back to article Renewed calls for Tesla to scrap Autopilot after number of crashes

US advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has renewed its demands for a recall of Tesla's Autopilot feature following a number of crashes. Earlier this week, a Tesla smashed into a construction barrier truck on a German motorway at high speed. Consumer Watchdog said the "growing list of Tesla crashes demonstrates the urgent need to …

98%

Uhm, so 2% of users do NOT understand that they are supposed to maintain control of the vehicle at all times? That's quite a lot of people. No wonder there's a number of crashes.

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Re: 98%

It's hard to legislate for the 2% of 'tards who can't be bothered to RTFM.

Probably the same people who don't understand that a cup of coffee is hot, unless it says "WARNING ! CONTENTS ARE HOT !!!!!!!!!" on the label, or that packets of nuts may contain nuts.

As a wise man (D. Adams) once said, "A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools".

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Boffin

Re: 98%

Making things foolproof simply means more fools breed more fools.

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Re: 98%

To be the 2% might not get to breed if they think a car will drive itself. (Though if they can afford a Tesla they are probably old enough to have breed)

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Re: 98%

"It's hard to legislate for the 2% of 'tards who can't be bothered to RTFM."

No...it's not. It's simple really. DON'T ALLOW IMPLEMENTATION OF BETA SYSTEMS IN VEHICLES USED ON PUBLIC ROADS!!!

I'm all for self driving cars but Tesla has jumped the gun in releasing this semi-autonomous system to the public. If even one person can misconstrue the name or significantly misuse the system, then that one person poses a hazard to navigation.

Much as I want a self driving vehicle, all of these semi-autonomous steps along the way to that goal are going to add up to a nightmare on the highways.

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Re: 98%

Sure, lets add legislation. How about a background check before you can buy a Tesla, same as before you can buy a firearm? This question should do nicely:

What is Tesla Autopilot? A) Enables you to text and squeeze your passenger while the car drives itself, or B) Requires that you drive your car at all times.

I am on the road (around stupid drivers) far more than I am around [stupid] people that have guns (probably around smart people with guns, but they are smart enough to not let me know), so I vote for the Tesla background checks! I would feel much better knowing that 100% fewer Tesla's were likely to drive up my rear, even if it is only 2% fewer Tesla's on the road.

Whatever. Either allow the cars or don't. Sooo tired of "more" regulation that does not work.

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Re: 98%

"Uhm, so 2% of users do NOT understand that they are supposed to maintain control of the vehicle at all times?"

I wonder how that compares with the percentage who think it's OK to drive singlehanded whilst holding a phone to the ear. Or zero handed whilst texting and checking emails, Facebook & tweeting "I think I just hit something".

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Re: 98%

> Probably the same people who don't understand that a cup of coffee is hot, unless it says "WARNING ! CONTENTS ARE HOT !!!!!!!!!" on the label

To be fair, in that particular lawsuit the coffee wasn't just hot, it was scalding and far hotter than it ever needed to be. That and the resulting skin damage is what the lawsuit was about, not the fact they didn't mark it as hot, but that McD (IIRC) made it far hotter than any reasonable person might expect it to be (and IIRC didn't put the lid on properly)

As far as TFA goes, just change the name, not that big a deal

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Re: 98%

My car radio has a handy feature... About 45 seconds after the engines fires up and as I'm turning out onto the main road, a screen full of smallish type appears ordering me to RTFM and not to get distracted by small things on the screen. Below the text is a small screen OK button. By tapping this button I agree that I will never look for things on the screen as small as this button. Perhaps I should turn onto the main road, stop the car, tap the button, then move off again. If I stall the engine, the sequence restarts from the beginning.

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Re: 98%

Breeded? Or perhaps bread?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 98%

or even bred?

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Re: 98%

"I'm all for self driving cars but Tesla has jumped the gun in releasing this semi-autonomous system to the public."

