back to article Tesla death smash probe: Neither driver nor autopilot saw the truck

American crash investigators have thrown open their files on a fatal motorway collision between a Tesla Model S and a truck, confirming Tesla’s earlier statement that its autopilot failed to notice the truck blocking the car’s path. The accident, which happened in May last year on US Highway 27A in Florida’s Levy County, left …

Bleh

All that hi tech hardware and it didn't work,yet if trailer had had $50 of bars welded to it,everybody would have been fine.

KISS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

Not necessarily, cars without autopilot frequently crash into trailers, with and without guards and airflow deflectors, often with fatal results.

He wasn't in control of his vehicle and went splat. His fault, nobody else's. At least he didn't take anybody else out with him.

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Re: Bleh

Until seeing in a recent article that there was a difference between the "aerodynamic side panels" versus the side-impact guards that prevent cars under-running the trailers, I thought they were the same.

But one is designed to save fuel, and is just a simple panel, and doesn't cost that much. The other will also save fuel, but has lots of structure behind it to stop cars from doing the guillotine thing.

I'm'a gonna guess the one with lots of metal costs enough more that it won't be implemented until required by law.

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Re: Bleh

"All that hi tech hardware and it didn't work,yet if trailer had had $50 of bars welded to it,everybody would have been fine."

Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

And going from 74mph to 0mph can't be described as "would have been fine". Airbags would have deployed, but there are going to be broken bones at minimum. It would destroy the trailer, and possibly the truck too.

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Re: Bleh

Think your looking at this wrong Tim.

I'm guessing here but suspect the $50 of metal bars would have been lower than the trailer body and thus picked up as an object by the cars sensors and some sort of braking/avoidance/user warning would have been made.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

"It would destroy the trailer, and possibly the truck too."

I'd take that over decaptiation any day.

That underride guards save lives of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians is beyond dispute. The evidence from the UK is unequivocal, and more recent studies of real US underride guards shows that they would in the majority of cases stop a car doing 35mph.

Now of course this fella was doing over seventy, but he was also as-good-as asleep at the wheel, and there's no accounting for idiocy.

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Boffin

Re: Bleh

Actually a coat of paint to create a pattern so that the white truck didn't blend in to the sky.

Or use LIDAR sensors that would have reflected off the Truck's trailer.

Of course some have said that the camera wasn't properly aligned so there could be truth in that.

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Boffin

Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

Not quite, the estimated cost seems to be closer to $400 when installed during production and $1000 when retrofitted. And yes, those bars would stop a car. Those things are standard in other countries, e.g., Germany, and are proven to reduce deadly traffic accidents.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

What about ride height issues, especially in places like the US where trailers have to roll over railroad track bumps where they can get caught?

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Re: Bleh

And going from 74mph to 0mph can't be described as "would have been fine".

Deceleration from 74 to 0 mph over that short a distance is also in the "quite possibly dead" category.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

What about ride height issues, especially in places like the US where trailers have to roll over railroad track bumps where they can get caught?

In the USA they have engineers that have developed vehicles to lift over 100 tons into earth orbit so I would imagine that solving that one is within their grasp.

Not for $50 though.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

What about ride height issues, especially in places like the US where trailers have to roll over railroad track bumps where they can get caught?

I'm quite sure that any bumps in US roads are Yuge, compared to in all the European countries where side impact bars are mandatory.

It doesn't seem to be a problem anywhere else.

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WTF?

Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

"What about ride height issues, especially in places like the US where trailers have to roll over railroad track bumps where they can get caught?"

Yes, because we don't have things like level crossings and bridges in Europe.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

@Schultz,

The wiki article you link to is for REAR impact guards (Sometimes called Mansfield bars in the US, after an actress and her family got killed by impacting under a trailer and getting decapitated). Already mandatory in (most of) the USA. (For instance)

Side Underrun protection isn't mandatory everywhere. It is in the UK for instance but I know of no such regulations in the USA. But then again I don't live there and I don't work in the transportation sector.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

It doesn't seem to be a problem anywhere else.

As for railroad crossings, in the Netherlands (and AFAIK most of NW Europe) those that are insufficiently flat are marked and numbered, and a truck driver can look up their height profile which would show whether he can cross without getting stuck

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

When I was in Florida last Christmas, I was absolutely horrified that lorries didn't have the metalwork to stop cars from going underneath in the event of a crash. Come on guys, keep up, this is the 21st century, and you're not some tin pot third world country.

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Pint

Re: Bleh

Tam1 offered,

"Think your looking at this wrong Tim."

Think you're spelling "you're" wrong Tam.

(Trivial point, but too funny to pass up.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

Come on guys, keep up, this is the 21st century, and you're not some tin pot third world country.

No, definitely not a third world country. Those third worlders, they do things like appoint their family to government posts, dismiss investigators who might embarrass them, and make outlandish outbursts with no factual basis.

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Re: Bleh

Come on guys, keep up, this is the 21st century, and you're not some tin pot third world country.

Oh?

