my freshly crashed car, in a fashion which pterry would have been proud of.

          Thankfully, I've got recovery insurance via my bank account, so I've always got this as a fallback, but OTOH, for the other tyre-shredding incidents, I was in fairly remote places where it would have taken hours to get a towtruck and yet more hours to get home.

          (Could be worse. A friend had to get towed back from Belfast to Scotland, when his car failed during a little day-trip! All the fun of the ferry...)

          Over ~15 years of driving, that's roughly one failure every four years. So unless it becomes actively illegal, my space-saver tyre is staying exactly where it is...

          1. Potty Professor
            FAIL

            Re: Spare Tyres

            A few years ago I was unlucky enough to suffer two flat tyres in a single journey. Coming out of the depot on the return journey, I clipped the kerb and it knocked the valve out of the left hand rear rim. Bugger! Jacked car up and put on spare wheel, then continued trip home. About 10 miles from home, went over a pothole and destroyed right front tyre, Double Bugger! Now faced with a problem, wheel in spare storage has no valve, so cannot be used. Ring the AA, who say they will be with me within 15 minutes. Kept ringing them every half hour, getting more and more desperate as I am disabled and suffer from Diabetes, so operator assures me I am on priority list. Truck eventually pulls up 3½ hours after my initial call, by which time I am having a Hypo, By the time we got to my place, I was very ill, I dumped the car and trailer in the yard and crashed into bed, stuffing bananas into my face as quickly as possible. I would never go anywhere without a fully serviceable spare, but even then, you can get let down (no pun intended).

            1. juice Silver badge

              Re: Spare Tyres

              > By the time we got to my place, I was very ill

              Ouch - my sympathies!

              You've also reminded me that I actually forgot two other tyre failures; in those cases, I damaged the rim (e.g. coming around a corner on a country lane, finding a car heading towards me and braking only for the car to slide on some mud and clipping a large rock), so I honestly don't know if goo would have been effective; even if it was, I'm not sure I like the idea of trying to drive on a damaged rim!

              The worst recovery I've had is when a friend's car suffered a brake failure down in Oxford, as I was a passenger, we used my free recovery service to get it transported back to Hull. Only, it turned out that the recovery didn't cover taking passengers to their home.

              I eventually managed to get the truck driver to agree to drop me at a motorway service station[*] - only to discover that there was seemingly no public services to this station, nor indeed any road access other than the motorway. So I ended up trudging across some fields until I hit a b-road, and then continued walking until I got to the local train station, from which I could get home!

              Still nowhere near your experience (or my friend's Belfast recovery), but definitely time consuming.

              [*] I'm fairly sure it was Doncaster North, but a glance at the map shows that there is a back-road route into the service station. OTOH, this was many years ago...

              1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                Re: Spare Tyres (not)

                I had a really bad recovery a few years back, not tyre related, but very unpleasant.

                While working away from home, I was driving to my digs at the end of the day, and my car just stopped, leaving me stranded on a country A road.

                Called my roadside recovery, and got a fairly prompt response. After moving the car to a less exposed location, the patrol man tried to find out what was wrong with it, but could not get any sense from the ECU (the car was a 2005 diesel car, before standardisation).

                Anyway, he decided to recover me, and I opted to go home (126 miles) rather than back to my digs. He said that he could only take me to the edge of his region, just over half way.

                So, loaded the car up, and then found that the A303 was going to be closed for the night, but we just made it through the closing section. But where he was intending to leave me (a service station) was also closed because it was being used as a marshaling point for the maintenance vehicles.

                He decided to drop me off about half a mile down a side road, to wait for the next pick up. He phoned it in, clearly saying where I was and told me the next person would come in about 45 minutes, and set off home by the back roads.

                This was about 8:00PM. By 9:30PM, with no sign of the next hop arriving, I called to ask when I could expect to be picked up. I was told that the recovery vehicle couldn't find me, had I moved from the services. I explained that I had not been dropped off at the services, and I had heard them being told where I was.

                So having said where I was, I sat back and waited. For another hour. Called again. "Oh, have you moved from the services?" I was asked. I said no, explained, and told them where I was. Again.

                Eventually, about 11:30PM, a recovery vehicle pulled up, and the guy jumped out and said "I was told you were at the services". Barely able to contain my anger, but glad he had finally arrived, I was surprised when he asked me to pop the bonnet. I said that it had already been diagnosed as dead by the last patrol, which confused him, as he had been told it was a new call.

                After agreeing that the car was not going to start, he started prep'ing to load the car. While eying it, he said "What's the weight?" I looked it up, and said 1.6 metric tonnes (it was a diesel Rover 75, quite heavy). Oh, he said, and started packing up the ramps.

                What?

                Turns out, his recovery vehicle could not carry something that heavy (so they sent too small a recovery vehicle when they knew the model of my car! What is this, an age where this sort of information is hard to find?) "Don't worry, I'll tell them where you are, they'll find you quickly".