Very few countries allow new car models to be sold to the public without all sorts of testing and safety analysis. Maybe the relevant authorities are as much to blame for allowing these on the road without demanding full and complete information being shoved in the drivers face along with proper testing, especially real-world usability testing. The semi-autonomy of these vehicles is quite a significant step changes from your average new car model with pretty standard controls and features that people get trained on when learning to drive.

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Re: 98%

"Probably the same people who don't understand that a cup of coffee is hot, unless it says "WARNING ! CONTENTS ARE HOT !!!!!!!!!" on the label, or that packets of nuts may contain nuts."

Last time I was in the states, I got an ice cream milkshake in a cup which warned me "CHAUD! ATTENTION! HOT!"

This was at the creamery in State College, Pennsylvania, where one of the rules is that you aren't allowed two flavours in the same bowl. I ordered Strawberry and Cookie Dough and got a look which would have peeled paint. The only person who has had two flavours together is Bill Clinton who did it while he was President. He went back after leaving office - and was refused!

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"The inaccurate and sensationalistic view of Autopilot put forth by this group is exactly the kind of misinformation that threatens to harm consumer safety."

The evidence suggests that Tesla's cars harm consumer safety.

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Only if you're being obtuse. How many Fords crashed in the same time period?

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... but they can't blame their own stupidity on "Autopilot".

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Usually one can blame their stupidity on a different kind of autopilot. Certainly not all autopilot is of the technological variety. Just ask the morons who text whilst driving.

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I'm guessing there are a heck of a lot more Fords on the road than Teslas, so that statistic wouldn't be very meaningful.

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A more meaningful metric would be: 'how may crashes were avoided because of autopilot?'

Does Tesla have that data? Because that would be interesting to see.

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Using statistics

These figures actually make no real sense, to be blunt ( except the 2% who just don't know what they are driving bit).

To make any sensible comparison you'd need to break the figures down ( or at least identify) driving location and conditions, Then compare the rate of accidents per Km and/or per journey with the expected rate for cars of a similar performance and purpose. Currently we are just jumping up and down at every accident report. It probably owes more to confirmation bias than real information - with a gentle touch of building Moral Panic to keep it rolling on in the news.

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>> The evidence suggests that Tesla's cars harm consumer safety.

The post contains no evidence about Tesla's cars killing people more often than other brands do.

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Normalise.

Statistical technique used by people who don't guess how many Fords, but count them (in a sample, or from registrations of cars etc)

If there are 1000 times as many Fords, divide the crashed Ford's by 1000 to get a crude comparator.

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Pint

Lipstick on a Pig?

Personally, if I'm going to spend £60k on a motor with a Tesla's performance I'd want to enjoy the experience of driving it myself. Having a 'self-driving' feature that you can't allow to actually control the vehicle is somewhat pointless & it's use in any case is very likely to encourage 'driving without due care & attention' at the very least. For those who want them, we already have fully self-driving cars, they're called taxis - they're even self-cleaning sometimes ;-)

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Consumer Watchdog?

Who? I've never heard of them before, and I've lived in the US for 50 years.

Are these another smear group similar to the one that's currently having a go at Musk/Tesla/Solar City on titter twitter and other places?

"The evidence suggests that Tesla's cars harm consumer safety."

All cars harm consumer safety. I had a c*nt rear-end me a week ago, despite sitting at an in-use pedestrian crossing with 6ft flashing lights on both sides of the road. On the good side, at least I had a dozen pedestrians, a cop, and a school crossing guard willing to be a witness.

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Re: Consumer Watchdog?

Consumer Watchdog is a recent org based in California. So far, I mostly noticed them complaining about Google, but it seems they have expanded their field of activity to Tesla.

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Re: Consumer Watchdog?

Recent? Started up in 1985 actually.

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Re: Consumer Watchdog?

I had a c*nt rear-end me a week ago

If that c*nt had been driving a Tesla, or indeed my humble Nissan the car would probably have stopped itself before he woke up.

