back to article UK drivers left idling as Tesla rolls out Autopilot in US

Tesla has offered to make its customers more confident drivers by allowing them to hand over control of their vehicles to software. The manufacturer started pushing its Autopilot technology to its Model S motors with its Tesla Version 7.0 software yesterday - in the US anyway. Autopilot will take advantage of tech built into …

  1. Michael Hawkes
    Terminator

    I wish Muskie would make up his mind

    He bleats about the perils of AI, but has no problems selling you an autonomous automobile.

    1. Nolveys Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: I wish Muskie would make up his mind

      My function is to -- keep -- Muskie -- safe, not to keep Muskie, like, totally stoked about the general vibe and stuff. That’s you. That’s how you talk.

    2. PleebSmash

      Re: I wish Muskie would make up his mind

      It's not an autonomous vehicle. It's a "keep your hands on the wheel but become more easily distracted and face peril since it's only semi-autonomous" vehicle.

    3. JCitizen
      Terminator

      I for one..

      welcome our auto driving overlords!

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So, you flick the indicator to switch lanes (on what planet does that really happen?) and your Tesla will automatically switch lane for you. Er, if your hand can reach the stalk, your hands are probably already on the steernig wheel. So why not use your hands to turn the wheel?

    And what if no one wants to let you push in to their lane? Does the Tesla have a defense against road rage (probably involving guns if it's the USA)?

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      On Planet Italia

      as soon as the get onto the autostrada they flick on their LH indicators and they remain on for hundreds of miles hoping that the mere instance of a flashing light will make other drivers move over.

      IMHO the tailgating is far more effective....

      As to UK Tesla drivers missing out. Who really cares? The only time I ever see one it is being charged.

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: On Planet Italia

        I've only seen one. It was on the M42. On the back of a flatbed.. with most of the front missing.

  3. AndrewDu

    What happens when the software meets a non-American road, ie one that's not straight, has roundabouts, features non-right-angle bends, and may involve pedestrians, hedges, ditches, or even farm animals?

    Does it even know there are parts of the world where people drive on the left - you know, backward countries like Japan?

    Just say "No".

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      UK drivers left

      @AndrewDu

      Most of the rest of the world drivers right... One would hope the correct satnav info gets loaded for the lefties.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Trollface

        Re: UK drivers left

        Most of the rest of the world drivers right

        It's about a 33/66% split with the smartest 33% driving on the left.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: UK drivers left

          Because it is smart to keep your sword hand free.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: UK drivers left

        Aside East London BMW and Merc drivers with CD's hanging from the mirror and loud stereo's who think driving in the middle is their right on all roads

    2. JDX Gold badge

      @AndrewDu

      Jeez, you should probably apply for a job at Tesla. They could do with someone to point out those things, I doubt any of them have eve driven a car or spent time thinking about such unlikely things.

    3. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Not straight, has non-right-angle bends, traffic circles & pedestrians? You mean, like Broadway in New York or Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC? If by hedges you mean "hedges across the road", then no I haven't seen them in the US, and I only wish I could say the same for ditches.

    4. John Gamble

      What happens when the software meets a non-American road, ie one that's not straight, has roundabouts, features non-right-angle bends, and may involve pedestrians, hedges, ditches, or even farm animals?

      Your belief that the whole of the U.S. (and presumably Canada as well) is exactly like Manhattan is ... perhaps not unexpected. Do you only get your information from cop shows?

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        I've lived in places(US) where the streets were laid out following a snake. Why does 10th street make a stupid curve here? They were following a snake the day the mapped the road.

        I've also lived in Chicago where the grid is the standard, except for a few oddballs - Milwaukee Ave, Lincoln Ave. Halsted Ave. They cross against the grid forming triangle city blocks...

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        "...(and presumably Canada as well)..."

        I'll give Musk credit for being honest about the state-of-the-art in self-driving cars.

        He's clearly stated that this limited 'AutoPilot' WILL NOT WORK if the lane markings are obscured.

        In Canada, the lane marking are obscured (by snow) for MONTHS AT A TIME. Many places are lax about keeping the lines painted. Dark and stormy nights with swirling snow will overload the vision systems. Construction zones are lane line comedy.

        Southern California .NE. most of the rest of the world

        Self-driving cars are going to be far more limited than most people believe. Luckily, Tesla owners are used to limitations on what their car can actually do in the real world; like inability to drive a thousand miles in one day over any real world route.

    5. MattPi

      "What happens when the software meets a non-American road, ie one that's not straight, has roundabouts, features non-right-angle bends, and may involve pedestrians, hedges, ditches, or even farm animals?"