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Holmes

Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

Yes, because we don't have things like level crossings and bridges in Europe.

The problem is rather with unlevel crossings.

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Boffin

Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

In the USA they have engineers that have developed vehicles to lift over 100 tons into earth orbit so I would imagine that solving that one is within their grasp.

Keeping trucks from getting stuck on railroad crossings isn't rocket science.

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Big Brother

Re: Bleh

"Come on guys, keep up, this is the 21st century, and you're not some tin pot third world country."

Don't tin pot third world countries usually have self promoting dictators? You know, the kind of leader who disappears anyone that disagrees?

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Re: Bleh

But Free markets hate "red tape" .. even though lots of "red tape" is actually safety regs.

So if tehre is an economic cost, without it being mandatory, lots of companies will not add useful safety features unless they have to

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Thumb Up

Re: Bleh

Deceleration from 74 to 0 mph over that short a distance is also in the "quite possibly dead" category.

Particularly as kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed - 1/2 mv2 - i.e. about 13 times more energy is involved at 74 mph compared to 20 mph, and about 1.8 times as much as at 55 mph.

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Re: Bleh

Even more amusing was the fact his name was Tom.

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$50

"yet if trailer had had $50 of bars welded to it,everybody would have been fine."

nope... far more expensive than $50

https://www.nationwide-trailer-parts.co.uk/collections/side-guard-systems-hgv-trailer

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Re: Bleh

Some quick back of the envelope calculations show that had such bars been present and the car collided at the same speed then this would be circa 25G of deceleration.

Airbags are a great safety feature of modern cars, but you ain't surviving 25G. Your soft brain will collide with your not soft skull that'll see to that. The only help such bars may have been in this accident is that it might have showed up on the radar/camera/lidar/whatever and the autopilot may have stopped. (The bars would improve survivability of much slower speed collisions though.

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Pint

Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

LAF offered, "...we don't have things like level crossings and bridges in Europe."

The USA is infested with badly designed Secondary Roads where trucks can and do get caught up.

Just as an example of the sort of thing we're talking about, look up the '11foot8 Bridge' YouTube channel. I know this video channel is related to the top, not the bottom, of the affected trucks, but it's an example of the badly designed infrastructure being referred to in the point above. For bottom-based hang-ups, look for train hits stuck truck videos.

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Pint

Re: Bleh

Adam 1 incorrectly asserted that, "...you ain't surviving 25G."

Note: 'g' is lowercase, unless you're referring to the universal gravitational constant 'G', which you aren't.

Wiki disagrees with your assertion: "[Colonel John Paul] Stapp demonstrated that a human can withstand at least 46.2 g (in the forward position, with adequate harnessing). This is the highest known acceleration voluntarily encountered by a human, set on December 10, 1954." Wiki provides links to more authoritative references to pre-empt the inevitable Wiki complaint.

It's actually more complicated than that. There are higher order derivatives, such as 'Jerk', 'Jounce' and others. These can have a direct impact (pun intended) when dealing with the mass of the brain in its skull.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

Yep, with the emphasis in the word LEVEL, in the US they are called GRADE crossings, and some really are steep. Mind you in Europe we have signs warning Artic (Semi) drivers of the risk of grounding, in fact there are quite a lot near me for canal bridges or hump back bridges, the clue being in the name. Doesn't seem to stop the determined truck driver though judging by the scoring on the roads.

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Re: Bleh

And that is exactly the reason it should be mandatory.

With or without autodriving, semis are too dangerous without proper safety devices like these.

Also, the guard rails are just stupid!! PLenty of better designs from the usual ones have been done, yet states and countries continue to put the unsafe ones, even if they are not always cheaper.

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Re: Bleh

The thing is.... the truck was moving as well rather than stationary so the relative speed would have been lower (which is why motorways at least in the UK have the lowest accident and fatality rate. Seriously shocking to most but makes sense in that the stats for motorway accidents has an average relative impact speed of 15 mph or less if memory serves. All because everyone's traveling the same direction.) So the impact probably was closer to 20 mph than 74 mph.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

It is mandatory in Europe. And has saved many lives.

It is not in the US, I guess it will if someone who is really loaded dies or has a loved one die and sues both the owner of the semi and the manufacturer, or a class action is started.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

I have always said that the US is a thirld worl country with money.

Look at it: almost no electrification in rail, very expensive infrastructures crumbling for lack of maintenance, very expensive yet overall innefective health system, and very little done to prevent serious injury or death in many aspects: badly designed electric plugs, no decent protections in trucks, no serious safety building standards, almost no checking of drinking water quality, etc etc etc.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

"It doesn't seem to be a problem anywhere else."

Hump back bridges in the UK are clearly signposted, as well as additional "risk of grounding" signs when needed. Just like there are bridges that are too low for some lorries.

Having a car / lorry / motorbike does not give an automatic right to use EVERY road.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

Keeping trucks from getting stuck on railroad crossings isn't rocket science.

No - but it COULD be. Hammers, nails, etc; give a bunch of rocket engineers the job and stand back.