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Re: Consumer Watchdog?

Never heard of them. But Telsa screwed up by naming the driver assist system "Autopilot". A marketing blunder because most are aware that aircraft routinely fly safely on an autopilot. So name the system "Autopilot" implies it can do more than the typical driver assist system.

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Re: Consumer Watchdog?

>> A marketing blunder because most are aware that aircraft routinely fly safely on an autopilot. So name the system "Autopilot" implies it can do more than the typical driver assist system.

I fly an aircraft with an autopilot. It IS a typical driver assist system. What on earth makes you think otherwise ? Airlines secretly got their tech from space aliens, and haven't shared ??

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Consumer Watchdog?

The autopilot on a Tesla is way more advanced than many aircraft. Not sure any aircraft autopilot can avoid collisions with an unidentified aircraft like a glider.

The safety of an aircraft autopilot is that there is less hazards up in the air than on the ground.

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Darwin

Why does this remind me of the old Darwin Awards myth about the Winnebago and cruise control?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Darwin

They should call it a Darwin filter, like pollen filters, it gets rid of small annoyances.

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Re: Darwin

From the same country as the consumer watchdog, to boot. Quel coincidence!

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Maybe consumer groups...

Who haven't bought a tesla don't understand an autopilot.

Maybe non pilots don't understand how little an autopilot does in the air...

Maybe they need to look at human vehicles for their standard, not to some vision of the cars of the next generation(s) expecting those to materialise without first passing through this generation...

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Re: Maybe consumer groups...

"Maybe non pilots don't understand how little an autopilot does in the air..."

So, then, perhaps non-pilots shouldn't use a system called autopilot in their cars.

"Maybe they need to look at human vehicles for their standard, not to some vision of the cars of the next generation(s) expecting those to materialise without first passing through this generation..."

But do we really need to test this generation on public thoroughfares?

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Re: Maybe consumer groups...

"But do we really need to test this generation on public thoroughfares?"

Should cruise control/lane guidance/collision warning & avoidance technology "not be tested on public thoroughfares"? These technologies are there to assist the driver. They can improve safety and the enjoyment of driving.

All Tesla's Autopilot is is a smart cruise control system. Anyone who can't understand that (when it is in the manual, the car tells them every time they turn it on, and it was explained to them when they bought the car) is an idiot who shouldn't be on the road, and should be taken to court for driving without due care and attention.

Personally, I believe they should change the name, just to reinforce the point. But the issue is, generally, idiots driving them (or not, as the case may be). The same idiots would end up in accidents anyway.

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Re: Maybe consumer groups...

"But do we really need to test this generation on public thoroughfares?"

Yes we - do because it's only real world testing that will get us through this generation. I still don't see any evidence that the autopilot is worse than the vast majority of drivers (obviously excluding the reader who is perfect).

If I could afford one then I would have one, and would use auto-pilot, and it would be of net benefit to my safety, and those around me (I, like most people, consider myself to be a competent driver. Unlike many motorists I also acknowledge that I can miss things and get tired/grumpy/distracted/indignant and that *none* of those are qualities I want to have when in control of a tonne of lethal weapon)

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Re: Maybe consumer groups...

"Maybe non pilots don't understand how little an autopilot does in the air..."

I think that might well be it. Most people have probably heard of passenger aircraft with automatic landing systems, autopilot etc such that even in news stories we hear about aircraft which pretty much take off, fly to their destination and land almost without pilot input. To the layman, that's all one big fancy "autopilot" so the perception is that an "autopilot" does everything for you.

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Anonymous Coward

Statistically....

...how many crashes should there be?

Just on the roads by my house someone fails to drive in a straight line at least once a week. A Tesla crash world-wide, once a month seems about right.

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Re: Statistically....