      You've never actually been here, I take it?

      https://www.google.com/maps/@40.0827063,-75.4954618,3a,75y,186.47h,71.14t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sx67AQRfxPLXssrA0a41Hbg!2e0!7i3328!8i1664

    6. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Actually we do have those kinds of roads and hazards in most places. Even our major highways aren't straight.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Sitting in an exit row increases your confidence as an airline pilot

    I had to read that twice, and I'm still not sure whether it's a typo or deliberately hysterical

  6. DougS Silver badge

    This seems like a bad idea

    A souped up cruise control option that you can enable and allows you to take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road for long periods of time during boring interstate driving will cause drivers to do exactly that - despite any cautions from Tesla. Unless it actually enforces that behavior by pulling over if your hands are off the wheel for more than x seconds, salespeople are going to take advantage of the added "free time" to check emails on their laptop, people who have had a long day will fall asleep at the wheel, etc.

    I await the first wrongful death lawsuit targeted at Tesla when a driver is otherwise occupied when the car wants to hand control back because it runs into a condition it can't handle and kills someone in another car. Do Tesla's lawyers really think that saying "drivers should keep their hands on the wheel at all times" is going to stop these lawsuits, if the car allows you to do otherwise?

    The automated parallel parking is fine, that's something I should hope computers can do quicker and more smoothly than any human could. It is solving a problem that doesn't exist for a lot of people, but even though I can do it fine myself I suppose I'd have my car do it if it could.

    1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

      Re: This seems like a bad idea

      I am sure ways can be engineered to enforce the required driver alertness and behaviour . It is an electric car after all.... KERRRTZZZZZ.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: This seems like a bad idea

      There you are with all this automation stuff enabled and cruising along I-15 heading for Vegas when an 18-Wheeler or worse a FedEx wagon with two trailers comes past you doing 85+ mph.[1] The slipstream sauses your 'automated' car to swerve out of lane and right into the path of another vehicle.

      The US Ambulance Chasers will be out in droves. The damages will wipe out Tesla.

      This is a good idea but in reality.... it leaves a lot to be desired in practice.

      [1]Trucks in the US seem to do whatever speed they like and to hell with the others on the road.

      During the extremely wet weather in North and South Carolina at the end of September it was not uncommon for 18-wheelers to blast past me doing 75+ in torrential rain. Those trucks have little or no spray reduction kit fitted.

      If this sort of automation can handle those sort of conditions then it might work on non dedicated highways.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: This seems like a bad idea

        Except of course, that the only reason your car currently swerves when passed by a truck is that you're not expecting it and don't react quickly enough.

        Under computer control it won't swerve. At all.

        If you've ever experienced an aircraft landing in high winds under both manual and autoland control, you'll know what I mean. The first is a roller coaster, the second won't spill your tea.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: This seems like a bad idea

          The first is a roller coaster, the second won't spill your tea.

          Tea? For landings like that I expect at least a double G&T.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This seems like a bad idea

      I must admit that I'm with Google on this one.

      There comes a point where these kinds of driver assistance aids become dangers in their own right particularly if they encourage drivers to lose their concentration.

      As far as I'm concerned, you are driving the car or you're not. Anything in between is just asking for trouble.

    4. TeeCee Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: This seems like a bad idea

      The automated parallel parking is fine, that's something I should hope computers can do quicker and more smoothly than any human could.

      I take it you've never actually had long-term use of a car with this feature built-in then? I have.

      By the time you've found a spot that both you and the car agree is the right size and then fiddled with the thing until you're happy that it's identified the correct space and will do it and then reset all the controls so that it's happy to take over, you could have parked the sodding thing yourself three times!

      Doesn't help here that it'll manoeuvre in such a way as to be millimetres from the other vehicles, to the extent where you're sure it'll hit something. As any competant driver knows that if it does hit something "the car did it itself" is not a valid excuse.......(!)

      Bloody brilliant for "look what this can do" moments in the pub car park though which is, presumably, what it's really for. Willy waving.

    5. My-Handle

      Re: This seems like a bad idea

      And yet, when a gun is accidentally discharged in America and hurts someone, the manufacturer of the weapon is rarely sued. It is often the gun's owner that gets the blame first.