                About two hours later. Me, on the phone. "When can I expect to be picked up". Them "They can't find you, have you moved from the services?". By this time I was too tired to be angry, and just as I was going to start on describing my location, the recovery vehicle pulled up.

                "They said you were at the services. Did you manage to get the vehicle moved?" I explained (again), and tentatively asked whether his recovery lorry could carry 1.6 tonnes. Oh yes, he said, but it's going to be a bit tricky loading up, as there's not quite enough space in this lay-by. Oh, and I can only take you to just short of Yeovil.

                Anyway, after getting it loaded, he dropped me off at another services (fortunately, open enough even at 2:30AM to be able to sell me a hot drink and something to eat).

                The rest of the recovery went well, with the last driver a very pleasant man filling in from his other job as a paramedic ambulance driver (car recovery paid better, but he wanted to keep his qualifications up) who took me the rest of the way back home arriving about 5:00AM. A 126 mile recovery that took 11 hours and four recovery vehicles.

                The following day, I complained online, but they didn't even acknowledge the complaint. But I did get a follow up survey asking how they had done. Well, they got what they deserved, but I still did not get anything back from them, not even an apology,

                IT related, because the call centre was obviously not using any!

                1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

                  Re: Spare Tyres (not)

                  That must have been awful. Please name and shame.

                2. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: Spare Tyres (not)

                  I think it would be hard to top that. My worst was driving my dad's car a few years ago. We were leaving a car park near the large hospital in Cardiff when a loud "clunk" and some scraping announced the failure of one of the front springs. Now my dad was then in his late 80s, my mum in her early 80s and both fairly infirm. Dad has several medical problems which among other things make it near impossible for him to sit still for very long, for example.

                  So my wife came down to collect them and take them home (we were only 20 minutes from home) while I waited for recovery. Anything slightly more driveable and I would have taken the car slowly the mile and a half down the road to the garage I normally use, and parked it up overnight, but the wheel was scraping the wheel arch, the front bumper was about an inch off the road and would have caught every single speed bump and I couldn't tell if the steering had been damaged too.

                  When the recovery truck finally arrived (about three hours later if I remember correctly) the bloke was very apologetic - he lived very near the garage I wanted the car taken to, and had received the call-out within about 15 minutes of me ringing it in, but he had to drive all the way to Bristol to collect the truck, and there had been some delay at that end too by all accounts.

                  Why would the bloke on-call not have the recovery truck with him?

                  M.

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Spare Tyres

              I would never go anywhere without a fully serviceable spare banana.

              1. Potty Professor
                WTF?

                Re: Spare Tyres

                I did have a banana, and a Mars Bar, with me when I left, intending to be back for lunch. I consumed both within the first half hour of the 3½ hour wait, the worst thing was that I was only about two miles as the crow flies from a MacDonalds, but it was over five miles by the most direct road route, and I couldn't leave the car because the AA were promising to arrive "within 15 minutes" Hmph!

                1. Lunatic Looking For Asylum
                  Mushroom

                  Re: Spare Tyres

                  Things must have been desperate if you were considering McD's.

                  I think I'd have eaten the tyres first.

          2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

            "Citation needed. A quick google for "eu ban spare tires" (and "eu ban spare tyres") has turned up zero hits for this; instead, there's just a few articles commenting on how some manufacturers are omitting the spare tyre to try and reduce weight."

            It's definitely been proposed to ban spares on new cars. At the moment it's primarily done through emissions regulation, though, because carrying a spare makes a significant difference on the emissions tests.

            Having managed to shred 4 tyres beyond repair - and beyond the condition where you can limp to a garage - is quite an achievement. The average driver passing their test today won't do it once in their entire driving life.

            It's worth noting that 100 years ago it was normal to take several spares for a journey of a few miles. A couple of decades later, cars tended to have two spares. A couple of decades after that, one spare was the norm.

            We're definitely at the point where depending on your usage - urban v middle of nowhere, for example - it makes sense for a lot of people to stop carrying any spares at all.

            1. juice Silver badge

              Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

              > It's definitely been proposed to ban spares on new cars. At the moment it's primarily done through emissions regulation, though, because carrying a spare makes a significant difference on the emissions tests.

              That's not a citation. As I mentioned, I can't find any evidence that banning spare tyres has ever been proposed. The fact that manufacturers are choosing to reduce weight by cutting out spare tyres is a per-manufacturer decision, and one that I don't particularly agree with.

              > Having managed to shred 4 tyres beyond repair - and beyond the condition where you can limp to a garage - is quite an achievement. The average driver passing their test today won't do it once in their entire driving life.

              Most of my driving is long distance, and I actually forgot two incidents where I damaged the rim rather than the tyre itself, so it's actually six in 15 years!

              Oh, and one where I somehow managed to pinch the tyre wall against the curb when parking and thereby tore a hole in it. Potentially, I could have used goo to inflate it, but it was easy enough to switch it out for the spare - and by all accounts, garages aren't particularly keen on replacing goo-flated tyres, since it's messy.

