back to article Tesla knew Autopilot weakness killed a driver – and didn't fix it, engineers claim

Tesla's Autopilot engineers have claimed the automaker's leadership not only knew the software was unable to detect and respond to cross traffic, it did nothing to fix it. These allegations came to light this week from a civil lawsuit brought against Tesla regarding a crash that killed 50-year-old father Jeremy Banner in 2019 …

  1. vtcodger Silver badge

    A rude question

    "it was technically a 'very hard thing' for the hardware and software to account for cross traffic."

    Would it be rude to ask what other things us meatbags think to be fairly trivial -- stuff we do all the time while driving while not thinking much about it -- might be technically a "very hard thing" for Tesla hardware and software to handle?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: A rude question

      If you see a dog running across the street in front of you trailing their lead, you might still slow down or stop even if there is plenty of room with the expectation that there could be somebody chasing after the dog such as a child that doesn't look before crossing.

      The same thing if you see a ball, frisbee or kite. It might even be a group of kids or a group that includes kids riding bicycles along the road where it's a good idea to slow down and give them a wide berth as kids aren't always going in a laser straight direction.

      We aren't just reacting to our immediate sensory inputs and predict circumstances and reactions in anticipation of things. If it's night and you see a sea of red taillights ahead on the motorway, you may start slowing down since you understand that traffic has stopped even if there is a dip and rise in the road where an automated car might not see the tailback until it's right on top of it.

      1. Richard Pennington 1

        Re: A rude question

        Or if I see blue flashing lights in ANY direction, or if I hear a siren, I am immediately on my guard, and I need to figure out where it is and where it's going.

        I need to be prepared for:

        [a] a hazard which has attracted the attention of the emergency services (and which may be too far ahead to be immediately visible),

        [b] an emergency services vehicle needing to get past me at high speed, and/or

        [c] other vehicles reacting to [a] and/or [b].

        1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

          Re: A rude question

          Flashing emergency lights? Tesla automobiles on autopilot aim directly for those, with numerous reports of stopped, well illuminated with megawatts of emergency beacons flashing away, being preferentially struck by the autopiloted Tesla with utter, unerring accuracy beyond that of our current precision guided missiles.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: A rude question

      And such hard things as bloody side guards for lorries - you know, as are a legal requirement in the civilised world (and in the UK)

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: A rude question

        USA is currently working on a stop side underrides law which should be passed eventually. They already have rear underride bars law, but no major Hollywood movie stars have died because of side underrides, so it is taking longer.

    3. Bowlers

      Re: A rude question

      Unwrap a humbug?

  2. corestore

    Risk tolerance

    I've driven recent model Teslas. The automation - lane keeping and adaptive cruise control is essentially what it is - worked very well.

    I think part of the problem here is that some drivers simply have a higher tolerance for risk than is healthy; self-driving systems are not yet fully autonomous, and are made available with warnings that human surveillance must be constant, and driver intervention may be required at any time - but some drivers, after a certain amount of experience with the system, are lulled into paying a greater reliance on it than is healthy; their tolerance for risk is higher than that of the manufacturers, or the NHTSA. Familiarity breeds contempt, and the system is used in ways that were not intended.

    The *other* problem is the whole notion of 'partial automation'; we KNOW some drivers will evince the behaviour described in the previous paragraph, they will ill-advisedly rely too much on the automation, and accidents will happen. Give we know some will do this, I'm by no means sure these kind of interim solution partial automation systems should be offered to the public at all. I'd be more comfortable if the systems were SAE level 3 or higher - but AFAIK no level 3 systems are currently offered to the public?

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Risk tolerance

      We can only go so far blaming drivers for this problem, because we know it's built in to the way that humans perceive the world. The longer things go without us having to provide any input, the more checked-out we become. This has been a well-known problem in aviation for decades; if an aircraft autopilot disengages during cruise flight, it takes a substantial amount of time for the pilots to identify the situation and get back into the loop. It's possible to deal with this at 30,000 feet, when you're a long distance from any obstacles and can afford the seconds or even minutes it might take to properly respond; but when you've been driving a Tesla on Autopilot for an hour and it disengages less than a second before a collision, it's not really reasonable to blame the driver, even though they were *technically* supposed to take over.

      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Risk tolerance

        So we shouldn't be using these systems at all.

      2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Risk tolerance

        "...lane keeping and adaptive cruise control is essentially what it is - worked very well."

        As it does on my 2018 Subaru Impreza. It even yaks at me if I take my hands off the wheel for more than about 30 seconds and let it drive itself down the Interstate. But Subaru does not sucker charge me $10k for it.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Risk tolerance

      "we KNOW some drivers will evince the behaviour described in the previous paragraph, they will ill-advisedly rely too much on the automation, and accidents will happen."

      The article points that out very well in the case where the automation was activated 10 seconds before the accident. I expect the driver turned it on and then was pulling up a social media account to play.

      The FSD beta has been described in writing by Tesla to California as not expected to exceed Level 2. It's glorified cruise control.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Risk tolerance

        >” It's glorified cruise control.”

        Surely, given Tesla label it as autopilot, it is deliberately misleadingly labelled cruise control.

        1. NoneSuch Silver badge

          Re: Risk tolerance

          "Surely, given Tesla label it as autopilot, it is deliberately misleadingly labelled cruise control."

          I'm sure Tesla Marketing will refer to it as 'Ludicrous Cruise Control (TM Pending)'

          I thought Tesla would sort out their issues now that their biggest cause of distraction was working on driving Twitter's net worth into the ground.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Risk tolerance

        "The FSD beta has been described in writing by Tesla to California as not expected to exceed Level 2. It's glorified cruise control."

        Absolutely that. But no matter what the manual says, no matter what the small print disclaimers say, you have to take into account the public perception created by both Musk and Tesla PR and marketing, which strongly implies so much more. Even publicly calling it Autopilot is enough to lead people to an incorrect impression, whatever the official name for it migh be in the manual. This is a country where people need to be told a coffee might be hot, a bag of nut "may" contain nuts and objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are. Just because someone has enough disposable income to splash out a big chunk on a Tesla car with "Autopilot" doesn't mean they are intelligent.

        To be fair to the US though, you guys don't have a monopoly on stupid rich kids. There's regular reports in the UK of young men renting supercars and then crashing them. It seems to be a thing especially with young Asian men in Yorkshire. My guess is they are going to weddings and similar and want to make a splashy impression, but can't handle the powerful car when trying to show off.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Risk tolerance

          "but can't handle the powerful car when trying to show off."

          Hmm. Doesn't handle anything like my tuk-tuk back home.

    3. sarusa Silver badge

      Re: Risk tolerance

      "I think part of the problem here is that some drivers simply have a higher tolerance for risk than is healthy; self-driving systems are not yet fully autonomous"

      It's not really 'higher tolerance for risk' because what risk is there in letting your 'Full Self-Driving' car drive itself? Yes, there is some small print, but it's called 'Full Self-Driving' (and still marketed as such, I just checked their site quickly) and Elmo will tell you on Twitter any day of the week that it's 'autopilot' (and that the car gets 50% more range than it actually does).

      The problem here is that Tesla has purposely lied to everyone, about multiple things, to sell more cars. They knew this didn't work and covered it up. And some of their buyers believed the lies because you can trust 'the world's smartest man', right?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Stop

        And the marketing continues to support the lie.

        Even in this article, Tesla's Autopilot is dubbed "super-cruise-control". That, from a publication that has already posted at least one article about a Tesla plowing into a police car on the highway, under said "super" cruise control.

        Everyone in the media continues to treat Tesla as if they have something special. They don't, and that fact is killing people.

        So stop treating it like it is something it doesn't deserve.

        At best, it is enhanced cruise control. Not super, and certainly not Autopilot.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > Even in this article, Tesla's Autopilot is dubbed "super-cruise-control".

          > At best, it is enhanced cruise control. Not super, and certainly not Autopilot.

          Come on, you are stretching a point way too far just to include the Register in your "Everyone in the media"!

          WTF is supposed to be your difference between "enhanced" and "super" cruise control?

          You should treat Tesla's software as just "cruise control" - sod saying it is "enhanced", that actually says *more* than calling it "super", as "enhanced" implies it *does* do something functionally more capable than the constant-speed cruise control on the 15 year old diesel. "Super" cruise-control just has blue LEDs on the control stick!

          Would it have been clearer if the article had included the word "duper" as well?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Despite the voting pattern you have at my time of reading, I agree with you. Cruise Control sets a speed and that's it. Enhanced or Super Cruise Control tells us this one does more without being clear what the more is. Whereas everyday, run-of-the-mill Adaptive Cruise Control adjusts your speed to match the traffic conditions, including, AFAIK, bringing you to a stop if the vehicles in front are stopped unless you take active control of the pedals, thus disengaging it, or steering to avoid the obstruction. Teslas cruise control doesn't appear to even that properly. And if what I see on UK motorways is anything to go by, they've copied BMW and made indicator lights optional too.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              they've copied BMW and made indicator lights optional too

              Do keep up - that crowd have switched over to Audi now. Especially the 'cheap' option of the A3. I'm somewhat glad the my cycle-route to work in 90% cycle-path..

        2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

          With the greatest respect, @Pascal Monett, you are mischaracterizing what an autopilot is. An autopilot *is* a cruise-control type thing; it flies a pre-planned course, and if something happens it drops offline with a cheerful tone to let the humans deal with whatever it is.

          Somehow, people have mistakenly decided that "autopilot" is a synonym for "self-driving", which it isn't. Yet when anyone pushes back, the usual response is that the false equivalence is what people have decided is correct, so despite it being blatantly wrong, anyone using the word "autopilot" correctly is actually incorrect.

          Not sure why this nonsense continues (I suspect the motoring press have a hand in it), but blaming Tesla's autopilot for behaving precisely like an autopilot is now de rigeur.

          Still, Ocenia has always been at war with Eastasia, so there's that.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Somehow, people have mistakenly decided that "autopilot" is a synonym for "self-driving", which it isn't."

            Yes, people are incorrect in misunderstanding what an aircraft's autopilot is. But that misconception came from somewhere. Primarily, from Hollywood not only bigging up autopilot, but adding in other systems such as automated landing etc and not differentiating them as separate systems doing different jobs. The news media are not much better, continuiing the Holywood trope in news stories with no explanation of reality. And I especially include so called "science and technology" reporters in that. Most won't criticise or tell the whole truth for fear of not being invited to new product launches. And then there's both Musks and Teslas PR machine pushing that same narrative. Is it any wonder that so many people associate a Tesla with Autopilot as being so much more than it is?