      I'm not saying that Tesla has carte blanche to release whatever software or features it wants without proper quality checks, I am pointing out that some responsibility does lie with the user of a machine to use it as it is designed to be used. A company can never protect itself against every possible manner in which a creative idiot can deliberately misuse it's products

      Incidentally, I have a burning hatred of salespeople, so perhaps we can set up a test involving lots of them, lots of these cars, a large stretch of private highway and see how many of them end up qualifying for a Darwin Award.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Suing gun manufacturers

        That's not the same thing AT ALL, because today's gun isn't some futuristic sci-fi thing where you identify a target and after you fire it steers the bullet around a corner into it (or into a bystander if there's a bug in the gun's software) If the gun maker should be liable, then Ford should have been liable the first time a Model A ran down a pedestrian.

        I agree the user has to bears a lot of the responsibility, but for something like this I'd argue (as would a lawyer and undoubtedly plenty of 'peers' who would sit on a jury in the US) Tesla 'should have known' would cause problems. The misuse doesn't even have to be deliberate - people sometimes fall asleep while driving today. How much easier will it be to nod off when you don't even need to keep your hands on the wheel?

        That's my #1 dream about getting a self driving car - instead of getting up at 5am to catch an early flight and make a connection at a hub where I catch a second flight, reaching the destination that afternoon, I could simply have my car leave at bedtime. I'd fully recline and sleep, then surf the internet or watch movies after I wake up for the rest of the trip, and reach my destination earlier, more rested and more stress free!

        This isn't a "creative idiot finding a way to misuse their products", but someone using it as intended but not following every recommendation. While the driver would undoubtedly be found to be at fault as he knew or should have known the car couldn't handle all situations and his attention may be required at any time, that won't stop Tesla from getting sued. Because they would bear part of the blame, and more importantly for the lawyers and their plaintiffs, they have much deeper pockets.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Suing gun manufacturers

          I'm pleased that EM has had the guts to push ahead and take a step forwards.

          If the world is going to be ever more in fear of litigation then we are paralysed and progress will grind to a halt.

          So I say fuck 'em, go for it. And to hell with all the doomsayers, negativistas and cynics.

          And anyway, I'm certain that EM and Tesla have paid for some top class lawyers to look over this, and those folks probably know a sight more than a few Register comment folk.

        2. annodomini2
          FAIL

          Re: Suing gun manufacturers

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

          They do exist

      2. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: This seems like a bad idea

        "And yet, when a gun is accidentally discharged in America and hurts someone, the manufacturer of the weapon is rarely sued. It is often the gun's owner that gets the blame first."

        Bad analogy. Gun manufacturers and NRA have very successfully lobbied the US gov to such an extent that US law excludes manufacturer liability for firearm accidents. Gun manufacturers are rarely sued because the possibility of winning is close to nil.

        That aside, I agree with you that liability SHOULD lie with the vehicle operator

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Parallel parking

    Or as real men call it, parking.

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Parallel parking

      > Or as real men call it, parking.

      Real men don't need no automatic parking system, they use the hand brake.

      Of course if you really want to be macho about it you'd use the throttle and oversteer into the space.

      1. MrT

        Re: Parallel parking

        Russ Swift would agree there.

        He brought his team to the garage where my dad worked in the early 80's for the then-new Vauxhall Nova launch event. Did all sorts of stuff, including a routine in a FIAT Panda that went sideways so much that afterwards one of the salesmen looked at the car and all the tyre rubber on the forecourt, then walked off muttering to his colleague if he new of anyone wanting a car with square wheels.

        1. Vic

          Re: Parallel parking

          Russ Swift would agree there.

          I once emailed Russ Swift to see if he did lessons. I asked if he'd "teach me to drive like a nutter".

          He replied that the only Vic he knew already drove like a nutter...

          The guy in question had the same surname as me, but sadly, wasn't me.

          Vic.

  8. JDX Gold badge

    "We’re not totally clear how the car intends to deal with being rear-ended"

    Maybe blame the car behind, like a human driver would do?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: "We’re not totally clear how the car intends to deal with being rear-ended"

      > Maybe blame the car behind, like a human driver would do?

      Indeed, that's what the coppers do at the scene of most accidents when someone inevitably bumps into someone in the traffic jam that ensues. If you weren't quick enough on the brakes, you're driving without due care and attention. If you were driving too close, that's reckless driving. Either case, have some points and/or a fine.

