back to article AUTOPILOT: Musk promises Tesla owners a HANDS-OFF hands-on

Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk has claimed that an update to the software in his all-electric cars will seemingly magically turn them into self-driving autonomous vehicles. In a conference call with journalists on Thursday, Musk said that in about three months, Tesla will push out version 7.0 of the cars' operating system, and …

  1. David Kelly 2

    Navigation Needs Update

    My Model S was built December 2013 and as with every factory navigation system it is lacking. While it has live Google Traffic, it lacks a means of recording a waypoint. Can not "remember where I am" unless you can spell it out for search. Can't record a track log of where you have been, which even a 2007 Prius could do. Can not handle multi-waypoint routes. Can not compose a route on computer and upload to car. For important navigation tasks I carry an old Garmin Nuvi 1490 for which I paid about $130 (including rudimentary traffic and lifetime map updates) years ago.

    My car is about a year too old to have the cameras and hardware for active cruise control or lane guidance the media is fixated upon.

    The nearest Supercharger is 130 miles away. Routing advice as to whether I need to "pop in for a charge" isn't going to be very useful.

    1. Def Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Navigation Needs Update

      The nearest Supercharger is 130 miles away. Routing advice as to whether I need to "pop in for a charge" isn't going to be very useful.

      You should have said. Just think how much money Tesla could have saved if they'd just asked you first.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Navigation Needs Update

      It's Musk so if older cars need a camera/hardware upgrade don't be too surprised if he offers one to thank his early adopters.

      1. Ian Johnston

        Re: Navigation Needs Update

        Or when he goes of on a screaming rant about "big oil shills" at the slightest criticism.

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      A VERY VERY bad idea

      A correct approach is to slowly build hardware (e.g. Google Cars) and they slowly emerge into the wild. Then, when things go badly wrong, there's only a few.

      Pushing a software update out to hundreds or thousands of cars all at once is completely bonkers.

      Stay off the road that week.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

    Given the nature of I-5 from say Reading, California to Eugene, Oregon I have serious doubts.

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

      And yet the Google maps show an average speed of 65 mph. 12½ hours of driving exactly at the speed limit without stopping?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

        Google maps calculates actual times based on current traffic. Not all of the i5 is 65mph.

        For instance that route right now is showing it would take 11h53m without traffic but currently it would take 12h40m.

        You can change the starting time and day to get an idea how long it will take based on average traffic on those times/days.

        1. Chris Miller

          Re: San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

          But Google maps (as per the image in the article) also shows the distance as 807 miles. To do that in under 12 hours, you must average over 67 mph. How does that work?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

            Is there any chance that the average speed of cars on that Highway where there is no traffic congestion is 67+ mph? Is the speed limit routinely ignored?

            1. Boothy

              Re: San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

              67 is still under the speed limit.

              If you're thinking of the 55 limts you see in the movies, you typically only get those in urban (i.e. busy) areas, once you're out of town, it typically goes up to 65 or 70, (dependant on state). or even faster in some states. (Texas has an upper limit of 85mph in some rural areas, I10 is 80mph for example).

              1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                Re: San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

                Only on the California side. In Oregon, it drops to 65. Then there's advisories north of the California boarder (and one particular town with a nasty hairpin turn) where the recommended speed is 50.

        2. Rick Brasche

          Re: San Francisco to Seattle, eh????

          having done the San Jose to Olympia WA (closer than Seattle) run quite a few times, 14 hours is average.

          Unless one is peeing in a water bottle and never stopping for charge, and going up the pass, and not encountering any traffic at all around Portland, this cannot be done at legal speeds to get the "average".

          I might know individuals who might have done this run in under 12 hours and they might have been on motorcycles and quite possibly have exceeded 130mph in order to get that time. But I could be totally mistaken and not actually have been involved in such a thing. Maybe it was Brian Williams who did it.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    They'll get burned by these updates eventually

    Look at Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung updating phones. They've all had experiences where an update that tested OK caused major problems or even bricked some phones when upon release.

    If you ever wake up one morning and the car refuses to turn left across a double yellow line because it is stuck in lanekeeping mode, we'll be able to add Tesla to the club :)

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

      Quite right. Tesla and the entire auto industry is seemingly sleep walking into a situation that is very dangerous for their future profitability.

