back to article Oi, Elon: You Musk sort out your Autopilot! Tesla loyalists tell of code crashes, near-misses

Tesla CEO Elon Musk asked the Tesla owners among his millions of Twitter followers last week what aspect of their electric cars they'd most like to see improved or fixed. Among the 24,000 or so replied, there's a fair amount of concern about Autopilot, the assistive driving software in Tesla Model S cars. The first reply came …

Silver badge

Re: Marketurds vs Reality

"there is nothing stopping good, safety critical code being developed in an agile manner, as long as the constraints are known up front."

I thought the whole point of Agile was that you didn't need to know about such things up front, you just dealt with them as you discovered them.

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Re: Marketurds vs Reality

"* I am horrified that anyone thinks Agile is acceptable for safety-critical systems."

I met a guy at a clients site a while ago who said they were going "agile". I asked what he meant. He said they were all getting laptops instead of desktops. He seemed proud of that so I didn't try to disabuse him of the notion. After all, we were selling him the laptops :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Marketurds vs Reality

Have an upvote for talking a lot of sense especially about (fr)agile and safety critical systems. Whn you add 'scrum' into the mix, you are asking for trouble when it comes to the end of a sprint and something really, really important (that is also really hard to do) is not done and is parked on the 'Technical Debt' list never to be seen or heard of again.

Until... bang. Opps too late to say we forgot to impliement that or writing an automated test case was too hard without actually destroying something etc etc etc

In these cases, IMHO, 'steady as she goes' is really the best way forward.

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Gold badge
WTF?

"as long as the constraints are known up front."

Well, let's see.

"Drive on a road, any road, without killing other road users or the people in the car"?

That sounds pretty simple, does it not?

Now try and implement it.

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Re: Marketurds vs Reality

I thought the whole point of Agile was that you didn't need to know about such things up front, you just dealt with them as you discovered them.

You're going to want key safety issues identified in advance - things like which certification levels are you going for, what technologies you are going to be using/restricting.

Contrary to popular belief, agile doesn't mean you don't do any planning in advance, you just don't plan everything to the nth degree before you begin.

If there are things that are fundamental requirements of your product, then you plan those in advance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Marketurds vs Reality

I thought the whole point of Agile was that you didn't need to know about such things up front, you just dealt with them as you discovered them.

Wait... So I've been an agile programmer all my life?

(No clue what I'm doing when I start, no real clue about what the final product will be, just start writing and see what Mr Google tells you when you get stuck... :) )

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Re: Marketurds vs Reality

In my experience, most modern software seems to fail miserably when it invariably does due to having been written to implement more or less only the shortest and most complication-free path between A and B, invariably keeling over as soon as (more than) one unforeseen factor takes it out of whack. And that is exactly why agile is unfit for purpose with anything that must work reliably: because the whole idea of fully specified requirements is that they're the only way to consider the implications on everything on everything.

Now, this is not to say that non-agile guarantees that those implications are fully and correctly considered; it's not even to say that agile couldn't, in theory, re-consider every single relevant interaction on-th-fly. Rather it is to say that it is not possible for humans using agile to do that in practice, ever, full stop.

It's hard enough even for excellent programmers to hold the entirety of the context of a problem in their mind all at once even when they go brick by brick starting from foundations - sometimes completely impossible already with large enough systems. But trying to do the same thing based just on diffs makes it flat out impossible for anyone, all of the time.

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Silver badge

We mght be able to have fairly safe autonomous cars now

Unfortunately the rest of us would have to be banned from the roads and pavements...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We mght be able to have fairly safe autonomous cars now

Yep. When all of you stop driving, the roads will be safe for me!

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Silver badge

Hardly surprising

Any software engineer worth their salt could tell you the immense difficulty of capturing analogue data, modelling it, and translating that model via a set of rules into an action. And repeating that continuously in real time. The more variables and ambiguity that are present in the input, the more likely it is to screw up in the output. In a 2 ton vehicle going at 70mph along a road with other traffic, that could be positively fatal.

I wouldn't trust any autonomous mode unless it requires an alert and attentive human being at the wheel and forces their attention. At least that way the human can veto or correct the car's actions.

This isn't exclusive to Tesla. Any autonomous vehicle that claims it can drive itself in limited, or unlimited circumstances still requires oversight. Otherwise it will do something dumb and/or dangerous and there will be no human paying attention to stop it.