              So it's actually more like 7 incidents over 15 years - and only two of them were local.

              A further quick glance indicates that a spare tyre only impacts your MPG by around 1%.

              As such, given the choice between spending 30 minutes slapping on the spare, versus waiting an hour or two for a tow-truck, and then spending an extra hour or two chugging back home at 55mph - I'll quite happily take that 1% hit on my MPG...

              1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                I don't know what kind of citation you're looking for with an idea that has been on the table for over a decade but hasn't yet been implemented explicitly.

                As I pointed out, the main reason it hasn't been adopted explicitly is that the hit to emissions is enough to have had much the same effect. Manufacturers have been voluntarily phasing them out so there's no need for legislation.

                I really don't understand what you're arguing with here. Are you suggesting new cars still mostly come with a spare? They don't, and there's plenty of consensus about why that is: the EU has strongly disincentivised them. This stuff comes up at the top of any google searches on the topic.

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                  Are you suggesting new cars still mostly come with a spare? They don't, and there's plenty of consensus about why that is: the EU has strongly disincentivised them.

                  You are right that they don't, but they do all come with inflation kits. The difference in weight between an inflation kit - which includes bottles of goo and a compressor - and a skinny spare tyre is slight, and it takes up a similar amount of space in the car so the boot space argument I've heard elsewhere is moot too. I imagine it comes down to cost. The tyres typically factory-fitted to cars can cost upwards of £100, let alone the cost of the wheel itself, a jack and a spanner, while a bottle of goo and a pump will cost under £30 at Halfords prices, so imagine how little the manufacturers pay.

                  Of our last four cars, the Kangoo (2006) and Berlingo (2019) came with a full size spare as standard, but it was a no-cost option on our Modus (2011) and a not-as-small-as-I'd-have-liked-cost option on the Sandero (2017 - notably, this was a second-hand car and yet it was still possible to swap the inflation kit for a spare).

                  The opinion in the garage seems to be that these things are being left out not because it makes more than a fraction of a percentage difference to the efficiency of the car but because your average punter a: wouldn't know where to start with changing the wheel and b: wouldn't want to do it anyway and would still call out a recovery service.

                  I tell you what. I'll do a search...

                  Honest John says it's down to cost

                  This website agrees, but also says it's convenience

                  The Car Expert in February 2021 says space, weight and cost are the main reasons and that weight will have some small effect on fuel efficiency.

                  Even the Daily Mail got in on the act bemoaning the loss in 2012.

                  These four articles (and many more) came up on the first page of a DuckDuckGo search and the message I got from that search was that saving weight (and thus improving economy) is really a minor part of the reason.

                  For very small cars (such as the Smart) it is also rather difficult to find the space to store the wheel, and the classic Smart car also has different tyres front and back :-)

                  We have one of the very earliest "spare wheels" at the museum I work for. It's a steel (iron?) rim, which bolts on to the rim of the wheel with the damaged tyre, so you don't need to take it off!

                  M.

                2. juice Silver badge

                  Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                  > I don't know what kind of citation you're looking for with an idea that has been on the table for over a decade

                  Oh, I don't know. Though... how about some actual evidence that any offical group within the EU has ever said "now that we've restricted vacuum cleaners and scared the Brits by threatening to downgrade their kettles, let's ban spare tyres for an incredibly marginal improvement in MPG, even though said improvement will probably be wiped out when a tow truck has to drag your vehicle home at around 10MPG...

                  > They don't, and there's plenty of consensus about why that is: the EU has strongly disincentivised them.

                  Odd - my search didn't turn anything up, despite this being the sort of "banning our bendy bananas" story which would have most eurosceptics frothing at the mouth.

                  And the research done below by Martin suggests similar. I'd guess it's similar to the way mobile phones generally don't come with chargers any more, since the manufacturers realised that they could cut costs and boost their ecological credentials in one fell swoop; the fact it has a negligible effect on the MPG is just icing on the cake, especially since their more "daring" efforts to boost their stats have been slapped down hard.

                  Aka: it's nowt to do with the EU.

                  Admittedly, I don’t think I've ever bought a car less than 5 years old; my current car is a 2010 Honda Accord (and ticking along nicely with 195k on the clock). And I'll admit, that did come with just a tube of goo by default. But this was nestled in a space under the floor of the boot which is exactly the right shape to take a spare tyre, such as the one my previous 2008 Honda Accord had, and which was duly transplanted into place.

                  And personally, I figured it was just a weight saving measure by the manufacturer, since (despite nominally having the same engine), the MPG of the 2010 model is a good 15-20% lower than with the 2008 model...

            2. Cuddles Silver badge

              Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

              "It's definitely been proposed to ban spares on new cars. At the moment it's primarily done through emissions regulation, though, because carrying a spare makes a significant difference on the emissions tests."