In 2014 there was 1.08 fatalities per 100 million miles driven in the U.S. In October, Musk said that autopilot had 222 million miles on the clock. That's about 20M miles per month so it's probably safe to say that it's about 260 million by now and that would be 2.6 fatalities on autopilot and 33 fatalities overall given the total of 3,300 million miles logged.

Of course given the official launch of the model S was 41 months ago in June 2012 the expected number would be 0.8 per month. In short, as much as I like torturing numbers, once a month is a pretty good estimate.

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Re: Statistically....

You're misusing statistics. Fatalities are not an even distribution over all miles driven. They are much more likely to happen in poor weather and where there is more traffic - the exact opposite of the conditions that Tesla owners are likely to use autopilot. At least I doubt it is used nearly as much during heavy rain/snow, or on highways in dense urban areas where fatalities are the most common.

You can't compare the overall statistics of fatalities per mile and the amount of miles driven on autopilot. That's like comparing the overall percentage of phones dropped in water with iPhone usage by lifeguards, and concluding iPhones are more likely to be dropped in water.

Tesla needs to change the damn name, they deliberately chose it knowing it would imply it could do more than it was really capable. Whether people are stupid for thinking that and getting into a crash is irrelevant in a country that labels those desiccant bags "do not eat" even though you'd have to be about 1000x stupider to think that's a good idea than to think a car feature called 'autopilot' doesn't drive itself.

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Re: Statistically....

The name is fine as it is being used in the same way as it is with aircraft. A limited tool that can allow the pilot to pay attention to other things while the aircraft maintains altitude and airspeed. Autopilot on a Tesla maintains position in lane and speed while adding adaptive cruise control where it slows down in response to other traffic. It isn't self-driving and the term autopilot is simply being misunderstood by people to think it does mean self-driving. When Tesla can do self-driving, they'll call it autonomous driving or similar. That said, I don't care if they drop the name because I care about the feature as I drive long distances regularly and even something as simple as adaptive cruise control and lane control is a huge step up, but is also far more limited in scope compared with what the next generation includes which really will be self-driving capable.

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Re: Statistically....

Aircraft autopilots have a much less challenging environment, because they aren't generally expected to need to dodge objects in their path.

If all Tesla cars were being monitored by traffic controllers that ensured they stayed 5 nm away from all other cars and at least 1500 feet above any terrain, then using Autopilot would be almost entirely safe, I think.

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Re: Statistically....

The name is fine as it is being used in the same way as it is with aircraft. A limited tool that can allow the pilot to pay attention to other things while the aircraft maintains altitude and airspeed.

But how many people actually understand the limitation in aircraft? The term autopilot has a popular connotation, and that's going to lead to assumptions about its capabilities which aren't reflected in reality.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Statistically....

> Aircraft autopilots have a much less challenging environment,

For values of "less challenging" around Mach 0.92?

> because they aren't generally expected to need to dodge objects in their path.

That is true, because by the time you see them it's too fucking late.

Ask me how I know.

That said, this discussion is just silly. Why don't we move on to compare cruise ships and cruise missiles, since both have "cruise" in their names?

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Re: Statistically....

"But how many people actually understand the limitation in aircraft? The term autopilot has a popular connotation, and that's going to lead to assumptions about its capabilities which aren't reflected in reality."

Shirley even the most dense idiot knows that Airplane was fiction and Otto isn't real.

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Re: Statistically....

"It isn't self-driving and the term autopilot is simply being misunderstood by people to think it does mean self-driving."

That's the problem. It immediately suggests two solutions. Improve understanding or drop the name. Which is the more practical?

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Re: Statistically....

since autopilot has never EVER meant "without any human backup."...

i'd say the former.

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Re: Statistically....

I THOUGHT THE CRUISE CONTROL IN THIS NEW CHEVY WOULD GET ME TO BERMUDA!

LAWSUIT! REGULATION! ANYTHING BUT EDUCATING MYSELF!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Statistically....

Otto isn't real.

I can accept a lot of the things written in El Reg. but come on -there are limits....

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