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Devil

Re: Hardly surprising

The proposal (not very serious) that a large spike in front of the drivers steering wheel would improve general road safety is unfortunately quite likely. Adams (a statistician) in his book "Risk" (http://www.john-adams.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/RISK-BOOK.pdf) a good read , has a fascinating section on the accident rates for police cars when active breaks were introduced, not to mention the increase in deaths amongst pedestrians and cyclist with the introduction of mandatory seatbelts is fascinating.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hardly surprising

The proposal (not very serious) that a large spike in front of the drivers steering wheel would improve general road safety is unfortunately quite likely.

Years back a study was done in the US that found that people who start out as kids riding dirt bikes end up being much safer drivers when they get into cars. They learn early that 'crashing hurts' and learn to act to avoid it.

Those who start out driving in SUVs and the like with all the air bags and other stuff, however, tend to be worse drivers because they start out learning to trust the car to protect them and don't expect to be hurt in a crash.

It's one reason why motorcyclists tend to be far safer drivers than those who don't ride. We're much more aware of the frailty of the human body, and much better at seeing ahead and taking necessary action to protect ourselves. (Also see the instant change in boy racers who become caring fathers the moment they get their newborn near the car...)

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Silver badge

Re: Hardly surprising

The interesting thing about autonomous vehicles is that the risk of inattention was identified years ago. Studies have shown that the less you give the driver to do, the more likely it is that they're not paying attention in the split second they REALLY need to be.

Unless the car is completely and totally autonomous in all circumstances, it has to force driver attention. Either by requiring the driver to do things that signal attentiveness, or by monitoring their behaviour, or both.

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Tesla needs to pair up with Captcha and stream the camera view in real time, then website users can identify traffic lights, cross walks, bicycles etc.. to show that they are not a robot and to supplement the AI. What a world!

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Silver badge

Basically, driving via Twitch,,

"Left! No right! Run him over! No don't! Mount the pavement! Spin the car in the middle of the highway! BRAKE! Burn the tyres off!"

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Childcatcher

Relive History

...imagine the Tesla dash cams are the cockpit of a Japanese Kamikaze and relive one of their 'successful' missions.

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Bronze badge

Adds a new dimension to "my software just crashed".

Efficiently and stylishly leading you to one of life's off-ramps.

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Unhappy

Where's the trust?

"Autopilot system should only be used when the driver is driving with hands on the wheel. "

Autopilot, as we came to know it originally, implies "hands-off" assistance. Now in Tesla speak it comes to mean automated with hands on participation. A student driver doesn't drive with their instructor's hands on the wheel, yet the Tesla Autopilot can't be trusted for even a moment.

Maybe this "feature" is just introducing a new way to fail horrendously.

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Silver badge

One thing AI might be better at: believing Road Closed signs. We have a road closure on the corner next to us. Before they get there drivers have to pass two Road Closed Ahead signs. Just now the latest bright spark - Land Rover pulling a trailer loaded with one of those big round hay bales - stopped just outside the hose when the actual closure came into view. Then pulled ahead until he could see round the corner that it really was closed. Then started snaking back until he managed to turn in my drive like all the other bastards who don't believe it's closed.

I want them to channel Spike Milligan and change the sign to read "We told you it was closed".

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Silver badge

"One thing AI might be better at: believing Road Closed signs. We have a road closure on the corner next to us. Before they get there drivers have to pass two Road Closed Ahead signs."

I had one of those the other day, in an unfamiliar area. I diligently followed the diversion only to find the road was also closed at the other end. So I ignored the road closed signs and drove up to the road closure to see if I could get to my destination. No dice, so turned around, followed the diversion back the other, passed by the road closed signs at that end and got to my destination about 20 minutes later than if I'd ignored the first set of road closed signs. No, there were no signs saying exactly *where* the road was closed. Very unhelpful.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmm....

2018-05-31: Thorfinnsson's Take on Tesla: The Stock Is Going To Zero

Don't know what happened but in May Tesla looked like a company not unready to implode. Did anything change?

• Tesla is burning through one billion per quarter and is likely to run out of cash this year

• It is the only company of its size (in the market) offering high yield debt and stock offerings to accredited investors (which do not require SEC disclosure)

• Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly refused to meet with Elon Musk when he was in Saudi Arabia

• Elon Musk has violated federal securities, labor, and OSHA laws

• Musk and many other current and former executives have signed false documents and thus committed perjury

• The Model 3 is a disaster and was panned by Consumer Reports, Car and Driver, and Edmund’s

• The self-dealing merger with Solar City would likely not have been approved by shareholders without Musk’s vaporware demonstration of solar roof tiles that do not exist (securities fraud)

• Half of Tesla’s output is exported, leaving it very vulnerable to trade retaliation