            1. Ideasource Bronze badge

              I don't think there's anything you can do to Garner understanding in a population the deliberately ignores the concept of Express fiction (Hollywood) and treats it as if it's reference material.

              How do you teach the unteachable, you can't. They'll have to learn through the pain of their own experiences if at all

              1. very angry man

                Hollywood only make documentys

                Americans are trustworthy,

                so many movies telling us this is not so,

                Americans respect IP,

                So many movies of action heroes stealing military equipment from Russia, china, most of their Allies.

                American 3letter agency's are not corrupt are well supervised, and obay the law.

                American politician never tell lies, just about every action movie in the last 40 years.

                American corporation's care for the environment and the well being of the human race, not my experience.

                I could go on , but why, you know, but just can't bring your self to admit it

          2. sabroni Silver badge
            Boffin

            re: Somehow, people have mistakenly decided that "autopilot" is a synonym for "self-driving"

            They've decided that "Full Self Driving" is a synonym for full self driving, more like.

        3. Wzrd1 Silver badge

          That, from a publication that has already posted at least one article about a Tesla plowing into a police car on the highway, under said "super" cruise control.

          A lot worse than that. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks seem to be a Tesla perennial favorite impact target, with a CEP of less than 1 meter.

          Would that our guided munitions had such unerring accuracy!

          The damnable things preferentially seem to aim at emergency vehicles that are stopped and have their emergency beacons on.

          And at least one highway divider that had illuminated signal devices on it, which apparently must have swerved suddenly into the autopiloted car's path and braked hard. As concrete walls are also known to do.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Risk tolerance

        "And some of their buyers believed the lies because you can trust 'the world's smartest man', right?"

        It has to be pointed out that Tesla hasn't done advertising so there isn't official statements about what autopilot/fsd can and cannot do, but there are loads of fans, supporters and others that will go on endlessly about how amazing the technology is and tell others about all of the things it can do without actually testing what they say in varying conditions and pushing it to the point where it fails. Obviously they don't want to destroy their own car or be liable for a serious accident. Elon is famous for talking up things that Tesla products will be able to do in a few months or maybe by the end of the year or confidently by the second quarter of next year for certain. He will also say things like that his non-existent (at the time) semi will be able to line up together in convoys and drive themselves better than any driver. To date, there haven't been any real world demonstrations of that. Material misrepresentation of the company's technology?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Risk tolerance

          "It has to be pointed out that Tesla hasn't done advertising so there isn't official statements about what autopilot/fsd can and cannot do,"

          They may not advertise in the traditional sense, but they have an effective PR machine. They just pull stunts and get the news media to do their advertising for them. And if a product launch[*] isn't advertising, then what is?

          [*] Musk breaking the window, anyone? Genuine faux pas or just some very good "free" marketing of the Tesla brand carried by most news services around the world?

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Risk tolerance

            "They may not advertise in the traditional sense, but they have an effective PR machine. "

            The official PR department is Elon. He fired everybody in that department ages ago. The main PR machine in fanbois and that's the problem. Tesla needs to be countering the mis-information and especially the outright dangerous memes that show up and find their ways into what can vaguely be called proper news outlets these days. If they don't, then Tesla is lying through its silence.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Risk tolerance

      "I think part of the problem here is that some drivers simply have a higher tolerance for risk than is healthy"

      Just to illustrate this, few months ago, I was in a car driven by a colleague. He was not paying attention at the front and was staring at a very cute lady on the right pavement, not paying attention to a very busy pedestrian crossing in the center of the town.

      A lady crossed and we were really on the verge of crashing into her. Me and another colleague totally freaked out and he was like, breaking urgently and saying "don't worry, the car would stop by itself" !

      Very disturbing. What if the car would not ? We would have crashed the lady on a pedestrian crossing, FFS !

      1. Fred Dibnah

        Re: Risk tolerance

        My car has 'smart' cruise control which works well on motorways etc., but it behaves like a learner driver when coming up behind a slower vehicle. It brakes smoothly but far, far later than I would, so I usually hit the brakes long before the car has reacted.

        A friend has a similar system in his car and he uses it on all types of roads, which is terrifying.

        1. Patrick R
          Unhappy

          Re: which is terrifying

          Surely much more for his fellows road users than for himself. Cruise Control creates lazy and bad driving habits indeed.

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            Re: Cruise Control creates lazy and bad driving habits indeed.

            Fuck off. Cruise Control means I stop continuously monitoring the vehicle's speed and concentrate on getting where I'm going safely.

            It also highlights all you dicks who can't stand to be behind a smaller car so overtake, and then go slower than me.

            I'm on cruise bud, my speed hasn't changed, you're just a dickhead.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Risk tolerance

          I hate adaptive cruise control. As far as I'm concerned, the whole point of cruise control is that it helps me maintain a constant speed in situations where that's feasible (uncrowded highways). That makes my driving more predictable, which is useful to other drivers. With adaptive cruise control, I'll end up passing a line of people whose cars have slowed down because of one slow vehicle in front, and then they all realize they've slowed, move into another lane, and often end up passing me – just for the whole process to repeat a few miles down the road. It's annoying and increases the probability of an accident.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Risk tolerance

            And those drive with cruise control set at a speed and then pull out to pass a slower vehicle, often far sooner than any normal and sane driver would and keep to their nominated set speed instead of speeding up to that lanes current average speed. And stay out in the passing lane far longer than needed before pulling back over. In the process, causing a line of traffic to build up behind them. I've noticed that particular circumstance growing over the last few years, so I guess adaptive cruise control has either made it down to the more average cars now, or a lot more people are driving more expensive cars on leased, "pay as you drive" deals instead actually owning a car.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Risk tolerance

              (downvote armour donned - long rant ahead)

              If I'm doing 70mph on (bog standard) cruise control on a UK motorway and pull out in good time in order to pass someone doing 60mph (a lorry for e.g.), it is not wrong. It is dangerous to get too close behind the driver in front (I can't see the road ahead), and lorries often have huge blindspots (can I see both his mirrors?) Pulling out in good time also means that I don't have to disengage cruise control and can time it so that I don't get "trapped" behind said slower vehicle.

              Now, if traffic comes up behind me in (usually) the middle lane and gets cross because I'm - shock! horror! - driving at the speed limit, I have two reactions. First - you do not have a god-given right to be doing 80 or 90mph on the motorway or to force me out of your way so that you can do so. Second (in most cases) there is a perfectly good third lane available. Dumb drivers who tailgate me at 70mph and then speed off as soon as I pull in, without considering the free lane to their right are just, erm, dumb.

              I will not pass back into the left lane until the vehicle I've just overtaken is a decent distance behind. What seems to annoy dumb drivers more than that though is that if this all happens around a junction I will often stay in the middle lane until I have passed the junction. Why? Well, driving the same stretches of motorway allows me to predict where traffic is likely to be joining. Very little of this traffic will be doing 70mph at the end of the slip road and it's far safer to stay in the middle lane on the expectation of joining traffic - obviously at quiet times or for lesser-used junctions this rule doesn't usually apply.

              Here's a good one that is either eejit driving or adaptive cruise control at its worst.

              There is a section of motorway I drive where a busy junction (lots of leaving and joining traffic) which has seen a couple of nasty accidents in the last few years (at least one of which was fatal to both occupants of the only vehicle involved) is followed about three miles later by the left lane "peeling off", leaving the motorway to continue with two lanes.

              A few weeks ago, as I approached this junction in the left lane (just a reminder, this is the UK), a car overtook me. It pulled into the lane just ahead of me and behind a row of traffic I was preparing to pass - most of it slowing down in order to leave the motorway*. As the car which had just overtaken me was also slowing (he'd presumably been somewhere north of 75mph when he passed, and as I was now beginning to catch him up he must have slowed down to 65mph or less - I assumed that as he hadn't pulled out to overtake the slower cars he was also going to exit), I pulled out and went past both him and the cars in front of him, nearly all of which subsequently left the motorway. The car which had just passed me pulled out and slotted into the middle lane behind me, just a little too close for comfort. Got that prediction wrong then.

              As is my habit, I stayed out to the end of the junction and once I'd cleared some slower traffic which joined, I pulled back into the left lane expecting my tailgater to put his foot down and disappear into the distance.

              Oh no! Not a chance! The car stayed more-or-less where it was, partly in my (small) blindspot, meaning I couldn't (that is, wouldn't feel safe to) pull out in front of him.

              This carried on for the next couple of miles until we got to the point where I usually start thinking about pulling in to the middle lane to carry on with the motorway. Ok, so he was playing silly blighters, I was on my way to work and not up for a fight, so I tapped the cruise control down by first 2mph, thinking he would slink past and I could pull out behind, then 3mph when it appeared as if he was slowing down too. He wouldn't go past.

              Flipping eejit.

              My car isn't a fast one, but it can go when it wants to and I wasn't anticipating being in a race, so I signalled out, kept the thing in top gear and reasonably briskly accelerated. Blow me if the car in my blindspot doesn't keep up! By the time I got to 85mph I realised I wasn't going to win this one (not one for speeding, car probably can't top 100mph anyway), so with barely any other traffic around us I actually used the brakes (rarely need to do that on the motorway) which either the eejit driver wasn't expecting or his eejit cruise control couldn't cope with, and managed to slot in behind him before the lane I was in actually left the motorway. In passing me he was making some very odd hand gestures that I couldn't recognise as being rude, but weren't obviously apologetic ("sorry, I can't work my car properly") either.

              He then went sailing off at a good 5mph, maybe 10mph faster than the 71mph I returned to.

              Left me very perplexed. Was he "cross" at me for re-overtaking him at the previous junction and was trying to force me to do something stupid? Or was it a case of adaptive cruise control latching on to the only other vehicle within range - mine, even though I was in a different lane?

              As it happens, I could actually have stayed in the left lane if things had got silly and taken that exit; it makes my journey to work between 5 and 10 minutes longer (depending on traffic lights), but it's not a bad diversion, and one I often take if it looks as if there is trouble ahead on the actual motorway. That was the obvious fallback plan if the bloke had got stupid, but why???