              Bollocks. A spare wheel weighs under 10 kg for most cars. A space saver wheel could be under 5 kg. That might make a difference if you're looking at a stripped-down carbon fibre sports car, but it's utterly irrelevant for any normal consumer car.

              1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

                You think it's bollocks, but that doesn't make it so. A moment on Google confirms it.

            3. Lars Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

              @Dave314159ggggdffsdds

              Curious too about the "eu ban spare tires", is it perhaps something Boris invented for our amusement.

              What I have once found very useful once is to have a 12v compressor and a repair kit with me. It will fix more or less every problem caused by a nail or something similar, on the spot and without taking the wheel out.

              I was also once saved with one of those bottles with some sort of glue foam and air pressure.

              PS. for those interested in witty stories by Boris try.

              Fintan O'Toole, "The Politics of Pain"

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA08SXJ8mAY

        5. Daniel Hill

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          I'm in a similar situation, but I have enough usable sight to carry out most day-to-day tasks. My vision is just not quite up to the standard required for a UK Driving License.

          (In some states of the US, someone with far worse vision than me would be allowed to drive with a bioptic telescope, a fact I find somewhat scary!)

          Proper self-driving would be a game changer for me, and others in a similar situation, even if adaptations for people with no or very limited functional vision took a little bit longer.

          However, if the demand is there, I'd hope the manufacturers (or third party suppliers) will rise to meet it, and in my experience, people with visual impairments are often incredibly adaptable and ingenious, finding ways to do tasks that a fully-sighted person would consider to be impossible without functional vision.

          Take the petrol pump issue for example, there are phone apps that would allow you to point the camera at the pump handle and it'll tell you what colour it is. Slower, perhaps, but it would do the job!

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

      Apparently other manufacturers' (GM?) systems have eye tracking cameras, which tells their cars where the driver's eyes are looking. No eyeballs in place looking the right way, no-go.

      I gather that eye-tracking tech is fairly mature, reliable and not especially difficult. Given that such a thing is pretty good for when the driver starts nodding off, that alone is a safety improvement regardless of whether the car is self or human driven.

      I like the idea of a car auto-posting "warning, my driver is an idiot" pictures!

      1. Blank Reg Silver badge

        Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

        You don't need anything that sophisticated. Cars already have a sensor in the seat so that the force of airbags can be adjusted. If no driver is sitting in the drivers seat then it should not be possible to set it to or stay in autopilot mode.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          Which is literally already true in the teslas, with several other safeties backing them up.

          However, fools being quite ingenious, you can jump on youtube to watch other idiots explain how to bypass them.

          The safeties aren't the problem, as getting into a cat and mouse game with the fools probably isn't worth the effort. The standard for a building a car shouldn't be fool proof, just fool resistant.

        2. bazza Silver badge

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          Oh indeed yes. But judging by some of the "tricks" that people seem determined to use to fool Autopilot into thinking that hands are on the wheel, a weight sensor might easily fooled. I gather that one of the advantages of eye tracking is that's nearly impossible to fake eyes and their movements

          1. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

            "... nearly impossible to fake eyes and their movements ..."

            If the demand is there, somebody will find a way to reprogram the car or make a gadget that tricks the system into believing that the driver's eyes are being tracked.

            "One thing that humbles me deeply is to see that human genius has its limits while human stupidity does not." - Alexandre Dumas

            1. bazza Silver badge

              Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

              Great quote that!

              But yes, there'll always be a better, motivated and especially creative idiot just round the corner. We can only hope that there's fewer of those than the casual, lazy idiots.

        3. erst

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          And car makers also want to save every penny they can, so in fact most cars do not have a sensor in the driver seat - it’s assumed that it will be occupied by an adult when driving.

          But I agree with the sentiment that Tesla could do more to prohibit misuse of their “Autopilot”. It’s currently in that danger zone where it can handle enough situations to build some trust, but it’s still bad enough to create many more accidents than a human driver if people actually trust it and relax with the needed supervision.

        4. marcellothearcane

          Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

          Don't they also have sensors that beep if you don't have your seatbelt on?

    3. hoola Silver badge

      Re: "more of a super-cruise-control"

      Here is a thought, there are already seat belt sensors and it would be very easy to detect someone holding the steering wheel so if there is no arse on the seat and no hands on the wheel, turn the bloody stupid thing off.

      This appears to be the level that we have reached with the ridiculous car, idiotic owners and hyped marketing.

      If "self driving" were easy it would have been done years ago.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, another two idiots written off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      perhaps it was a joke

      The "two idiots" were humans with families and friends. Someone is weeping today. The punishment for gullibly believing Tesla marketing should not be death.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: perhaps it was a joke

        The punishment for mis-managing several tons of metal moving at 50mph is usually death for somebody.

        I'm just glad an innocent bystander wasn't involved and that these people won't be "driving" like this any more and threatening my life if I was in the area.

        Edit: and yes, I'd prefer they be in the critical ward and not the morgue, as dead people don't learn.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: perhaps it was a joke

        The car wasn't using autopilot, that's been confirmed from the logs, looks like two idiots having a go at a Darwin award to me.