• Quality problems continue to be severe, and Tesla has now resorted to partnering with local body shops for post-production fixes

• Extreme shortage of spare parts means Teslas can be out of service for months

• Tesla takes months to refund customer deposits

• Numerous accounting problems, leading to 86 questions from the SEC for the last fiscal year, compared to zero for Ford Motor

• Tesla “autopilot” units keep crashing

• Highest accident and fatality statistics in its vehicle class (new luxury vehicles)

• Model S wheels and suspensions keep cracking

• Difficulty of exiting vehicle in the absence of electrical power (no mechanical door handles) led to children literally being burned alive

• A flood of competition is inbound, including the 600 horsepower Porsche Misson-E going into production at Zuffenhausen next year

• Tesla’s zero emission credits are set to expire, just as other automakers start harvesting them

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmmmm....

I take it that you are either

1) a Tesla short (as in stocks)

or

2) a petrolhead

Or both?

I'm not anti EV. Far from it. I drive a (made in Sunderland) Nissan Leaf 2018 model.

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Re: Hmmmm....

Electric cars are not 'zero emission' as I guess you actually know. They just cause their substantial emissions and pollution away from the street upon which they are being driven.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmmmm....

Difficulty of exiting vehicle in the absence of electrical power (no mechanical door handles)

Wait.. I knew Tesla have had some utterly stupid ideas but this?

When are you most likely to need to get out of the car? = When are you more likely to lose electrical power in a car = 'In an accident'. How dumb can these people be?!?

If that's true, there seriously needs to be some arrests made among the people responsible. Might look great from a marketing perspective, but should be at the very least 'negligent manslaughter' types of charges among those responsible. A way to quickly exit the car when it has an electrical failure is an absolute must.

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Silver badge

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Odd, considering the story is all about a request for comment :-)

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Anonymous Coward

I used to say: "Eat the rich"

Seems, we won't need to bother.

They seem to have self-selected themselves for extinction.

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Anonymous Coward

Electric NASCAR racing

Engine start

Full throttle

Left

Left

Left

Left

.......

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Gold badge
Joke

The preferred option for playing "Kamikaze Death Race 2" ?

I'm trying to think of some sensible, meditative comment on Teslas development of "intelligent" driver aids.

But I can't.

Although "Software shuts down while car is in motion" sounds pretty worrying given how deeply embedded software is to the cars function.

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I solved it..

Got an e-bike.

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Silver badge

Re: I solved it..

eBikes are great, but if you need to bring a set of tools and spares inventory to job sites, not so great.

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Anonymous Coward

Not just paranoia

"The car biz has plenty of ardent fans who love the idea of beta testing buggy code at high speeds and reflexively characterize critics as trolls or short sellers of Tesla stock. There are of course people who highlight Autopilot problems with an eye toward investment, as can be seen from this tweet."

Whilst there is plenty of fanboi seen in Tesla owners, it should be noted that there are a number of forums and even websites, setup for the sole purpose of shorting Tesla. They aim to find stories or news items involving Tesla and attempt to find and publicise any negative aspects that can be used to pull down Tesla's share price. It is bizarre that some people seem to be spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort into shorting this one company Whilst Musk and his fanbois may seem paranoid, there is some validity to their claims.

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Silver badge
Flame

Autopilot - not

One thing that Tesla's control software is not is an autopilot. No autopilot vendor recommends that the pilot keep their hands on the controls at all times, that is the whole point of the damn thing. Nor do autopilots cut out automatically and leave the plane potentially out of control.

Tesla need to be sued for misleading users and to be forced to change the product name.

If it was just called "supercruise" or similar, we might be less inclined to hand over responsibility to it.

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Silver badge

Re: Autopilot - not

"Nor do autopilots cut out automatically and leave the plane potentially out of control."

Actually, the autopilot on an aircraft can cut out in certain circumstances. It will make a big noise, flash lights and pilots have to re-take control. It can happen if the instruments it uses to sense what the plane is doing fail or are giving data it doesn't like. It's then up to the pilot to use their sensing gear to determine what the plane is doing while trying to get those instruments that the autopilot uses to start working again. The difference on a plane is they often have some time to work with before the ground becomes a problem. With a car autopilot walking off the job, there may only be a single second or two before bad things happen very suddenly.

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Windows on Warships

Reminds me of El Reg comments on "Windows for Warships" regarding inopportune BSODs and reboots for updates.

Which reminds me of "The Heart of Gold" and in the middle of an attack, the ship's defensive systems shut down to make Dent Arthur Dent a cup of tea.