              M.

              *apparently it's not the done thing to slow down before you are on the slip road, but 90% of drivers around here don't seem to have read that bit of the Highway Code

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Risk tolerance

          It brakes smoothly but far, far later than I would

          The opposite is true in my C-HR - it starts braking at about 50m and slows itself down to the same speed fairly quickly.

          Driving with adaptive cruise control is very definately different from traditional cruise control. You have to think a lot further ahead (not a problem for me since I do that anyway - legacy of my motorbike days..). I've had a terrifying drive with an ex-colleague who would zoom up to slow-moving traffic, swear when he realised that the lane to the right was occupied than pull out (at a much lower speed than the lane to the right, having wasted the opportunity to gain speed when he had plenty of clearance) and cause the traffic in that lane to brake sharply in order to not run into him.

          I'm convinced that motorway/dual carriageway driving is a skill in itself and newly-qualified drivers shouldn't be allowed drive on the motorways until they have done a course.

          I never let myself be a passenger in his car again. He (at that point) drove an Audi.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Risk tolerance

        "Me and another colleague totally freaked out and he was like, breaking urgently and saying "don't worry, the car would stop by itself" !"

        I'm a bit of a weirdo when it comes to those sorts of situations. I was in a car and the woman driving texted. I told her point blank that if she would like to do any further texting to please exit the highway and drop me off. It wasn't a bluff either. I would have been less bothered if she put the phone on speaker and just spoke to her husband, both of them people I knew. It wasn't any sort of tryst. I did get out of a car being driven aggressively and poorly. For one thing, I didn't think the car was up to it and a wheel coming off is not a good thing.

    5. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Risk tolerance

      "we KNOW some drivers will evince the behaviour described in the previous paragraph, they will ill-advisedly rely too much on the automation, and accidents will happen"

      The state-of the art advanced automation by non-Tesla brands include driver attention cameras and sensors, and will disengage if the driver fails to pay attention, or take hands off wheel for a couple of seconds. IIRC, Teslas don't have cameras that check for driver attentiveness (only steering wheel sensors), and allow drivers to take hands off wheel for 30 seconds before intervening, also allowing drivers to ignore warnings. Compared to the difficulty of real self-driving, these safety measures are trivial to implement. Could it be that Tesla doesn't implement them because users would quickly find out that the software isn't really an 'autopilot' or 'full self drive'??

    6. ragnar

      Re: Risk tolerance

      > I'd be more comfortable if the systems were SAE level 3 or higher - but AFAIK no level 3 systems are currently offered to the public?

      Mercedes-Benz are ahead of Tesla and have just had a Level 3 system certified

      https://www.theverge.com/2023/1/27/23572942/mercedes-drive-pilot-level-3-approved-nevada

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Risk tolerance

      >self-driving systems are not yet fully autonomous

      You're absolutely right, but Tesla markets the feature as "autopilot" and "full self driving" which definitely implies autonomous!

      It's also dumb that after they were challenged legally over this that they continue to market it as such in regions where no legal challenge has appeared,

      IMO, at that point, they are knowingly falsely selling it...

      It's like "unlimited broadband" when it turned out it wasn't unlimited - it's called "full self driving" but surprise, it's not.

    8. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Risk tolerance

      I think part of the problem here is that some drivers simply have a higher tolerance for risk than is healthy; self-driving systems are not yet fully autonomous...

      And yet Tesla sell an upgrade which enables the system to spot "STOP" signs, and nothing else, as "Full Self Drving" ...

  3. aerogems Silver badge
    FAIL

    While I am empathetic to the technical challenges presented, the fact that this was a known issue and nothing was done about it for several years makes me hope Tesla gets nailed to the wall. At a minimum they could have changed the code to automatically disable the function if it doesn't detect the center divide. Maybe include an auditory alert and a message on the fondleslab in the center dash. That should have been relatively trivial and a reasonable stopgap measure to take until/if they (ever) crack the cross traffic issue. Which, frankly, will probably be never now that Twitler has decreed that LiDAR is out and they have to rely on optical cameras only.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "and a message on the fondleslab in the center dash. "

      The center mounted fondleslab is a problem as well. You have to look away from the road in front of you to read it.

      I hate all of the beeps/chimes/bells. I helped a friend move from Southern California to Northern Idaho a couple of years ago and I was driving the hugely overload moving van with all of the stuff that he wasn't going to trust to the movers. The damn thing made all sorts of noises at me, but it took so much concentration to keep it on the road I couldn't look down to see if there was an icon that explained the irritating noises. The manual in the glove box was useless. It used the words "Beep, chime, bell and buzzer" pretty much interchangeably. I just had to tune is all out and hope it wasn't trying to tell me we were way past the load limit and the transmission might explode.

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Oh, absolutely. I've been a huge critic of the fondleslab idea from the beginning. It's a giant single-point of failure in more ways than one. That's where the lane assist and adaptive cruise control can actually prove useful. If you look away for a few seconds it'll keep you from drifting into another lane and potentially apply the brakes if the people in front of you are going slower. That's a band-aid solution, to be sure, but it's at least something. I'm hoping an on-windshield HUD will start to become standard. Not just like having the fondleslab display be projected on the screen, but like if you're using the GPS it uses the front facing cameras to make a sort of augmented reality display where the direction line appears to be painted right down the middle of the lane.

    2. kirk_augustin@yahoo.com

      There is no possible fix

      While Musk was attempted to claim that autonomous driving vehicles are possible, any programmer knows it is not,

      So Musk has never claimed the Tesla is autonomous and can handle cross traffic.

      It is only intended or marketed as an adaptive cruise control.

      That is all.

      Again, NO CROSS TRAFFIC FIX WILL EVER BE POSSIBLE.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There is no possible fix

        whilst using the expert systems and early AI/ML we have today we can't make this happen our predictions are still based on sensory input and as AI improves available computing power per $/£/€ increases and companies find more sensors so the system can have all the sensory input we do I imagine it might be possible in future. It is not however anything like possible on the budgets and deadline Musk tried to impose when he thought it would happen and is way more likely from Mercedes or Volvo or even GM or Ford making incremental improvements on a long timescale or if Musk loses Tesla control and the new CEO has any common sense maybe they can doit slowly and safely too.

        1. MrDamage Silver badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          Would you like to buy some punctuation?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There is no possible fix

        >So Musk has never claimed the Tesla is autonomous and can handle cross traffic.

        Tesla sells the "full self driving" feature. To me, full means "basically every single non-emergency use case".

        Given they call it full self driving, I would say they (Musk/Tesla) do claim that.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          Tesla sells the "full self driving" feature.

          Which is simply a software update which encourages it to have a go at spotting "STOP" signs. That's it. That's "Full Self Driving".

          1. robin thakur 1

            Re: There is no possible fix

            To be fair to Tesla, FSD (and possibly autopilot too) operates very differently in the countries it's available in. When I moved to America I was surprised how much better it works here than in the UK and the additional features you get in FSD which work here. In the UK it's currently a pointless upgrade because of what you mentioned (plus you don't get a $7500 tax credit for buying one) I noticed on the UK site just now that you can also only buy the model X and S in left hand drive configs in the UK, which seems...unusual.

            As for pedants pointing out that Tesla doesn't advertise in the conventional sense so they've never mis-represented the feature, they have a website, registered to and run by them, through which you buy the product, ergo the descriptions have to be accurate. To quote what's on the UK site "Autopilot enables your vehicle to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane." No caveats to this statement are provided.

            Interestingly, in the US, you can clearly get away with even more bullshit, because Enhanced Autopilot is advertised as containing Autopark, Summon and Smart Summon, which have actually not been possible since Tesla decided to remove all the parking sensors on all models to save money last year. On the UK site, they are marked as 'Available soon' This kind of grifty post-truth attitude to facts and safety is why I'm not buying one any time soon.

            Other manufacturers in the US like Chevrolet, GM and Ford brands have Blue Cruise which is certified to be completely hands free (but not attention free) only driving on freeways which have been mapped in their database and is ahead of Tesla in that regard. How it copes with emergency vehicles is unknown though. It's not available in the UK yet to my knowledge,

            Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about these systems (gleaned from maybe reading the manual) should know the limitations of them outside of their own wishful thinking or Hollywood movies. For example, my Audi start-stop traffic assist and auto cruise is useful, unless somebody sharply pulls in front of me to close the gap. I know I have to disengage the auto cruise system and break, otherwise this would cause an accident right there, because the car does not detect the new distance in time to slow down automatically. The German cars I've owned from established manufacturers make these limitations abundantly clear.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: There is no possible fix

          To me, full means "basically every single non-emergency use case"

          So, that would be nearly full, or a bit over half full self-driving then? Full means full :-)

          Look over there, that's full, and also useful in certain emergencies ------------>

      3. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: There is no possible fix

        Except that Twitler has, in fact, made claims exactly like that. He's claimed on multiple occasions that you will soon be able to let your car function as a robotaxi while you're at work or sleeping and earn you a passive income. Just as one example.

        1. Ideasource Bronze badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          It's pretty obvious that soon means it can't do it. We are working on creating that capability.

          Soon means it it doesn't exist, but there is hope for the future.

          That understanding is ingrained in childhood and reinforce for the rest of life when someone says soon and you look and it's not yet here.

          1. aerogems Silver badge

            Re: There is no possible fix

            Sure, if you know how to translate Twittler bullshit, but the number of people who have shelled out for the "FSD" software shows that this is not a universal skill.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: There is no possible fix

            "That understanding is ingrained in childhood and reinforce for the rest of life when someone says soon and you look and it's not yet here.""

            "Are we there yet?"

            Soon.

            "Are we there yet?"

            Soon!

            "Are we there yet?"

            Soon!!!

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          "He's claimed on multiple occasions that you will soon be able to let your car function as a robotaxi while you're at work or sleeping and earn you a passive income."

          I've seen a couple of videos from people that took the number he threw out (up) and ran with them. The notion of making money by whoring your car out as an automated taxi is nonsense. If there were any truth to it, Tesla would have stopped selling cars to the public and put all of their effort and Elon's money into the program. Oh yeah, Elon doesn't have any money. His wealth is index-linked to the price of Tesla stock and withdrawing from the auto market might impact that. Maybe he could raise some funds as the calculations done certain ways make it look like a business worth quadrillions in just a couple of decades with reinvestment. It's the sort of thing that makes Charles Ponzi look like a complete piker in comparison.