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: perhaps it was a joke

          Also that both sat behind is just an opinion and perhaps not the case after all.

      3. Garry Perez

        Re: perhaps it was a joke

        I agree and shame on those downvotes

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Perhaps Tesla should name its cars after famous biologists. Darwin would be a good starting point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Darwin Awards

      Definitely 2 good contenders there!

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Maybe it's time for new legislation for cars sold with any form or degree of autonomy, to purchase or drive/control one the individual in charge must have completed a full safety course on the control of said vehicles.

    The course should be designed by any given country's H&S organisation and until the courses and legislation are in place none should be on the roads, that should keep the damn things off the roads for a couple of years at least.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      > Maybe it's time for new legislation for cars sold with any form or degree of autonomy, to purchase or drive/control one the individual in charge must have completed a full safety course on the control of said vehicles.

      The US doesn't require any course in the current non-autonomous death traps. Why should this be any different?

      If you can identify 50% of the road signs by shape, you're good to go in the US.

      People don't even know you should check/change the oil, that's how poor the knowledge is here.

      1. druck Silver badge

        You mean the US habit of changing the oil every 3000 miles like it was still the 1930s?

      2. marcellothearcane

        You don't have driving tests?

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          According to Autoexpress in 2014,

          all learners must complete a six-month graduated licence programme before they’re allowed to drive on the roads accompanied by a person aged 21 or over

          From other sources, I think that's badly worded.

          This being the US, the rules vary enormously from state-to-state. It seems that in most states there is a restricted licence - similar in intent to the UK provisional licence - available to those aged under 18 (under some circumstances as young as 14), which starts off very restrictive but gradually adds more freedoms as experience is gained, but that above 18 the rules vary. Many states now seem to mandate a certain minimum number of hours of practice with a licenced trainer, but from what I've read, while some states mandate a written test (which again varies) and a practical test, some don't. For example, according to Wikipedia it is possible for anyone over 18 to obtain a general driving licence in Michigan by paying $11 for the restricted licence and passing a $50 road test.

          Anyone US-based care to elaborate?

          M.

        2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          The US does not have anything that Europeans would recognise as a driving test. In many states a 16y/o gets a full license after a few minutes of shared driving lessons.

      3. fajensen Silver badge

        Why would I care about stuff like the oil? The garage does whatever it does better and faster than I do!

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          You don't necessarily need to know how to *change* the oil, but you really should get into the habit of *checking* it at regular intervals between each trip to the garage for servicing. Especially if you drive certain diesels fitted with DPFs, where a known failure mode is for the DPF to become saturated with diesel fuel due to repeated failed regens, causing diesel to then start migrating back up the exhaust system and through the cylinders into your engine oil. Which, if you're not familiar with diesels (especially the more finely tuned engines of recent years, as opposed to the unbreakable lumps of yore) is A Bad Thing.

          The first you'll know about this fault is when you start to notice the oil level *increasing* over a period of time, instead of remaining steady or decreasing slightly as is normally expected. Catch it quickly enough and you can usually fix the problem without any damage to the engine, otherwise there's a good chance your car (or at least the engine) won't make it as far as the next service interval...

          There are other faults that can also be detected before they cause lasting damage through routine checks of the oil - e.g. check under the filler cap for signs of gunk which might indicate coolant leaking into the oil (may be a sign of head gasket failure, or a porous oil cooler if your car is fitted with one).

          It's all well and good leaving the actual spannering to the garage (other than basic stuff like changing light bulbs and the occasional wiring harness/engine sensor swap where said part is accessible either directly or behind easily removed/replaced things like trim panels, my local indie has always done all of the hands-on work on my cars), but knowing what to check on your car so that the next trip to the garage doesn't end up being far more expensive than you'd anticipated is a basic skill that every car owner really ought to have.

          It also gets you into the habit of checking other things on your car - exterior lights, state of the tyres etc - that too many drivers don't seem to give a crap about even though they're legal requirements and where not realising there's a problem until it's too late might leave you with more than just a hefty garage bill to deal with.

    2. Sykowasp

      Yes, it could be an additional course to get that on your driving license. Like you can get automatic and manual driving licenses in the UK, and additional steps for larger and specialised vehicles, self-driving (including autopilot and advanced cruise control systems) should be tested, to teach the limitations and safe use of these currently limited systems. It only needs to be a computer-based course rather than sit-and-drive.

      Also it means some money for the course book creators, and the test centres to host.

      Tesla (and so on) can unlock that feature in the car upon presentation of a driving license with that aspect done.

      But ... big barrier to sales of electric cars? Well, no, the self-driving is an additional feature even here.