      As soon as a car becomes the end point of a network then there is a risk that someone somewhere will get inside that network and hold you to ransome. Something like pay us $10,000,000 or every Tesla will fail to boot in the morning.

      All these companies are the same, BMW, Audi, etc. They're going for the blingy connected car thing because they think it will sell. Meantime they're blindly taking on a huge corporate risk. In fact calling it a risk is stupid. If the history of IT security is anything to go by someone somewhere will one day succeed in doing something like that. After all, no matter how good your technology is, there is no defence against a disloyal or blackmailed sysadmin. Far from being a risk it is practically guaranteed; it's simply a matter of when.

      Even if the car companies have private networks they are at risk. One defence is to simply shut down the network in response to a threat. However that doesn't account for the possibility of a malware payload already being in place. Shut down the network and the malware payload goes active at a given time; attack not thwarted. All a blackmailer needs to do is make a phone call and say that that is what they've done. How are the company going to prove that they're lying before sunrise? Not easily.

      I'm surprised that governments aren't more worried about this. If everyone had a connected car then the entire nation is vulnerable. If an entire population wakes up in the morning and cannot get to work because their cars have been hacked, that's pretty much an entire day's GDP lost. That's a huge sum of money, and knocks 0.3% of the economy straight away (which is why keeping the roads clear in winter is so important).

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

        Actually I would expect Tesla to get this right more often than the other Auto manufacturers simply because they designed and built their cars with these kinds of applications in mind, unlike say BMW who just see it as another Option to rake in the $$$. (haven't BMW already been in the news for some remote exploit?)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

          The point is no one can afford to NOT get the software right 100% of the time. Autonomous vehicles are mission critical devices where there is zero room for defective code, aka "Bugs". You're betting your life on whatever is programmed into the vehicle's computers. One simple coding error could kill many people.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

            Obviously they're going to have to adopt a different standard for programming the autonomous part of the code than they do for mundane stuff like handling the charging, climate control, audio, etc. That's why I'm none too optimistic for Google's efforts in that area, as their whole corporate mentality is the "release early, release often" philosophy which is not compatible with life critical systems. I'd much rather have a car running autonomous driving code written by Boeing or General Dynamics, they have decades of experience writing life critical code.

            FWIW, I wasn't even talking about ransomware or whatever in my post that started this thread. The problems I alluded to in cellphones had nothing to do with such malware, just that somehow you get situations where Microsoft releases an update on known hardware and bricks some phones, Apple releases an update on known hardware and causes the cellular radio to stop working, Google bricked some Nexus phones also with known hardware. The known hardware is "identical" but there is (apparently) enough variation in hardware states (device registers, etc.) that internal testing did not catch these serious issues until after public release.

            Why should we assume Tesla is immune? If you brick your Tesla in a state where it won't run and won't accept further updates, it'll have to be towed to the nearest service center. That might be quite a ways depending where you live! I'm actually less worried about Audi and BMW, as while they are into the whole "connected car" thing the updates being delivered to them only affect the entertainment/climate cluster. The ECU programming is only updated when the car is in at the service center, so if it is bricked at least it is already where it needs to be to get unbricked :) Tesla's updates affect all the systems in the car, yikes!

      2. Andy 73

        Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

        And yet Microsoft, Apple, Google, and the Linux community all survive with automatic patching and no-one has managed to hold the entire world to ransom.

        That's not to say it can't happen, and of course updates have caused problems in the past. However, I think most companies understand their exposure.

        When it comes to terrorist plots, stopping middle class managers from getting to their meetings on time is hardly going to have the impact they'd want.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

        "Even if the car companies have private networks they are at risk"

        Just install Norton Internet Security for Cars.

        The downside is that the luggage and seating areas will reduce in size and top speed will be reduced to 35mph.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

      However with cars become more software controlled - doesn't apply to just these 'smart cars' - the ability to update to add more features or fix bugs is a great addition. Having to take it back to a main dealer just to get a bug fixed is a pain and not necessarily any more reliable.