      4. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: There is no possible fix

        I don't think this is strictly speaking true: there is one strategy that will help enormously, and quite possibly make autonomous vehicles practical.

        The problem is that the strategy itself likely isn't really practical! (hence autonomous vehicles won't be).

        The solution is to require that every vehicle on the road interacts with each other. We could call it TCAS, for Traffic Collision Avoidance System! Maybe those cameras on poles at intersections could join the party, too.

        While there would always be vehicles that didn't interact, at some point we'd have an ecosystem that basically has enough data most of the time. Coupled with robust logic along the lines of "if we're coming up on an intersection AND there's no data about potential cross traffic, engage the 'be extra cautious'" mode.

        The other viable approach is much less sexy: designated autonomous vehicle zones. Basically take limited-access roads and allow autonomous vehicles to operate in specific lanes only.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          "if we're coming up on an intersection AND there's no data about potential cross traffic, engage the 'be extra cautious'" mode.

          Some people in Rotherham, UK need that upgrade in their brains. Although what the fuck was going through the housing estate developers minds when they designed junctions with no road markings is anyone's guess. Probably cocaine (allegedly!)

          For non-UK readers, housing developments are often "managed" by the developer for a some time, often years, before the roads etc become the legal responsibility of the local town/city Council. But they are still supposed to adhere to UK traffic laws and regulations, which the developers claim they are. If true, then there's a loophole that needs to be closed, quickly.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: There is no possible fix

            For non-UK readers, housing developments are often "managed" by the developer for a some time

            I'm very, very glad that the section of town that I live in was formerly-council land and, when they sold it to the developers, they mandated the maximum housing density and stuff like the width of the kerbs and how much green space had to remain.

            The result is that it's actually quite pleasant and there are at least 3 parks within dog-walking distance. We have a reasonable sized garden (for a modern development - helped by the fact that we are a corner plot.

            The developments in the rest of the town that were privaely owned are miserable rabbit warrens of houses, crammed in and carefully-designed to have maximum occupancy at the expense of privacy and parking space.

        2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          "The solution is to require that every vehicle on the road interacts with each other."

          V2V Communications. Works fine when all the vehicles are so equipped. But what do you do about pedestrians? Pets?

          Where do we apply the electrodes to cyclists to make them stop when they don't have the right-of-way?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: There is no possible fix

            "Where do we apply the electrodes to cyclists to make them stop when they don't have the right-of-way?"

            Teacher to students: "Test it class!"

          2. mevets

            Re: There is no possible fix

            What could go wrong with relying on yet another layer of half thought out ideas poorly implemented?

            The idea of playing "grand theft auto" with live vehicles packed full of people is intriguing....

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          "The other viable approach is much less sexy: designated autonomous vehicle zones. Basically take limited-access roads and allow autonomous vehicles to operate in specific lanes only."

          If you look into PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), there are papers on private vehicles using those systems. On a highway or within a large city center, you link with the central scrutinizer and enter the controlled roadway. You car can then be piloted remotely to parking and/or charging and wait for your summons whereupon your car meets you at the nearest station even if you have moved around since you left it. For a reference, look at the pods at Heathrow Terminal 5 and the company that built the system. For an "unproven" system, it works pretty damn well.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: There is no possible fix

            you link with the central scrutinizer and enter the controlled roadway.

            That might work in some cities in the US but out in the rural areas? Forget it. Some Good Ol' Boy will insist on driving his unfeasably-large truck (with attendant gun rack natch) into the controlled roadway "because of muh freedumbs".

            Chaos will ensue.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: There is no possible fix

              "That might work in some cities in the US but out in the rural areas? Forget it. Some Good Ol' Boy will insist on driving his unfeasably-large truck (with attendant gun rack natch) into the controlled roadway "because of muh freedumbs"."

              I see a system where you pull up to a blocked entry and you can't enter until the car is linked and the barrier comes down. It could also be that if the car isn't linked, a barrier is raised if somebody tries to enter which would be easier to maintain. Nothing can be fool proof as the quality of idiots is constantly altered to exploit any gaps.

        4. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: There is no possible fix

          "The solution is to require that every vehicle on the road interacts with each other. "

          I see too many ways to mess with that sort of system as there is no way to make those comms secure. It might not even be malicious but just one car that's had its black box pop a cap and it spewing out random noise or bad information. The owner of that car may have no way to even know the car is borked and it's one more thing to break and cost thousands to fix, if it isn't past its support date.

      5. mpi Silver badge

        Re: There is no possible fix

        > It is only intended or marketed as an adaptive cruise control.

        Then why is it called "Autopilot"?

      6. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: There is no possible fix

        "So Musk has never claimed the Tesla is autonomous and can handle cross traffic."

        Yes, but legions of fanbois are all over the 'net making claims of how wizard blessed the car is without Tesla/Elon doing anything to counter that misinformation.

    3. that one in the corner Silver badge

      > At a minimum they could have changed the code to automatically disable the function if it doesn't detect the center divide

      NO!

      For bleep's sake, change that to:

      "At a minimum they could have changed the code to only ALLOW IT TO ENABLE the function if it HAS ALREADY DETECTED the center divide" at the very least!

      That was the problem here: the driver was allowed to switch the thing on even though the conditions were not suitable. That should not have been allowed.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
        Devil

        It is Friday, so just add a cattle prod and use it every time the user engages the function that is not an autonomous autopilot in conditions where it is not allowed to work, and after a few friendly reminders the driver may understand his error...

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        I call bullshit on the "center divider" algorithm anyway. I frequently drive on highways that have mostly have center dividers, with occasional breaks for cross traffic. What is Autopilot going to do – stop working every 10 miles or so when it spots one of those breaks? (Assuming it spots it at all.) It's not a feasible approach.

        The whole thing is rubbish.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "At a minimum they could have changed the code to only ALLOW IT TO ENABLE the function if it HAS ALREADY DETECTED the center divide" at the very least!

        My approximately 10 year old SatNav with up to date maps) can tell if I'm on a dual carriageway (Not sure what the US calls it, but the one with the central reservation/divider) because that's just the level of data in the mapping database. Surely Tesla didn't skimp on the SatNav database provider? Assuming US SatNavs maps are at least as good as UK ones, the "Autopilot" should only need to check where the SatNav thinks it is and decide whether it's allowed to engage or not, with additional input from whatever sensors it's using to "look" for the central divider. In effect, automated geofencing with visual confirmation and they don't even need to build a geofence database.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          can tell if I'm on a dual carriageway

          Problem is that in the UK a "dual carriageway" (basically a fast road with a central divider - not always a fence, sometimes just a verge - which is not designated as a "motorway"; green signs instead of blue) can have plenty of cross-traffic. Many dual carriageways have gaps in the central reservation to allow traffic to turn across the opposite carriageway in order to access a side road, and even where they don't have these, most dual carriageways do have at-grade junctions (usually roundabouts) which by definition carry cross-traffic.

          In the UK, the only (fairly) safe way to assume no cross traffic would be only to attempt to activate on a motorway where (barring roadworks) you can never cross the central reservation and all junctions (with very few exceptions, usually at the start or end of a motorway) are grade-separated.

          Surprise! This is exactly what seems to be happening.

          (and may I join my surprise to those who can't understand why trailers in the US don't have fences to prevent cars going under?)

          M.

        2. robin thakur 1

          Tesla have form in this regard. They are currently on a push to make Tesla Vision the reference based solely on the cameras surrounding the vehicle. This belief has caused them to remove radar and USS parking sensors completely from all their cars (retroactively disabling the use of radar on older vehicles) and rely just on Vision. What happens when it's dark, snowing, raining heavy, foggy? It simply doesn't work. For all other brands, they possess LiDAR or radar built in (and often other sensors with built-in obsolescence) so they will work mostly in those situations.

          So although Tesla does have the mapping and even traffic data which is shown clearly on the central console, don't assume that their design ideology allows them to do something as obvious as look up whether it's currently on a freeway (the US equivalent off a motorway/dual carriageway) without using only the cameras. Besides which, as Auto Pilot technically doesn't prevent you enabling it, even when not on those types of roads it makes little difference. Besides, the NTHSA in America is a surprisingly toothless organization if you look into its powers, it can't force Tesla to do anything it doesn't want to do. government orgs in other countries have much more power which is one reason why Tesla neuters a lot off the automated driving schtick outside of North America.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this time really any different?

    Cross traffic is just one scenario of many that cannot be handled. Apparently failing to exit the highway sucessfully and hitting crash barriers is another. Failing to slow down for a car that has entered halfway into it lane is another. And so on.

    Telsa's End-User License Agreement states specifically the driver must be paying attention at all times, and so the drivers are even responsible for third party injuries. Yet some Tesla auto pilot drivers choose not to believe that. The question is - is Tesla being negligent and/or does the EULA fail to protect them because it has been undercut by Tesla marketing?

    So far, when it looks like it might not be going Tesla's way, they settle for an undisclosed amount - then it is done and gone, as though it never happened. Nothing accumulates. Will this be any different?

    Personally, I wouldn't want auto pilot, but I wouldn't mind a co pilot offering advice or waking me up if I fell asleep. Gaze monitoring seems like the best to achieve that, but I wouldn't want images of me picking my nose being scraped and monetized.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Is this time really any different?

      "Apparently failing to exit the highway sucessfully and hitting crash barriers is another."

      An older problem that does still seem to crop up is the car exiting a motorway when it's supposed to continue on. I've heard about a couple of crashes in the last 6 months that could be explained by that happening. It's something that is claimed to have been fixed, but maybe there's still a lurking issue given particular circumstances.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Is this time really any different?

        I could see the "lane keeping" causing that if some of the road markings are more worn than others and the lane marking nearest the edge of the road (left or right depending country) so the lane keeping system follows the well marked line which lead up the sliproad/exit. Here in the UK, the lane markings at the edge of the road are solid white. Lane separators are dashed, but the left edge of the left lane while passing an exit or entry slip (on/off ramps) is also dashed, albeit shorter dashes. Those shorter dashes get driven over and worn quicker, so if not maintained, a lane keeping system might not see them in some conditions, eg wet.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Is this time really any different?