  6. vtcodger Silver badge

    The List

    I reckon we can now add trees to the rather lengthy list of large immovable or minimally movable objects Tesla's electronics have trouble distinguishing. By my count, the list includes fire trucks, police cars, bridge abutments, and semi-trailers. Have I missed anything?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The List

      Bicycles? Though I try not to miss them either.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The List

      Not really in this instance anyway, as the car didn't have FSD (full self driving) installed (wasn't purchased for the car), and the autopilot (aka cruse control and lane centring), wasn't turned on.

  7. TRT Silver badge

    Shuffled off this mortal (Tesla) coil. Ceased to be. Bereft of life. Joined the choir invisible.

  8. Lars Silver badge
    Flame

    Not against the law to have nobody behind the wheel apparently?. If that is so then that should be easy to fix.

    Will it stop if a police on a bike comes up alongside kindly asking the "diver" to stop?.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      I don't know about Texas, but UK law has a bit about being in proper control of the vehicle, without (AFAIK IANAL) defining what that actually is. This usefully means it's open to interpretation by the policeman and the court. This has led to at least one conviction of a nutter who was dozing in the passenger seat of their Tesla going down the M11 with Autopilot turned on. Fortunately they were spotted and the car brought to a halt before there was an accident.

  9. Rustbucket

    2019 Tesla Crash

    . . . was into (or under) a truck crossing directly in front of the vehicle, not "passing".

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if the car might have crashed, and the driver moved to the passenger side, but couldn't open/break the door or window, and was then overcome by fumes and/or flames. The speed determination might be complicated by the frame melting from the fire.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another possibility, that could fit both the Police and Tesla's story, is a third occupant who survived and did a runner

  11. Blackjack Silver badge

    From what I have read, to actually "self drive" without anyone on the driver seat you either have to be on a very old firmware version or trick the weight sensor in the driver seat.

    Of course, I may be wrong.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs

    showed Autopilot was not enabled nor installed on the crashed car.

    WTF ?! Did Tesla manage to uninstall/disable the feature in the split second preceding the crash ?

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs

      >Did Tesla manage to uninstall/disable the feature in the split second preceding the crash ?

      No, as someone else has suggested, the driver moved to the front passenger seat to escape the car (which had crashed on a right hand curve) but failed to get out. Seems logical if there's no autopilot in the car.

      We had a nasty accident on a divided highway (dual carriageway) near us a month or so back that involved a Tesla and two teens. Both were killed when the car failed to negotiate what is a very slight bend and slammed into a tree. The road has a 45mph speed limit on it but these two were doing at least double that. Teslas are very fast cars and they're really quiet so its really easy to go way too fast for the road conditions.

      1. Wilco

        Re: Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs

        "the driver moved to the front passenger seat to escape the car"

        The cops seem pretty sure that isn't what happened. I assume you are suggesting that the driver moved after the car had crashed? If so it will be pretty easy to determine which airbag his face smacked into.

        "Both were killed when the car failed to negotiate what is a very slight bend and slammed into a tree"

        This is very sad, but it seems unlikely that the autopilot was enabled if the the car was doing 90, and you don't claim it was. This is more an argument for not giving teenagers access to fast cars, irrespective of who manufactures them.

        As a reminder, in 2019 there were 36,120 deaths on the road in the 'merica. (wikipedia). That is more than 100 every day. I don't have the data, but I'd bet that self driving technology was involved in a tiny percentage of those - because we sure hear a lot about every case when it is.

        1. dgeb

          Re: Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs

          "in 2019 there were 36,120 deaths on the road in the 'merica. (wikipedia). That is more than 100 every day"

          Whilst it is sadly very close to 100 per day, 36,120 is fewer than 36,500.

          1. Wilco

            Re: Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs

            Oops - quite correct

    2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs

      You have to pay extra money to have an auto-pilot on Tesla, it is a costly option.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs

        All Tesla's (current ones anyway), come with auto-pilot as standard, but auto-pilot is basically just dynamic cruise control and lane centering (same as just about any other top end car out there from other manufacturers).

        The expensive bit (~$10,000 option!) is the FSD (full self driving), which does the fancy stuff, self navigation, lane changing etc.

        The crashed car here, did have auto-pilot, but no FSD, and auto-pilot was turned off at the time of the crash according to the logs.

  13. YetAnotherJoeBlow Bronze badge

    El Reg

    "Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs showed Autopilot was not enabled nor installed on the crashed car."

    I wonder why the media has not mentioned the above - except for El Reg?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: El Reg

      Phew, fan boys rejoice!

      Auto dumb-pilot not engaged!

      No mention of the massive almost uncontrollable fire....

      1. Citizen of Nowhere

        Re: El Reg

        >No mention of the massive almost uncontrollable fire....

        Probably because the result would be exactly the same with any electric vehicle which crashed into a tree at speed and caught fire?

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    One of two things must have happened :

    1. There was a driver, car was not on autopilot. Driver and friend wanted to see "how fast can this car really go?" and misjudged. After the crash, the driver could not get out and moved over to the passenger seat to try and get out from there, and also failed.

    2. There was no driver, both have found a way to override all existing safety interlocks etc somehow (and tried to re-enact a Knight Rider episode), and one which the authorities do not want to reveal lest others will try out the same.