      My 2011 car is a well known major manufacturer model and mid/high end in their normal range. However the car stereo/navigation system could not be upgraded, even with just new maps, So the fact that every day the system is becoming more and more useless (aside from the fact that it can't route to a full postcode, can't use the steering mounted voice activation etc) devalues the system and the car itself.

      Luckily(!) the unit has just packed up (wouldn't boot and discharged the battery) so I can pull it out and spend £1000 on a new android auto/car play system to replace it...

  4. frank ly

    Oh no

    "When you wake up, ... you feel like you are driving a new car."

    I hate getting used to driving a new car. I'd hate it even more if it was pretending to be my 'old' car.

  5. big_D Silver badge

    KITT, come quick!

    My 80s dreams might still come true...

    Now all Musk needs to do is put all of that in an 80's Firebird and retro modern cockpit... Sod the touch panels, I want all those funky buttons, Turbo Boost, Ski Mode, Super Pursuit, Laser Braking...

    1. Smallbrainfield
      Thumb Up

      Re: KITT, come quick!

      Came here to post a similar comment, was not disappointed to find yours. Here, have a Knight Rider intro.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhRhH--xOPQ

      Can't promise the mechanic will be as nice looking as the one that worked on KITT, sadly.

  6. Andrew 59

    "...the sensors in the front can identify white lines on the road, and keep the car between them, and also sense other vehicles around."

    That's nothing new. RALPH was doing that twenty years ago.

    1. Vic

      RALPH was doing that twenty years ago.

      The TRRL were playing with this half a century ago. It was somewhat more restrictive - requiring cables in the road - but it was rather impressive for its time...

      Vic.

  7. Kaltern

    We do these things not because they are easy...

    ...but because they are hard.

    Hmm, doesn't really work here does it.

    1. FunkyEric

      Re: We do these things not because they are easy...

      The hard part is getting the government to let you do it!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speculation

    From my side on what is actually meant by the media and PR hyperbole: a slightly more advanced combination of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping, a bit like Volvo road trains but without inter-vehicle cooperation. You can then take your feet and hands off the wheel unless you want to overtake / stop / divert / avoid an unexpected obstacle / etc.

    It doesn't mean you can fire your chaffeur, but it does mean that driving becomes more strategic--you can just sit there and watch out for hazards on the road without being preoccupied with the monotonous routine mechanical driving actions.

    As I said, this is just speculation on my part, but that is something that the current state of technology allows to be done today.

    1. Tim Jenkins

      "...It doesn't mean you can fire your chaffeur..."

      but you should be able to outsource them to a remote chaffeuring facility in India ; )

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Speculation

      "you can just sit there and watch out for hazards on the road without being preoccupied with the monotonous routine mechanical driving actions."

      I suspect that in practice that would cause the driver to be less attentive.

      The "monotonous routine mechanical driving actions" are pretty much automatic for most drivers but do serve to keep you attentive on what you are doing.

      I had a hire car a while ago which had lane assist. A mid range korean brand car. The lane assist just beeped on getting near a lane marker or buzzed if crossed, with a dash display to tell you which lane marker it was (left or right). I'm not sure of the utility of the display since it didn't have any control over the steering so the driver really ought to be looking outside rather than at the dash to see which way they'd just wandered. The drivers manual had a list of about a page and half listing the circumstances where the lane assist might not work fully or at all.

      I'm not sure adapting cruise control to assist in steering is a good idea without going for a full autonomous system. I can easily imagine some drivers treating it as a full AI at the wrong times and causing mayhem. Even if it's something as "simple" as the car suddenly braking while in super cruise control mode due to the driver doing a crossword and not seeing the truck pulling out in front.

      1. Goldmember

        Re: Speculation

        "I suspect that in practice that would cause the driver to be less attentive."

        Indeed. This is just what America needs, a further downgrade in the standard of driving. Why not remove the safeguards on the big ass touchscreen in the centre console and allow video playback whilst driving while they're at it?

        I just hope the UK doesn't catch the Tesla bug if this is the way the cars are going.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Speculation

        > I suspect that in practice that would cause the driver to be less attentive.