          "I could see the "lane keeping" causing that if some of the road markings are more worn than others and the lane marking nearest the edge of the road (left or right depending country) so the lane keeping system follows the well marked line which lead up the sliproad/exit. "

          That would infer a very one dimensional navigation system. I'd think that if the highway was continuing on straight that the car wouldn't veer off to one side if it were also looking at the GPS. If the system were just "lane-keep" assist, perhaps, but not FSD which implies more smarts.

          If I'm relying on lane keeping, I'm not engaged enough in driving the car. I've gone decades with being able to keep my car in my own lane. Not 100% perfect, but no accidents and the more crowded the roadway, the more I'm paying attention.

        2. robin thakur 1

          Re: Is this time really any different?

          This happens on many brands of cars. I've seen it happen on Mercedes and Audi for example where the car running in Adaptive cruise with lane keeping on, driving in the right most lane will sometimes try to exit by moving the wheel. It's disconcerting, but if you've got your hands on the wheel and know the vehicle's behavior it's sufficiently rare as to be acceptable. If the Tesla is navigating on Autopilot as well, that's perhaps a bigger problem. I never saw this problem in the UK, but rarely was I driving in the slow lane there unless I needed to exit. It's much more common in the US.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Is this time really any different?

      " is Tesla being negligent and/or does the EULA fail to protect them because it has been undercut by Tesla marketing?"

      Tesla is definitely being negligent here, and is absolutely guilty of false advertising. It doesn't matter how much it says "driver must be paying attention at all times" in the small print, if their very loud and public marketing and CEO declarations talk about "full-self driving". And a whole lot of fanboys are equally to blame when they attack anyone pointing this out.

      *which is what it tastes like!!

    3. David Hicklin Bronze badge

      Re: Is this time really any different?

      The issue with increasing levels of automation is that the driver will loose situational awareness rapidly.

      Yes you can have additional aids but unless we reach level 5 automation the driver needs to be driving the vehicle. I would love adaptive cruise control that slows me down when I get behind slower traffic instead of having to disengage it, but the rest including lane control you can keep until we get to that magic unicorn of level 5.

      Until then if I am expected to take over at a moments notice if the aids crap out, then I want to be dammed well driving !

      Personally I believe that unless the redesign the roads, have transponders in the roads for the vehicles to use, the vehicles talk to each other using standard API's and *only* level 5 vehicles are allowed on that stretch of road then this will always remain a pipe dream along with the Unicorns.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this time really any different?

      >is Tesla being negligent and/or does the EULA fail to protect them because it has been undercut by Tesla marketing?

      Adding in that the feature is called "full self driving", I would say that they definitely heavily push this view in the marketing materials.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Is this time really any different?

      "So far, when it looks like it might not be going Tesla's way, they settle for an undisclosed amount - then it is done and gone, as though it never happened. Nothing accumulates. Will this be any different?"

      The court case may end up with an undisclosed "no blame" settlement out of court, but the information and data from the case is still being published and will be reaching and feeding the NHTSA investigation. I'm not in the US, but I assume they will not "settle out of court" and will enact some sort punishment. Or are they as toothless as some other regulators?

  5. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    In america the land of laywers and not much else, how in the world has Tesla managed to survive the multiple examples like this that shoudl have seen Musk sued to hell and bacK ?

    1. Neoc

      You just answered your own question: "land of lawyers". Tesla has more money and lawyers.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "In america the land of laywers and not much else, how in the world has Tesla managed to survive the multiple examples like this that shoudl have seen Musk sued to hell and bacK ?"

      Look up the SEC filings, scroll down to the notice of legal actions for and against. Tesla is party to more lawsuits against than any other auto maker according to some reports. I haven't done comparisons, but it's a large number. To date, Elon's hard anodized, Teflon-impregneted coating has been holding up. It might not take more than a minor gap for the whole top layer to peel off.

    3. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

      Because lawyers only care about the money. Tesla settles!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Is the money what the victims (or their surviving families) are thinking about too? Or are their own lawyers only thinking about the "quick win" of a settlement and advising against a long, expensive and drawn out court case plus any number of appeals which they;d really rather not get involved in if possible since they'll be facing a large team of high priced, well resources lawyers?

        Actually, now I've typed that out, I might take the settlement too, assuming it's big enough. Who has the stomach and financial resources for possible years of court case?

  6. G R Goslin

    WTF

    The whole automatic driving thing leaves me totally aghast..I predominantly consider myself as a motorcyclist, and ride my machine firmly convinced, at all times, that there is someone out there trying to kill me. A philosophy that has stood me in good stead over many years. Saying that, my "other vehicle" is a Land Rover Defender, as near a defence against other drivers as I can get. Essentially any driver who abandons total control, is only a verysmall step up from being a "back seat" driver. In the case of any departure from the norm, the driver not only has to reac to the new condition, but has also to update him or herself to the totallity of the siituation, so we do not have a single reaction time, often too short, but a second reaction time to assimilate the totallity of the occasion. The human mind is not made to concentrate on all aspects of any action that is not of immediate concern. Hence the WTF explosive expression when the reality of a situation finally dawns

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      "and ride my machine firmly convinced, at all times, that there is someone out there trying to kill me."

      Yes. If you've taken off your muffler(s), YES.

    2. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      As a car driver, I assume that every other driver on the road is an idiot and about to do something stupid. It's saved my neck countless times. Always assume the car in the junction will pull out. Always assume the car tailgating you is going to attempt a stupid and dangerous overtake.. as a result in almost 30yrs of driving I've had just 3 minor accidents.

      1: I scraped the car down a bollard they'd just installed on a corner where they fitted a raised platform on a cross section and the bollard was literally in the road.

      2: I caught the corner of the car in front turning right after they slammed on the brakes for no reason halfway out of a junction when I was turning left.

      3: Got clobbered by a muppet in a BMW who thought it was a good idea to try and overtake on the inside of a roundabout and take the 1st left exit as I was going straight on.

      The only other incident I've been involved in, my car was parked up on the road one night and a drunk/drugged driver crashed into it a 2 other cars before abandoning the now 3 wheeled Audi he was driving and doing a runner.

      Assuming every other driver is a moron has worked well enough for me.

      1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

        Re: WTF

        Back when I was learning to drive, my driving instructor said the following to me: Think for other people, because you can be sure they won't be.

        It's stuck with me, and yes, I'm always thinking for other people, in the "what stupid thing are you going to do next" way of thinking.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: WTF

        had just 3 minor accidents

        Total of :

        1. On the 125cc bike - following a woman away from a roundabout and she decided to slam her brakes on as she suddenly wanted to turn right. My fault, I was too close.

        2. In the pre-disastered Cortina, pulled out onto a roundabout only to discover that the van that had been indicating that it was turning off had decided not to. My fault and the last time I trusted anyone elses' indicators.

        3. Again in the Cortina - rear-ended my dads car as he was towing me - to be fair, not my fault. He'd got his hazards on while towing me (at about 20 MPH). Woman was wating to pull out of the station, saw his indicators were on and assumed that he was turning into the station so pulled out in front of him. He hit her, I hit him.. (the Cortina brakes were, at the best of times, pretty ineffective and even more so with no servo assist due to a dead engine).

        4. Again the Cortina - after fixing the dead engine issue in (3) above (distributor shaft split pin had sheared so no drive to the rotor..), pulled out of my parents driveway only to find that a woman was pulling out of the driveway about 50 feet down the road on the opposite side. I *almost* managed to stop in time. She claimed that "I was speeding and hit her". My response was "how fast do you think a 1.6l Cortina can be going with only 50 feet run-up, especially when about 20 of it is me doing a 90 degree right turn?". She also claimed for a whole front-end rebuild when the collision speed was about 5mph. Not my fault.

        5. Our first car that we bought together after we got married (a Peugeot 309). Was driving on Wootten Bassett in the rain. Saw a bunch of stopped vehicles and hazard lights ahead so put my foot on the brake. Then noticed the big deisel slick that I was currently sliding though. Ended up hitting the pile and then having two cars behind joining us. Not my fault. The woman behind tried to claim that she'd stopped and I bounced back into her. Physics doesn't work like that..

        6. Last one, on the Honda Fireblade 900. Deep winter, very icy. Had been go-karting out in a place in the country. Afterwards, got onto the bike thinking "take it easy, adrenalin is still flowing". Took it easy and cautious, right up until I rode over some black ice just after a bend. Bike went sliding off down the road with me sliding along after it. My main thought was "this is going to get expensive.." Fortunately, other than a scuffed right-hand engine cover and a destroyed hand grip, the bike was fine.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF

      > "and ride my machine firmly convinced, at all times, that there is someone out there trying to kill me."

      If you were riding a bicycle, the “dashcam” evidence is there are car/van/hgv drivers who are out to kill you.

    4. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      "that there is someone out there trying to kill me"

      I know how you feel.

      I drive a small, black sports car and I feel the same way. Many times I have seen drives, mostly female (sorry but that is true), in SUVs look right over my car at an intersection or coming out of a shopping center and then drive right in front of me.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: WTF

        Driving SUVs seems to turn many drivers into entitled idiots… Although, I know several people who were entitled idiots before they got the SUV…

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      ride my machine firmly convinced, at all times, that there is someone out there trying to kill me

      My philosophy (when I was physically capable of riding a motorbike) was that *everyone* was trying to kill me. I grew up riding bikes in London..

      To mangle a quote "There are old bikers and there are bold bikers. There are no old, bold bikers".

      I still (as much as is possible) take the bike line round bends and roundabouts, much to my wife's displeasure as we skim close to the kerbs or centre-line.

    6. robin thakur 1

      Re: WTF

      Yes, knowing the limitation of these systems, when it comes to detecting cyclists and motorbikes, it would make me significantly less likely to want to ride on one, even in countries where they are more common. In Dallas where I now live, even the idea of riding a bike to work (motorised or not) seems absurd, not least because you'd be boiled in 46 C heat, but also the massive SUVs, Pickup trucks and big trucks would probably end up squashing you without realising.

  7. Neoc

    "Autopilot"

    I can't even bring a bit of my psyche to feel sorry for Tesla. They named their software "autopilot" and threw it at a populace who relates that word to aircraft autopilots which are technically capable of taking off, flying the plane, and land without pilot interaction. (don't get me wrong, I still want meatbags behind the controls when I fly - but it's nice to know that said meatbags will be better rested after the drudgery of the flight is done by George).