    Unfortunately all electric vehicles carry a nasty payload - stored electricity, and in the event of an accident, said energy may want to go somewhere else...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately all electric vehicles carry a nasty payload - stored electricity, and in the event of an accident, said energy may want to go somewhere else...

      .. and once on fire, there's no way to extinguish. I've heard of some fire brigades who are making noises about banning Teslas and other e-vehicles from underground car parks as a fire there can cause structural damage to the building above.

      At the moment, apparently the only way to secure a battery fire is to drag the whole thing into a container and just let finish burning someplace where it causes less damage, and that still doesn't address the fumes coming off it.

      1. Remy Redert

        There are ways to extinguish a burning battery with powder or foam extinguishing agents. Unfortunately most fire departments don't carry said chemicals around with them because prior to the proliferation of electrical vehicles, they simply didn't need them.

        Any battery fire they did encounter they simply extinguished by dousing the (small) battery with very large amounts of water. Much easier to do of course when it's a phone or laptop battery.

        Our fire departments here are actually starting to carry the necessary hardware now, so they'll knock the fire down with water, then spray foams/powders over the burnt out wreck to keep it from reigniting immediately so they arrange a container to immerse the battery in water long enough to make it safe.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Problem is..

          .. that it's not the constituents of the batteries that are the problem (yes, lithium is prone to spontaneously burn, but in a battery, it's neither pure lithium nor is there a huge amount of it).

          It's the electrical energy that can cause disruptive and very hot arcs which can cause all sorts of things to burn. Even dousing the battery in water might not be safe, because it's possible that the water will electrolyse, generating oxygen (which causes many things to spontaneously combust, like aluminum and steel) and hydrogen which will burn (or explode if it is in any containment) with air given an ignition source. Both are gasses, and will escape the blanketing of the water.

          In fact, adding water may contribute to the danger.

          Even if you exclude oxygen with a foam or powder extinguisher, the electrical energy may still be there for some time to cause havok when you start clearing the wreck.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Problem is..

            It's not quite the same technology, but for a very deep-down investigation of what can happen in a (Lithium) battery fire, particularly when combined with a Carbon-composite structure, one need look no further than the investigation into the fire aboard a parked 787 at Heathrow in 2013. Notable is that this was an entirely separate issue to the several fires in 787 batteries which had resulted in the grounding of the 787 fleet in early 2013.

            M.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      3. What were two guys doing in a car, not in the drivers seat?

      Paris knows!

  15. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Lockdown Lift Euphoria

    I believe two directors of UK companies have died over the past week in car accidents.

    I wonder if people have got a bit euphoric over being able to get out and about, and have not been paying the same heed of consequences as normal when driving.

    1. Lunatic Looking For Asylum

      Re: Lockdown Lift Euphoria

      In my experience, I feel that the standard of driving on Britains roads is now worse than it was before covid.

      As a cyclist, I see more close passes, poor lane discipline and aggressive driving than I did before lockdown.

      As a car driver, I have been passed in 30 & 40mph zones more often as well.

      Too many think a driving licence is a right not a privilege.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lockdown Lift Euphoria

      I think that people have also been driving a lot less over the last twelve months, and their level of driving skill is lower than before. Like any skill, if you don't practise, you don't improve, and usually get worse.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Lockdown Lift Euphoria

        I don't think it's possible for their skill levels to get any lower. They were idiots who shouldn't be allowed on the roads before lockdown, and they're still that after.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Several of our folks are reconstructionists, _but_ ..."

    What is a "reconstructionist" in this context?

    "search-engining" comes up with some links to religious groups which doesn't seem relevant.

    Or is it a shortened version of something like "forensic event reconstruction" in which case why did she say "but"? A relevant professional skill would increase the chance that this was the correct conclusion so wouldn't she say "and" ?

    Or am I reading too much into a statement that was made when presumably reporters were waving cameras and microphones into the officer's face? (I can't see the local report)

  17. Sykowasp

    I am shocked that a fire department doesn't know how to extinguish an electrical fire from a car crash in 2021, and instead kept pouring water on it. This is absolutely appalling.

    As for the accident itself, that's entirely down to the idiots within the car. It's a non-story (as regards Tesla and Autopilot or Self-Driving) as soon as their behaviour was described.

    It turns out that it's likely these idiots only stuck the car in cruise control mode anyway (presumably with the seatbelt locked in the driver's seat, but no weight sensor in the chair to confirm someone was present), so no surprise it didn't go to plan.

  18. lglethal Silver badge
    WTF?

    This is weird

    This is such a weird case.

    The cops seem pretty sure there wasnt anyone in the front seat when the crash happened - so no driver doing a runner after the crash and leaving his passengers to die, and no driver climbing into the passenger seat to try and escape the fire after the crash.

    And Tesla say there was no Autopilot on the car. So not the good old excuse of an idiot turning on Autopilot and then thinking they can go and have a kipp in the backseat.