        No, it doesn't. I affirm that on the basis of a) having a car equipped with a number of so-called assisted driving technologies, and b) having a background in aviation as a commercial pilot, and having received (fairly basic, but interesting) training in human factors. Very roughly put, our brains have limited capacity and those "pretty much" automatic driving actions still take some of that capacity away while it could be used for what we do best: analyse stuff and recognise patterns.

        > I had a hire car a while ago which had lane assist.

        There are two things there: one is that there are different implementations of the same thing, and not all of them are of the same quality. I don't know about Korean cars, and I do not find lane assist particularly impressive (even though mine does nudge the wheel slightly), but apart from that, these technologies do change one's driving, so it is important to familiarise oneself carefully with the stuff before going out there and relying on it--again, somewhat akin to a type rating on a plane. :-)

        > Even if it's something as "simple" as the car suddenly braking while in super cruise control mode due to the driver doing a crossword and not seeing the truck pulling out in front.

        Believe it or not, drivers do do crosswords, read books, and watch telly while (supposedly) driving. Keep a close eye on long distance lorry drivers (they're easier to spot but not the only ones, and we're not even getting into texting/fiddling with the phone territory) and you'll see of all the above. That constitutes reckless driving and, in an accident with fatalities, a charge of negligent homicide tends to be added (again, from professional experience). It is highly stupid and illegal, and some idiots still do it. I do not believe however that you'll get more people doing it because you're driving an almost self-driving car, in particular if especial licences end up being required.

        And btw, frontal collision detection systems are designed to maximise the room left behind your car to reduce the risk of getting rear ended. They are also designed to intervene very uncomfortably late, so that none with an ounce of self-preservation instinct can wait for the thing to react before intervening themselves. They are pretty clever things, they are.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Speculation

          "Believe it or not, drivers do do crosswords, read books, and watch telly while (supposedly) driving. Keep a close eye on long distance lorry drivers (they're easier to spot but not the only ones, and we're not even getting into texting/fiddling with the phone territory) and you'll see of all the above. "

          I drive about 1000 miles per week. Have done for years. I've seen all of the above and worse. Much worse. That's why partial driving assistance worries me so much. There are too many brainless meatbags on the roads for comfort already and anything which allows more people to switch off their brains while in charge of 1-2 tons of speeding death is scary.

          I can't actually see what lorry drivers are up to in their cabs, but rarely a day goes by when I don't see at least a few who wander a foot or two into the hard shoulder at 56mph. So, while I agree that "automatic" driving skills take some brain function up that could be better used for situational awareness, I don't believe that all drivers would use those extra brain clock cycles sensibly.

          Although I'm just guessing, I wonder how many multi-vehicle pile-ups include drivers on cruise control who don't react quickly enough because that part of driving had been "taken over" by the car so had more brain capacity for other stuff rather than driving.

          As I've said in other posts, partial abrogation of driving responsibility to the cars systems (AI or otherwise) worries me more than total AI control. But that becomes a chicken and egg situation. Who is going to provide full AI control on roads full of none-AI cars? Who is going to assign a motorway lane to the very few early-adoptor AI cars? It needs to be incremental to be economic but will there be a carmageddon during the transition time it takes for the expensive high tech to filter down to the average car?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Speculation

            > I can't actually see what lorry drivers are up to in their cabs, but rarely a day goes by when I don't see at least a few who wander a foot or two into the hard shoulder at 56mph

            There are a number of valid reasons why that happens, such as sidewinds, inertia, load shifting (shouldn't happen!), fatigue (shouldn't happen either!) and that lorries are not that easy to drive. I do have an HGV licence, and a bit of experience driving heavy vehicles. The occasional straying slightly into the hard shoulder should not be too much of a cause for concern, in principle.

            > Although I'm just guessing,

            Yup, exactly.

            > I wonder how many multi-vehicle pile-ups include drivers on cruise control who don't react quickly enough because that part of driving had been "taken over" by the car

            Adaptive cruise control helps prevent that, as it slows down to keep a minimum distance from the car in front, and will emergency brake if necessary. If you haven't got access to a car with ACC, try searching YouTube for some explanatory videos.

            The other good thing, in my experience, is that drivers using ACC are much less likely to tailgate other vehicles (which *is* a major cause of pileups).