    The public saw "autopilot" and assumed a similar system capable of independent control. It is not even near that. For all their technological advances, the Tesla Advertising department committed an own-goal on this one.

    1. SJA

      Re: "Autopilot"

      Despite having autopilot 70+ years on airplanes, I have yet to see passengers complain about the additional costs of the pilots. Also don't forget that the autopilot in a plane is very simple. Keep direction, altitude and speed. Tesla's autopilot does a lot more than that.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: "Autopilot"

        The "autopilot" function that you describe there is analogous to the functionality provided by cruise control and lane assist on modern cars.

        I'm fairly sure that I've heard of automated systems on planes that can perform landing (not sure about take off). However a plane should be coming in to land in a controlled environment - the use case here shouldn't need to take account of things like other traffic on the runway, as that's already been taken care of by somebody in the control tower

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: "Autopilot"

        Also don't forget that the autopilot in a plane is very simple. Keep direction, altitude and speed.

        Autoland is a thing, and will put the wheels on the ground.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "Autopilot"

          True, but can it "full self drive" to the terminal and auto park? Mind you, from what I hear of Teslas self-parking abilities, that's not a high bar to reach :-)

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: "Autopilot"

      " technically capable of taking off, flying the plane, and land without pilot interaction."

      Right up to the point where they can't and then the plane crashes. Take offs and landings are the most critical. The pilot needs to feel how the plane is flying during those phases as they'd have no time to figure out a gusting cross-wind. Once the pilot's best friend, altitude, is better than a few hundred meters they can start making use of automation to reduce their work load of mundane things so they can see to "cleaning up" the aircraft (gear up, flaps, trim, radio calls). Cruise is not that hard for an autopilot and ATC is often watching to keep aircraft well separated so there isn't much chance of running into something. The Daher TBM's have a "pilot dead" switch that somebody can push and the plane will land at the nearest/best airport, but that could go wrong. Given the alternative, it's worth a go.

    3. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: "Autopilot"

      " They named their software "autopilot" and threw it at a populace who relates that word to aircraft autopilots which are technically capable of taking off, flying the plane, and land without pilot interaction. "

      I don't think that's actually a thing. It's still just hypothetically possible (not yet implemented).

      1. ragnar

        Re: "Autopilot"

        "I don't think that's actually a thing. It's still just hypothetically possible (not yet implemented)."

        Certainly autoland is here

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoland

      2. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: "Autopilot"

        Auto Pilot and Auto Land are real, Auto Land requires the airport to have the equipment for it and needs to be initiated by somebody in the cockpit.

        1. Ideasource Bronze badge

          Re: "Autopilot"

          Autoland isn't autonomous landing.

          As the plane is reliant upon external communication/facilitationfrom these specialized systems at the airport. And since neither the plane nor the pilot can be sure that those systems are working perfectly with no unforeseen system issues or shortcomings within the moment they still cannot be fully trusted and the pilot must still remain alert to take over.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: "Autopilot"

            "they still cannot be fully trusted and the pilot must still remain alert to take over."

            That's provided that the pilot is able to do so. There's been a couple of stories this last week of the pilot dying on passenger jets. The emergency autoland systems that a passenger can activate on a small aircraft seem like a good start.

    4. AIBailey

      Re: "Autopilot"

      (taken from Ask The Pilot)

      And what do terms like “automatic” and “autopilot” mean anyway? Contrary to what people are led to believe, flying remains very hands-on operation, with tremendous amounts of input from the crew. Our hands might not be steering the airplane directly, as would have been the case in the 1930s, but almost everything the airplane does is commanded, one way or the other, by the pilots. The automation only does what we tell it to do.

      ...

      People would be surprised at how busy a cockpit can become, on even the most routine flight, and with all of the automation running. Tasks ebb and flow, and granted there are stretches of low workload during which, to the nonpilot observer, it would seem that very little requires the crew’s attention. But there also are periods of very high workload, to the point where both pilots can become task-saturated.

      ...

      Fewer than one percent of landings are performed automatically, and the fine print of setting up and managing one of these landings is something I could spend pages trying to explain. If it were as easy as pressing a button, I wouldn’t need to practice them every year in the simulator or review those highlighted tabs in my manuals. In a lot of respects, automatic landings are more work-intensive than those performed by hand.

      And if you’re wondering: a full 100 percent of takeoffs are manual. There is no such thing as an automatic takeoff anywhere in commercial aviation.

      Plenty of people simply have no idea of what "autopilot" really means.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "Autopilot"

        "Plenty of people simply have no idea of what "autopilot" really means."

        Most people know exactly what it means. It means what they think it means, which may or may bear any similarity to what you think it means :-)

        Few know what autopilot means in terms of aviation, but then most people are not pilots and the term "autopilot" has now been hijacked for other uses in other industries, where it means something very different, and even there might not mean the same thing to different people.

    5. Ace2 Silver badge

      Re: "Autopilot"

      This is yet another El Reg article that totally munges Autopilot and FSD together.

      Autopilot is *not* an autopilot. FFS, what a stupid name.

    6. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: "Autopilot"

      The idea that (passenger) aircraft are technically capable of taking off on their own is a bit misleading.

      Sure modern (passenger) aircraft can set the flaps, shove the throttles to the right place, hold the aircraft pointing in the right direction as it accelerates, rotate, retract gear, retract flaps and climb away.

      What they can't do is interact correctly and reliably with the tower(s).

      So things like cancelled take-off clearances, orders to cross or vacate the runway, go-arounds for arbitrary reasons, emergency declarations up to and including Maydays, and so on are hard, and need (at present) a human. Especially when the controllers have exotic accents...

  8. Neoc
    Facepalm

    I feel sorry for the engineers.

    Am I the only one who foresees these two engineers getting a couple of bad workplace reviews and then being fired for cause. Not because they dared say things His Muskness disapproves of, oh no - their work standards suddenly slipped after their testimony.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: I feel sorry for the engineers.

      Well if their claims are true then, by speaking out, they've demonstrated that they are the best engineers in the company. Musk wouldn't want me as the judge in the ensuing case for unfair dismissal.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I feel sorry for the engineers.

        What they have demonstrated is that they are far more wary of perjuring themselves in front of a judge than any veiled threats that may come from Musk or the legal team. Being honest doesn't say anything about their engineering skills. Although I'd prefer an honest average engineer over a dishonest "brilliant" one any day.

  9. spold Silver badge

    To cross reference....

    https://sfstandard.com/2023/08/11/san-francisco-robotaxi-cruise-debauchery/

    The voice recognition may have been a bit wonky when it understood you "needed a truck".

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But is it difficult?

    I recently drove a rental Buick and it seemed to know everything that was going around me, including an alert when there was a pedestrian at the side of the road in a potential “step off/cross” position.

    Given the number of years Tesla has had autopilot in development plus the leaps and bounds of competitors, I’m not buying this “it’s difficult to detect cross traffic” statement.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: But is it difficult?

      I don't think that detecting cross-traffic is the major difficulty. As other posters have noted, it's working out what it might do that's difficult.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: But is it difficult?

      The accident that this article is referring seems to be the one that happened many years ago when the facility was first brought out (and when people started taking it literally).

    3. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: But is it difficult?

      Using LIDAR makes it all so much easier, but Musk refuses to use LIDAR since he had a falling out with all the major suppliers and publicly denounced LIDAR. With Elon in charge Tesla is doomed to be left in the dust, camera only systems can only take you so far.

    4. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: But is it difficult?

      I drive a Ford Explorer and have no problems with traffic at all, cars may come up fast but they drive around me or stay behind ... I've only ever had two collisions when I failed to stop at a green traffic light and someone ran through the red light, although most of the time I can avoid them, there's a sticker on the back of my car:

      CAUTION I Drive like a Cullen

  11. DS999 Silver badge

    Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

    The revenue from selling Autopilot and FSD to suckers who believe the hype outweighs what they'll end up paying in wrongful death suits. Same calculation that corporations killing people with unsafe products, pollution, or whatever have been making since long before any of us were born.

    They are simply following the Silicon Valley recipe of "move fast and break things" and figuring that with enough real world usage their software will somehow become better than the rest. Hasn't worked that way since their software has barely advanced since Musk started making his famous promises and they had a huge lead, while today traditional car companies are starting to pass them but I guess hope springs eternal.

    1. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

      Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

      I'd say that every single other EV make has passed tesla by a long way. Their cars are now better built, more reliable and so far haven't proved to be murder machines.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

        Judging by the number of electric vehicles on our roads I'd say that Testla's the clear winner by a mile or more. Stop at any traffic signal and you're likely to have at least one and often two or three around you, they're mostly Model 3 (which seems to cover a wide range of cars, BTW).

        Because the things are so common its not surprising that we also know Tesla owners. They all seem to be extremely happy with the cars. I don't know anyone who's got "Full Sell Driving", though.

        So I don't know which Fox News or similar contributor dubbed the vehicles "Murder Machines" but they're anything but.

        Other manufacturers pure EVs are less common, the Bolt and Leaf being probably the most visible (and there's a couple of Rivians around). But by far the most common non-Tesla is some kind of plug-in hybrid.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

          >” Other manufacturers pure EVs are less common”

          Tesla = EV

          With other manufacturers you have to look more closely.

          In the total numbers game, Tesla are losing market share.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

            True. According to the RAC, "Some popular models you’ve probably seen on our roads include the Audi E-tron, BMW i4, Citroën e-C4, Fiat 500e, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Honda e, Jaguar I-Pace, Kia e-Niro, Mazda MX-30, Mercedes-Benz EQA, Mini Electric, Nissan Leaf, Peugeot e-208, Polestar 2, Porsche Taycan, Renault Zoe E-Tech Electric, Skoda Enyaq, Tesla Model 3, Vauxhall Corsa-e, Volkswagen ID.3 and Volvo XC40 Recharge."

            I've seen most of them on the road at some point or other, but as you point out, many are just EV versions of existing models and look almost identical to their ICE equivalent. Generally, in the UK, the car number plate has a green flash at one end if it's an EV or hybrid. Not sure if that's regulated or mandated in any way though and that feature is more recent than the launch of EVs and hybrids so older cars don't have it.