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Meh

Re: Bleh

The explanation of anti-submarining bars (on the rear of trucks) that I remember from when they were relatively new was that they wouldn't stop the accidents from being fatal, but at least the car occupants wouldn't be decapitated, thus improving the reputation of the road transport industry.

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FAIL

Re: Bleh

So the impact probably was closer to 20 mph than 74 mph.

The car hit the truck trailer squarely from the side, as can be clearly seen from the picture in the article. There are also several passages in the article and the accident report that state the same.

I somehow doubt that at the moment the collision occurred the truck was moving sideways at 55mph.

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Re: Bleh

The truck was turning across the road - the Tesla impacted the side, not the back.

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Windows

Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

rather like a mess of bridges we have here in southern ontario that were built quite some time ago, and where road resurfacing under them has cut the clearance down to 13' 6".

(And let me tell you, there are some "level crossings" in my neck of the woods that are better phrased as idiot launch runs)

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Headmaster

Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

"The wiki article you link to is for REAR impact guards"

It's actually about all types of impact guards and mentions that while rear guards are mandatory through a EU directive, side and front guards are regulated by UN/ECE R73 and R93.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

@Schultz

Downvoted because link is to article regarding removal of Mansfield bars for agricultural trucks. Has no applicability to side-impact collisions.

http://www.ugpti.org/pubs/pdf/DP196.pdf

IIHS has tested aero panels as under-ride protection, they are worthless:

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/iihs-tests-show-benefits-of-side-underride-guards-for-semitrailers

Enhanced panel (more expensive) can prevent side impact underride, but may complicate ground clearance, access and other actual trucking related issues.

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Getting stuck at rail crossings

There are plenty of lowboy, possum belly, and car carrier trailers in the US which navigate over or around rail crossings largely without much difficulty. Those are typically quite a bit lower than the 550 mm (~21.5") side bar height required by the UK and landing gear travel is often only about 400 mm (~16") as well.

I don't see the hardware cost as much of an issue since it's mainly a one time expense and largely falls into the noise when you consider new tires run about $1,000 a set and the other costs like grease, brakes, hoses, lights, etc. The real cost is going to be rerouting which will add both time and distance to the delivery route. That said the side bars may save some fuel on longer runs if they can bring aerodynamic improvements as well.

Of course additional signage would also help to indicate locations where hang-ups are likely including advanced notice and not just 20 feet ahead of the obstacle but that's an infrastructure cost and isn't on the truck companies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

"Adam 1 incorrectly asserted that, "...you ain't surviving 25G."

Note: 'g' is lowercase, unless you're referring to the universal gravitational constant 'G', which you aren't."

Except now you're saying you can't survive 25 GRAMS (g is already taken). So the capital G is acceptable when referring to multiples of the terran acceleration constant due to gravity (9.8 m/ss).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Getting stuck at rail crossings

"The real cost is going to be rerouting which will add both time and distance to the delivery route."

Which may rise to infinite if the ONLY ways in or out involve crossing those VERY high grade crossings. There's a reason "train hits stuck truck" turns out plenty of hits on YouTube and has been featured in shows like Most Shocking. And note, some of the hits can have FATAL consequences (a couple that I've read about were propane trucks--the collisions were LITERALLY explosive).

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Pint

Re: Bleh

AC tried "...25 GRAMS (g is already taken). So the capital G is acceptable..."

It's all explained here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-force#Unit_and_measurement

Uppercase 'G' is in less-common use, but is still not as correct as 'g'.

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Boffin

Re: Bleh

Adam 1 incorrectly asserted that, "...you ain't surviving 25G."

John Stapp survived 48 g deceleration with adequate harnessing, i.e. a jet pilot's seat harness. Your car's seatbelt and airbag wiil be found somewhat lacking when trying to cope with those forces.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

"Hump back bridges in the UK are clearly signposted, as well as additional "risk of grounding" signs when needed."

Also almost all artics these days are fully tooled up with telematics and specialist freight GPS systems that allow the truck to be programmed with its height, weight and clearance in order to determine a clear route and resulting "safe" driving profile and fuel load.

Modern trucking is underpinned by some actually quite serious technology. Frankly these days the driver is only there to change gears and steer.

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Re: Right, $50 of bars will stop a 4000lb car going 74mph.

"The problem is rather with unlevel crossings."

So you deliberately create a slightly larger hazard in the road on either side leading up to the crossing. That way, no-one can actually reach the crossing unless they are also able to cross it.

(Or has some sociopath got a patent on that idea...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bleh

But Free markets hate "red tape" .. even though lots of "red tape" is actually safety regs.

So if tehre[sic] is an economic cost, without it being mandatory, lots of companies will not add useful safety features unless they have to

You'd think then that all vehicles would be sold without seatbelts & airbags - apart from "Luxury" brands of course. However, including non-mandatory safety features is something manufactures do in the consumer market to differentiate their products.

If you're selling sports cars, you talk about the top speed and acceleration.

If you're selling family cars you talk about safety features.

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