    And I struggle to believe that there is anyone stupid enough to think that a normal cruise control (which i assume was deployed because how else was the car driving when no one had their foot on the accelerator), could drive the car on its own and do things like turn the wheel and drive.

    So the only things I can think of are:

    a) the cops are wrong and their was a driver who either fled or climbed into the passenger seat post crash (i rate this as a low possibility);

    b) Tesla are lying and the vehicle had Autopilot and it was engaged (i rate this as a low/medium possibility - medium because we all know old Musky is not adverse to massaging the truth if it helps his message, but low because the sh$tstorm that would occur if they were caught lying would do so much reputational damage as to hurt them way more then just another crash caused by idiots and marketing);

    or c) the idiots in the car believed they had Autopilot and not just a cruise control installed (i rate this as probably medium possibility, although it beggars belief that they didnt let the car make a few turns on its own before deciding to climb out of the drivers seat!).

    All in all, I find any of those options hard to truly believe in. Anyone else got some better theories?

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: This is weird

      "the cops are wrong"

      "I find any of those options hard to truly believe in"

      Really? That one is the null hypothesis here.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: This is weird

        When it comes to car crashes, no one knows more about body positioning and the like then the police. I'm not talking about standard policing, target profiling, or any of that stuff, which police get wrong and which is heavily politicised (and which is why your commenting on it).

        But when it comes to turning up at the scene of a car crash, and identifying the circumstances around it, the police have significant experience and are rarely wrong. They aso have no motive to make sh%t up and claim one thing when the truth lies in a different direction. A car crash is a car crash. There's no need for them to make sh&t up...

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: This is weird

          We're talking about small town American cops, not real crash investigators. They jumped to a conclusion because thick&lazy is their M.O.

          I have zero confidence in their entirely uneducated guesses.

          Google Oakley Bernard Engesser. He spent ten years in jail because t&l police insisted he was the driver of a vehicle when he was a passenger.

          "Engesser and Dorothy Finley left the Full Throttle Saloon in a red Corvette.

          Seen traveling at high speed, the Corvette eventually hit a minivan and rolled a few

          times before coming to rest on its roof in the median of a highway. Engesser, who

          had been thrown from the vehicle, was found several feet away from the driver’s

          side door. Finley, pronounced dead at the scene, was trapped inside the vehicle on

          the passenger side.

          "There was one unknown for law enforcement. Who had been

          driving, Engesser or Finley?

          Based primarily on the physical evidence at the scene, Trooper Edward Fox

          concluded it was Engesser. He reached this conclusion for three main reasons: (1)

          Engesser was found outside the vehicle on the driver side; (2) Finley had been

          trapped inside on the passenger side; and (3) the injuries both suffered were

          consistent with where they were found. A jury eventually agreed with Fox’s

          assessment and found Engesser guilty of one count of vehicular homicide and two

          counts of vehicular battery. See State v. Engesser, 661 N.W.2d 739, 742–43 (S.D.

          2003) (“Engesser I”)."

      2. JoeCool

        Null Hypothesis

        Not sure this is an accurate use of the term, but why isn't the Null Hypotheisi that Elons' Tweet is wrong ?

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Null Hypothesis

          Normally it would be. :)

          In this case, he's way more credible than small town cops, even without the corroborating evidence.

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: This is weird

      "Anyone else got some better theories?"

      My theory is the 4-hour fire made any detailed reconstruction impossible and the "nobody was driving" theory was presented by the investigators before they knew it didn't have self-driving installed. In other words, nobody was in the driver's seat but they don't actually know nobody was driving.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: This is weird

      "a) the cops are wrong"

      "b) Tesla are lying "

      I think we should allow Elon to be just "wrong" rather than "lying". He's no less human than the cops.

  19. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    "Musk has tweeted to say recovered logs showed Autopilot was not enabled nor installed on the crashed car."

    Whenever there is an accident involving a Tesla I'm always concerned that it seems that only Tesla seem to be able to access the logs. The logs should be available to investigators without having to first pass through Tesla.

    1. Imhotep Silver badge

      If copies of the logs are being downloaded and stored at Tesla, going through Tesla may be the only option when the car is destroyed.

      I'm curious as to how the deputy can be 100% sure there was no one at the wheel. I'm puzzled as to what that can be based on? The only thing I can come up with is he was told that by the men's wives or there was a witness to the crash.

      It disappointing, but not surprising, that it never occured to one of the reporters present to ask that deputy that question.

  20. Imhotep Silver badge

    Fueled By Ethanol?

    100% sure no one was driving the vehicle? Deputy Herman told the Wall Street Journal "We're almost 99.9 percent sure."

    I admire the precision of the statement and the fact that that niggling 1/10th % has been eliminated.

    But I'm curious: did alcohol play a role here? With two couples together on a weekend and the men deciding to take a spin late at night as the wives watch them drive off, it would seem to be a probable factor.

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