        2. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

          Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

          Well, considering the number of EVs that have spontaneously burst into flames, mostly while being charged while the family is sleeping, "Murder Machine" might be appropriate.

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

          Stop at any traffic signal and you're likely to have at least one and often two or three around you

          No, I'm not. Not around here, certainly; and I just drove 6000 miles (from the Rockies to the Canadian Atlantic coast and back, with various detours along the way), and while there were certainly a number of Teslas, they were also not nearly as common as you're suggesting. They were easily outnumbered by any of the popular pick-up models (F-150, Silverado, etc), and probably by various crossovers as well.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

            "Stop at any traffic signal and you're likely to have at least one and often two or three around you"

            In larger cities of Texas or California, you may be correct, but not so much in the Dakotas. People in rural settings don't seem to allow themselves to be led around by the nose so much.

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

              People in rural settings don't seem to allow themselves to be led around by the nose so much

              Oh please!

              It is because charging stations are going to be few and far between in very rural areas - heck even driving an ICE you better not let your gas gauge get too low driving in rural areas you aren't familiar with lest you run out of gas before you find a gas station (I suppose apps like gasbuddy alleviate that these days but 20 years ago you had to either rely on signs to tell you where the next gas station was or just go into the nearest named town and hope it was big enough to have one!) Long car trips are more common in rural areas because you might need to drive half a day just to reach the nearest commercial airport, let alone what most people would consider a "big" city. It is much easier to own an EV in heavily populated areas with charging stations everywhere and long car trips less likely.

              And also because people in living in rural areas tend to be politically conservative, and they are told constantly by their political leaders and their media that climate change is a hoax. If you don't believe CO2 is a problem you're much less likely to consider buying an EV. There is also a lot of oil drilling in the Dakotas, I can imagine the reception you'd get driving an EV into one of those oil patch towns might be pretty chilly.

              Speaking of chilly, EV range decreases when it gets cold and the Dakotas get REALLY cold in the winter. Solid state batteries will fix that issue, but they aren't here yet.

      2. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

        Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

        Yes, they only spontaneously catch fire halve as much as Teslas.

        We had a local family lose their home because of a Mercedes EV caught fire while charging in their garage over night. Luckily no one died.

    2. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

      Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

      "The revenue from selling Autopilot and FSD to suckers who believe the hype..."

      Considering the vast majority of their customers are suckers getting duped into buying over priced toy cars, is anyone surprised?

    3. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

      In this case, I think it's more "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission." Sort of like how Uber and Lyft were basically operating an illegal taxi operation across the country. You don't need to be steeped into topics like medallions and all that to know that Taxi businesses are regulated in many large cities and that the entire business model of Uber and Lyft were effectively illegal and that they were banking on it taking governments so long to go through all the required motions to try to regulate them, they'd be making enough money to be able to buy enough lobbyists to get a special carve out for themselves.

      I'm personally just hoping Toyota's solid state battery tech pans out and delivers even half of what is promised. That would still probably about double the current range of EVs, and put it beyond what your average ICE can do on a single tank of gas, with charging times of maybe 20-30 minutes. That would be a serious game changer and likely put a serious dent in Tesla's sales.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Tesla is simply making a financial calculation

        "I'm personally just hoping Toyota's solid state battery tech pans out"

        Keep moving that air in and out.

  12. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Owners hype their cars

    Every single Autopilot update is followed by a slew of videos on YouTube where breathless owners claim that *this time* it's really made a huge leap forwards and is truly amazing and you can use it to drive right across town in difficult circumstances with total safety.

    The need to prove that their faith in the brand is justified is dangerous in itself. You can't directly blame Tesla for this phenomenon, but it has always been encouraged by the company that has been telling us for over a decade that "Full Self Driving" was just a software release away.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Owners hype their cars

      Everybody is keen to hype their decision to buy anything over a certain amount a genius move on their part. Somebody spending the gobs of money it takes to buy a Tesla isn't going to turn around and claim they made a huge mistake very often. Any make or model of car for that matter. I can firmly state I did zero research on the car I currently own. My sister bought it new and sold it to me so cheap when she wanted something bigger to haul to toddlers around in I would have been stupid to say no. I needed another car at the time as well so it all worked out. My mom leased a new car, my sister got her Nissan Rouge and I got a deal on my sister's car. If I was going to indenture myself for 5 years to buy something, I'd be renting my top choices every weekend until I had a good feel for what I really needed. I know what I want and the budget isn't going to stretch that far.... ever.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Allowing them to market the limited driver assist feature as "Autopilot" (which has a particular, common use meaning) would be like letting a drug company name a product, or feature of a product as "Miracle Cure", even if it only has limited benefit to the consumer.

    I'm still absolutely amazed the regulators allow Tesla to ship the feature in it's current state.

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      It's a commonly misunderstood term. It can mean many things. Just holding a compass course and/or altitude, for example.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      I'm still absolutely amazed the regulators allow Tesla to ship the feature in it's current state.

      Well in the US marketers have pretty much free rein to claim anything they want, with weird exceptions - like if I sell something as an unregulated medical "supplement" I can claim without any basis or evidence that it will help de-age your brain, fix your erections, give you more energy and cure acne and I don't have to mention the side effect that you start growing hair on the soles of your feet and it causes teeth to fall out in 1 out of every 10 people who take it for a year. If it is licensed as a drug by the FDA then you can only claim what has been tested and proven in medical trials and you have to list all side effects that occur even in the smallest numbers if they meet the test for statistical significance.

      In the UK they have much tighter rules covering advertising, I would have expected they would have prevented Tesla from calling something "autopilot" or DEFINITELY prevented them from calling something "full self driving"? How are they getting away with that, given that I've read about the UK going to what (seem to be me to be) some pretty silly extremes in citing companies for overly exuberant advertising claims that wouldn't raise an eyebrow in the US?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        As someone mentioned earlier, Tesla don't advertise. At least not in the traditional sense, so there's nothing for the ASA to go after. Tesla make PR announcements to the press, the press lap it up and splash it all over the TV news bulletins, newspapers and websites, all for free. Teslas PR department is possibly one of the most efficient and cost effective operations on the face of the planet :-)

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "Well in the US marketers have pretty much free rein to claim anything they want, with weird exceptions - like if I sell something as an unregulated medical "supplement" I can claim without any basis or evidence that it will help de-age your brain, fix your erections, give you more energy and cure acne and I don't have to mention the side effect that you start growing hair on the soles of your feet and it causes teeth to fall out in 1 out of every 10 people who take it for a year."

        Not really. Anything being advertised as a cure or treatment for a specific ailment has to have done proper third party testing done and get approvals from the US FDA (in the US, obviously). One give away on supplements is they will state that the are so many "IU's" rather than it containing a percentage of Recommended Daily Allowance. There are plenty of hack recommendations for this herb or mineral on the internet with all sorts of vague testimonials that drives the supplement market.

        With the legalization of pot and cannabis derived products in the US, there have been a bunch of cases of crack downs on the health claims of various preparations. Since it's still illegal on a Federal level and has been for a long time, there are zero recognized US studies to back up the claims. No permit would have been issued to do the research. I don't disbelieve the anecdotal claims outright, but I do believe that many of them are unsubstantiated and there is little clear good advice on dosing, purity, compounding, etc. That hasn't stopped mainly CBD makers from making claims no different than older 'Patent' medicines were making years ago. See: Snake Oil.

  14. NightFox

    Whilst I know it's not the point of this article, I do wonder how many of these accidents and deaths (and others not attributable to autonomous driving) would have been avoided if American trailers had 'barriers' fitted underneath them between the tractor unit and the rear wheel(s) like they do in other parts of the world which (a) prevents vehicles driving under them and (b) enhances their visibility to autonomous driving systems.

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      This is something I don't understand as the barriers were invented in the US. They call them Mansfield bars after Jane Mansfield died in just this way.

      1. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

        Money! Most trailer are rented by the shipping company. The majority of drivers in the US are independent contractors. The cost would be passed on and increase shipping rates.

        Not saying that's a bad thing but in the US, campaign contributions override safety every time!

        1. blackcat Silver badge

          Why are they even optional? US truckers seem all to happy to put big plastic wind deflectors on the side of their trucks which probably cost more.

          But we are talking about a country where the code inspectors will come out, inspect and pass a house build at every stage during construction as meeting code and once it is done suddenly say 'hey, this doesn't meet code on this long list of things that we previously signed off as OK'. The inspectors then claimed 'it isn't our job to actually check the work meets code, it is up to the builder to ensure that'.

          1. MJB7

            Re: Big plastic wind deflectors

            They may cost more than side-bars under the trailers - but wind deflectors save money in the medium term (by reducing fuel consumption - which is something truck owners care _deeply_ about).

      2. keith_w

        Mansfield bars are located at the back of the trailer to stop cars from rolling under the back of the trailer at highway speeds and are mandated on all trailers on the road in the United States, which also puts them on all Canadian trailers and probably on all Mexican ones as well.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "if American trailers had 'barriers' fitted underneath them between the tractor unit and the rear wheel(s"

      I've thought about that and haven't seen that many accounts of cars winding up under trailers where preventing that happening would have made much of a difference. The car involved was making a go of playing highway pinball and was impacting all sorts of stuff. Getting lodged under a trailer vs. being bounced off and over the edge of the highway having the same outcome.

      The cost of fitting those barriers and hauling them millions of miles may not be a good trade if they only prevent a small number of deaths.

      1. NightFox

        From reports I've seen before linked to autonomous driving, it's often been the case that Tesla's have just driven straight under trailers as the trailers floor sits above the camera's line-of-site, whereas they would have 'seen' barriers. The unfortunate end result is that trailer platform is often at the right height to slice through the A-pillars and decapitate occupants. Whilst hitting a trailer barrier at 70mph may still prove to be fatal, at least it gives the car's safety/crash system a chance to try to minimise the impact, and impacts at slower speeds would certainly be survivable, whereas I would imagine the speed necessary to take the top of the car and somebody's head off would be pretty low.

  15. martinusher Silver badge

    Its probably not the cross traffic.