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A few months ago someone shared with me a thread on Twitter containing anecdotes from someone claiming to be a Tesla engineer. If the contents of it are true then I am not in the least bit surprised that the Autopilot software is a bit pants.

https://mobile.twitter.com/atomicthumbs/status/1032939617404645376

All hearsay, mind you.

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Silver badge

We don’t like hearing about any accidents in our cars

You know that was a threat, right?

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Anonymous Coward

Used to have an exercycle

I used to have an exercycle that had small metalic panels on the grips. Through these it could sense my heart rate and other data.

Last month I was at the quacks and they had a 1/2"x1/2"x2" block that she put on my finger during the consult. It measured heart rate, blood oxygen and one or two other things, displayed on a small screen on the device itself.

Tesla could fit some of these types of sensors to the wheel. And they could easily make it look nice and make the visual design a 'feature' of the steering wheel.

There's also tech that tracks a person's eye movements, which may also be fitted (I assume those who wish to buy Tesla cars don't have any qualms about intrusions into their personal space).

Of course, since the general public believe (after decades of movies and TV watching) that "auto pilot" means "fully automatic pilot", perhaps the quickest and easiest thing Tesla could do is stop using that term.

Hopefully sometime real soon a government will man up and start issuing very hefty fines, especially if the person in the driver's seat of the car could be seen to NOT be reasonably attentive for long periods of time. A second here and there is usually OK. 20% of your brain going to a conversation with a reasonably attentive passenger is fine (they'll hopefully spot things you miss), but taking your eyes off the road for more than 2 seconds is bad.

Companies who provide touch screens to replace the physical controls on climate/stereo systems should also be fined automatically when one of their cars is 'at fault' in an accident. I can adjust all of these things by reaching in the general area till I contact part of the system, then moving my hand left/right/up/etc depending on what I first hit to get the control I want.

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Silver badge

Too much tech!(?)

Tesla's are just loaded down with gizmos. I look at anything past the basics of a being a manual motor car as one more thing that can break and will be expensive/impossible to repair. Elon had said after finally getting the X to market that putting too many widgets on a car was a bad thing and really slowed them down. He then had that part of his brain chemically removed and built the 3. Sandy Munro praised the tech on the 3 as world class, but I think he may have missed the downside that all of that tech wasn't required to make a car that can get from point A to point B, the parts of the car that he took Tesla to task for being sub standard and heavy.

If you can't change lanes on the motorway, you shouldn't be driving the car. If you can't make decisions on what lane you should be in, you shouldn't be driving the car. If you don't have time to drive to your destination, you should take a taxi or train not rely on an "autopilot" to drive your car while you bang away on your laptop or mobile. It's still a long way out before automating cars is going to be viable. Because the roads are rather free-form in comparison to trains, trams and trollies, there are more variable's to contend with. Even commercial aircraft travel in "lanes" and are kept spaced out by controllers. It's not like one going the other way is going to have a puncture and jump the center divider into oncoming traffic. Check out the Russian dash cam videos on YouTube for all of the things that will make you want to be paying constant attention to the road and not nodding off while the car is doing a bunch of it for you.

In the first world, we are getting to a point like NAS (Nerve Attenuation Syndrome) as depicted in the movie "Johnny Nemonic". We train ourselves to be bored when all of our attention isn't being occupied by something tickling every sense we have. If an automatic car is only doing "some" of the driving, we may be worse off than when we are fully engaged and doing everything. It could be an all or nothing argument in the end. That doesn't say that blind spot detectors, backup cameras, closing rate meters and other sorts of assistance gear isn't useful. I too hate it when some shmuck pulls into my blind spot and just paces me on the motorway and if I could see better and have some alarms when I'm reversing, that would be great. I just don't want the car taking the driving decisions away from me until it can do it better than I can all of the time in every probable scenario and reasonably well in many edge cases. I also want the option of not installing updates automatically and being able to skip the odd "feature upgrade" update or portion of update. I'd rather wait a few days and read the boards to see if anybody has been bricked in some fashion.

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Anonymous Coward

Navigation is hard. Damned hard.

I am just going to put this out there. 5 years ago, I though that they would have mastered self driving and navigation by now. But trying to get a car to stay in a lane at 100km/hr without intervention from the driver in a world that was NEVER meant or designed for it to happen turns out the be hard. Very hard. Now I am thinking that it will truly be another 10 years or longer before they have truly mastered it. So while you can slam them because your expectation (and EM's ego) kind of ginned up the idea that it should be better than it is, Self driving and navigation are damned good compared to 5 years ago. Yes, I wanted flying cars by 2020, too, but I am not slamming the auto industry for not getting us there (yet).

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