            > As I've said in other posts, partial abrogation of driving responsibility to the cars systems

            There is no such thing. The responsibility rests squarely and solely with the driver.

            Again, as I understand you are purely guessing, no? I have some experience as my own vehicle has many of these so-called assistive technologies. I cannot judge from my own driving as I have advanced driver training (vocational licences, emergency services, and military--which makes me more aware although not necessarily better), but observing other drivers what I have seen is that, if they have been properly briefed on the aforementioned technologies beforehand, their driving becomes generally more sedated and attentive. However, in either case we are just drawing conclusions without sufficient evidence. Time will tell, I guess.

  9. GettinSadda

    I wonder why?

    "Strangely, Tesla hasn't responded to our requests for clarification as to how the self-driving system will work."

    Maybe that was related to you recently describing their car as "crap".

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/15/musk_promises_tesla_model_s_software_update/

  10. Simon Harris Silver badge

    "When you wake up... you feel like you are driving a new car."

    The early morning commute probably isn't the best time to discover the user interface has changed overnight and all the controls have moved around!

  11. JamesPond
    WTF?

    What's the big breakthrough here?

    The latest Merc S Class already does this with active lane keeping assist steering the car between the white lines, and distronic+ cruise that will speed up to whatever max speed you set and slow down (to a stop if necessary) if an obstacle is detected in front. What is the revolutionary bit here that Musk is delivering?

    1. phil dude
      Boffin

      Re: What's the big breakthrough here?

      I think that is what is causing the kerfuffle with the "its the end of the world posts".

      Mercedes is a traditional and somewhat conservative , expensive automobile company.

      Tesla is a non-traditional bleeding edge , automobile, battery, computer company run by a guy who is a rocket scientist and has a solar city. With the drops in pricing that come with the aforementioned.

      I have by very cynical scientific "show me the evidence" nature, but he is not promising magic. Highway driving is considerably less problematic than city driving.

      I would say he is making some people very nervous as they can see the writing on the wall, and it says "Exit this way".

      P.

    2. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: What's the big breakthrough here?

      steering between the white lines...

      Does the car do a little shimmy when you get to the zig-zags at the sides of pedestrian crossings?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lord Protect Us

    So the rolling zero-day Android vehicle is now going to be driving itself?

    I don't doubt that the near future will see a dramatic increase in autonomous vehicles on public roadways, but the fact that Tesla is the only car-maker not to respond to the Senate survey on automotive electronic security should at least make us question whether the control systems in this vehicle are rated for life-critical functions. Piloting a one-ton lithium battery on crowded roadways filled with gasoline-powered human-directed vehicles is a decision that affects all of us, satisfying the ego of an over-capitalized techno-witch doctor is not a good enough reason to let this technology out into the wild without review.

    Musk is terrified of the 'demon' we are summoning with AI, but he has no problem endangering others with his poorly engineered rockets and over-priced luxury gimmicks running yesterday's technology.

    How long before some 14 year-old hacker 'summons' an entire Tesla dealership's inventory to drive itself off the nearest cliff like electronic lemmings, just for the lulz?

  13. JustNiz

    I hope nobody actually buys one of these cars, but I already know the public are so damn stupid that a large enough group of people will actually think this is a good idea.

  14. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    A.I. is hard

    A self-driving car is real world A.I.

    "A.I. is hard."

    This is all going to end in tears.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A.I. is hard

      You don't need to be intelligence, artificial or otherwise, to drive a car (just look around you at the number of complete idiots driving cars currently!).

      Driving is essentially governed by rules (telling you what you should and should not being doing), and observations, (stopping, including in emergencies etc).

      Neither of these actually require real intelligence, just logic processing and adding weight to decision branches (i.e. hitting a parked car, not good, hitting a pedestrian, even worse, hitting multiple pedestrians, really really bad, therefore if a choice has to be made between one or the other, the parked car looses).

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: A.I. is hard

        True - if every car was completely automatic and pedestrians only ever crossed roads at designated crossings and at the correct times, cars would not need to be very intelligent.

        The problem is the real world doesn't behave like that, so you need sufficient intelligence to cope with pedestrians randomly in the way, other drivers doing unexpected things, roadworks and the myriad of other things that destroy the order of the system.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019