    The crash happened 10 seconds after the system was engaged. That shouldn't have been a problem but there's one aspect of Tesla ownership that can be quite terrifying for non-Tesla owners who are riding in those cars and that's the acceleration. Most cars are difficult to get to accelerate rapidly, you've got to be driving something pretty upscale to get any kind of performance. Even a modest Model 3 accelerates like a rocket (and brakes just as hard -- only its not really braking but energy recovery). So ten seconds on a highway is plenty of time to get into trouble -- but you have to ask yourself what on Earth the driver was doing at the time?

    1. ChrisB 2

      Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

      You make a very good point.

      Not that many drivers have ever driven sub 8 seconds to 60 mph cars, far fewer sub 5 seconds and hardly any sub 4 seconds. This will be an increasing problem with EVs capable of high acceleration flooding the second hand market.

      In the UK prices of even top-spec second hand Teslas are dropping like a stone, meaning more and more inexperienced (and not just young) drivers will have access to "family" cars with supercar performance.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

        If we could pass legislation that limits the acceleration of EVs to, say, 10s 0-60 (still very fast) then think of how much electricity would be saved and range improved. Alternatively, put a hefty progressive tariff on anything with acceleration above this figure with the money used to subside sensible EVs.

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

          I missed out something important from my comment. A week or so ago my wife went with some ex-colleagues to a retirement lunch and were given a ride by another ex-colleague in her Model 3. This Tesla owner is 'older' -- in her early 80s -- and is quite sentinent (together) but the ride wasn't very pleasant because she couldn't drive the car smoothly. (Speaking from experience my wire has a finely calibrated 'tilt' switch....). The nature of Tesla driving was all fierce acceleration and braking rather than smooth anticipation of traffic flow. Its not really the driver's fault -- the controls on an electric car simulate a normal car's controls but are still very much 'on/off'. More attention to this would make the vehicles much nicer to drive (its probably a user setting, though.....).

          I know someone who's got a Plaid, one of those ridiculous Tesla Model 3 that can put 1200bph onto the road. Yes, it accelerates as if its launching from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Fun, but not a really good idea if you've got anything loose in the trunk (boot).

          If you want a valid criticism of a Tesla rather than this "Murder Machine" BS here's a couple. One is that it uses special tiers and can use them up quite quickly. The other is that even a relatively minor accident -- a fender bender or even a parking lot interaction -- can result in a repair bill that's in five figures.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

            "This Tesla owner is 'older' -- in her early 80s -- and is quite sentinent (together) but the ride wasn't very pleasant because she couldn't drive the car smoothly. "

            My mom drives like that. She's either on the gas or the brake all of the time. It makes me worry about her skills as she gets older. The price of petrol has trained me to be a much smoother driver. My brakes also last a really long time.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

            The nature of Tesla driving was all fierce acceleration and braking rather than smooth anticipation of traffic flow

            When we got the C-HR, we were given info on how to most efficiently drive it (apparently Toyota had done a fair amount of research). The answer - accellerate hard up to destination speed, then maintain speed. Up to a certain speed, most of the 'maintain speed' phase will be mostly EV mode. Then brake hard as this maximises regenerative braking.

            Under certain circumstances (ie open road with little traffic) the accellerate/cruise suits my driving style. The 'brake late and hard' really, really does not.

            You also have several driving modes - economy, normal and sport - which affect the accelleration profile, how much it goes into EV mode and (I think) the suspension stiffness. Most of the time mine is in econ mode.

        2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

          Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

          Hmmm.... wouldn't necessarily need legislation. Just have the insurance companies demand performance regulators be in place for lower premiums. Alternatively (and this is legislative) have the registration fees be tied to performance, which doesn't sound such a bad idea, now I come to think on it...!!!

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

            "Just have the insurance companies demand performance regulators be in place for lower premiums."

            If you put the car in "eco" mode, it dials back the performance, but it's not always clear how to switch modes and some cars have the controls where it's easy to knock them without intention. Some EV's have a "teenager" mode where the car can be dialed way back and locked into that mode, some with a 'key' that engages that function automatically. It's the same as a valet mode that limits performance and will make things happen if the car is driven too far from where the mode was engaged. All that sort of stuff is easy to do with an EV, but I'd never hand control or raw information over to an insurance company. Mine has offered to reduce my rates if I fit a driving monitor in the OBD port. Sod that. The discount was very minimal as I'm already getting the best rates and I have no information about how their scoring works. There's a couple of places where getting on the motorway often means giving it the go rather hard. There's also a few places with short slip roads when getting off. I expect I'd be dinged for those and it might wind up costing me more rather than getting me a discount.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

          "If we could pass legislation that limits the acceleration of EVs to, say, 10s 0-60 (still very fast) then think of how much electricity would be saved and range improved."

          Is it really that performant in "normal" mode? If so, what's like in "sport" or "ludicrous" mode? Or is it just that many or most Tesla drivers user the most performant mode most of the time? The fact they have different modes means there are already software based limiters in the system. Maybe, like those annoying automatic headlights, "green" or "eco" mode should be set to default to on every time you start the thing so it would have to be the drivers conscious choice to enable high acceleration abilities.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

        "Not that many drivers have ever driven sub 8 seconds to 60 mph cars, far fewer sub 5 seconds and hardly any sub 4 seconds. This will be an increasing problem with EVs capable of high acceleration flooding the second hand market."

        I've seen plenty of "wrong pedal" accidents where somebody pulling into a parking space in front of a shop hits the accelerator rather than the brake. The instant torque of an EV means they tend to launch further into a shop before a driver can correct their mistake. There's plenty of examples on YT.

        A person I know put a 5L Ford V-8 into a Bugeye Sprite. The fat tires and posi rear end made the thing frightening to drive. He did eventually wreck the car when it broke loose and went flying off the road. In a straight line, it's the fastest accelerating car I've ever pushed hard. I know there are faster EV's out, but I've had to behave myself with the few I have driven. I have no doubt that there aren't a lot of people that can handle the most extreme settings without putting themselves and many other in danger. My old V-6 Buick had pretty good pick up, but pales in comparison to a really high performance car.

    2. mevets

      what the driver was doing at the time?

      1. Madly trying to figure out how to turn murder mode off?

      2. Loudly and slowly saying "Alexa, let me drive. "

      3. ....

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Its probably not the cross traffic.

      Most cars are difficult to get to accelerate rapidly

      This amuses me - a car driver breathlessly recounting how his car can do 0-60 in 6 seconds!

      Most of the bikes I've had would easily do that with the Fireblade 900 taking less than that to get to 100mph.. (that's the value of an 18,000 RPM red-line and a set of well-selected gear ratios - only 3 gear changes to get to there and, because you are going up the gears, you can do clutchless gear changes..)

      The Fireblade cost me £5k second-hand.

  16. spireite Silver badge

    Whatever happened to self responsibility?

    I know the US is litigation happy but....

    Elon could tell me and prove the software could handle any situation in self driving.... but I'd still be bloody alert to take over in the name of self preservation.

    I can't believe that anyone would not notice a big rig crossing in front and not be ready to intervene.

    This implies to me that the victims in these accidents didn't pay attention, probably playing on their mobiles.

    Darwin in auto-action....

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Whatever happened to self responsibility?

      "Elon could tell me and prove the software could handle any situation in self driving."

      Yeah, like anybody such as Elon gives a squirt whether you live or die. Besides, you've already bought a car from him so he has all your money.

  17. mevets

    The real danger...

    This excerpt " ... resulting in motorists putting themselves in dangerous situations.... "

    seems to miss the point.

    If idiot mode only harmed the driver, that would be sad, but not the saddest thing.

    The crime is that these idiots operating and deploying these killer robots are endangering everybody else.

    I'm sure I am not the only one that checks for a Tesla before crossing the road.

  18. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    "Move Fast and Break ThingsKill People".

  19. Valheru

    Two Points

    Specific to this incident:

    A Tesla has an internal camera. What the driver attentive or not?

    About Automobile software in general:

    In aviation, we have to widely review every change to all onboard software that impacts safety. Then we must satisfy regulators and customers before pushing a change in writing.

    Perhaps it is time we had similar regulation for cars.

  20. Rattus
    Mushroom

    FFS stop calling it AutoPilot

    Really you are overselling the product to the user.

    You call it Autopilot and the user thinks (I struggle to use the word think, but it is the closest analogue I can find for the activity in the user's head) that the car will drive itself. It doesn't help that that is exactly how it is being sold, because nobody reads the fine print....

    Calling it a driver assistance package and explain clearly the limitations.... but if you do that then your product is no better than the competitors and now how do you sell a car?

    /Rattus

    P.S. Yes I know Autopilots in aeroplanes are nothing more than pilot assist and don't do much more than the current car driver assist either. I know that but most people don't.

    P.P.S. the car isn't a self driving car until I am not liable in the event of an accident when AutoPilot is engaged. feel free to talk all you want about levels of autonomy, but until I can get into the car drunk as a skunk, and tell it to take me home and it be at least as reliable as the driver of a taxi - forget it.

  21. MachDiamond Silver badge

    This just in..

    After Waymo vehicles had a little episode when there was an AT&T outage in San Francisco, the next week a Waymo Chevy Cruise failed to yield for a firetruck and caused an accident with said firetruck. Oops. SF has placed limits for the time being on autonomous taxis operating in the city.

    These sorts of accidents do happen with human drivers, but autonomous vehicles are supposed to be far more vigilant and all seeing. It's also one of the most obvious scenarios that a robo-taxi should be able to handle with ease.

  22. Binraider Silver badge

    Not defending Tesla and its attempts to try and resolve the otherwise impossible-to-solve problem of car safety; without moving to essentially trains and very tightly controlled block systems.

    But here's an interesting problem for you in engineering and policy setting.

    If you have something fail and kill someone, knee-jerk reaction says that the thing that failed must need attention on the rest of the population. But what if, even in the light of the new evidence, the policy you already have is still the optimal one?

    Pressure to change stuff that doesn't need changing results in worse decisions.

    When the scope of the problem you are trying to solve is itself flawed, you will forever be chasing your tail.

  23. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Sheer lunacy

    I was really surprised the automated thingy couldn't detect a large vehicle / trailer combination crossing ahead. So you would presumably be dogs' meat running upto a (railway) train on an uncontrolled level crossing. It would probably head for the flashing lights on a controlled crossing.

    The X-Twitmeister's X-men appear to have created a computerized version of Don Quixote but with ambition greater than just spanish windmills. Cervantes' Don was a dangerous lunatic but clearly we are not free of those similarly afflicted.

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