      Icon - that's what you should be able to do if the person in front does first

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: "We’re not totally clear how the car intends to deal with being rear-ended"

        Of course here there would be the interesting situation that Jack the lad (or Jacky the Laddette) sees a Telsa approaching in the wing mirror (OK it's on the door these days) and jinks right to cause the Telsa driver spit their coffee as the Telsa's automatics pull an emergency stop. They hit the brakes far faster than any human driver could and so the car behind doesn't have time to react -BANG. OK, so the car behind was still too close but you've still been hit.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "We’re not totally clear how the car intends to deal with being rear-ended"

      Nah,

      the rear number plate would fold down and device would appear. Then from hidden speakers a loud Dalek voice would say, 'Exterminate' and the offending car complete with driver would disappear.

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: "We’re not totally clear how the car intends to deal with being rear-ended"

      It'll eject the warp core. Then they'll be sorry. Anyway, once someone's close enough to read the maker's name, they'll hopefully back off unless they've got a dry-powder extinguisher. Especially in the wet. It's much like Steam early access in that respect I guess. So I think I'll skip V7 and wait for Tesla to produce a V8.

      1. peterkin

        Re: "We’re not totally clear how the car intends to deal with being rear-ended"

        Tesla produce a V8? That's kinda unlikely.

  9. Chemist

    According to the BBC

    "It should not hit pedestrians, hopefully," he told the media. "It should handle them well.""

    Well he sounds so confident

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: According to the BBC

      He could have certainly worded it better but as long as it's gentle and doesn't fondle them excessively I suppose it'll be alright.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: According to the BBC

        Ah... a large, feather-down mattress pops out and affixes itself to the front of the car...

        Icon.. well.. I said "mattress".. reason enough.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can think of nothing more dangerous...

    ...than a beta version autopilot.

    They'll have to make sure this system won't lull Tesla drivers into a false sense of security.

  11. David 132 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Why the snark?

    Interesting article, but why the snarky "At last - Americans finally get to parallel park" subhead?

    Try visiting any large US city. Parallel parking aplenty.

    Having said that, I parked in Portland Oregon last week and I felt like a total n00b. It took me about 3 attempts to get perfectly lined up with the kerb - could have had something to do with the shiny new Aston Martin that was parked behind me, and a little voice in my head saying don't hit it don't hit it don't hit it, for the love of God don't hit it...

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Why the snark?

      The issue some Americans have with parallel parking is because of the cars we drive. Take the average European who thinks they're hot shit in the parallel parking department and place them in an F150 or Land Cruiser and see how well they do trying to parallel park when there's less than a foot of room on either side and you don't really have a decent idea exactly where the ass end of your vehicle is.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Why the snark?

        @DougS Take the average European who thinks they're hot shit in the parallel parking department and place them in an F150 or Land Cruiser

        *shudder* Too true. Or something like an F-350 Super-Duty dually (quite a few of those around this part of OR). Anyone who even takes one of those downtown has bigger cojones than I - never mind trying to park it in anything smaller than a football field. Proper football or American, take yer pick.

        (Note for Brits: the above is a 4-passenger pickup truck with approximately the external dimensions - and fuel throughput - of Stanlow refinery. Not the biggest truck on the market though... see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8P5vGcf-NU for The Ultimate.)

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Why the snark?

          The problem is that most Brits experience of driving in the USA is a Orlando Int or Sanford to International Drive Hotel to the massive car parks at Disney.

          They need to try some of the high narrow passes in the Sierra Nevada in a Donneresque blizzard, with a sheer drop on one side, then meet a humungous RV coming in the opposite direction.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Why the snark?

            Having said that, it doesn't stop weekenders driving up from the west of the state from going into a panic when they see these situations for the first time too.

            I really don't think a Land Cruiser, Range Rover, F150/F350 or a Chevy Suburban is any bigger than a LWB transit or a Merc Sprinter van, and people seem to be able to parallel them no problem, even without rear windows.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reality check

    When people experience more accidents with the "hands free driving" systems, then maybe regulators will wake up and hold all accountable. The make buses and trains for those who don't want to drive.

  13. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    Perhaps the relevant civil servants will be driven there automatically.

    Beachy Head please, pretty please.

  14. x 7

    Don't forget - Roads in the USA go in straight lines. Roads in the UK are bendy,,,,,,except for the few the Romans built for us

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Don't forget that roads in the USA come in all types, bendy, straight, narrow and wide.

  15. sleepy

    Tesla smart cruise control is already a pleasure in stop-start traffic. It will be even better with lane following. Its observation of position and speed of other vehicles is already significantly more accurate than human.

  16. Rick Brasche

    Volvo already stepped up to the plate.

    Volvo has enough confidence in their auto auto product to say that any accidents due to their product are their responsibility.

    Tesla should be willing to do the same. Unless they lack faith in their own hardware/software or the suitability of use they claim.

    An airplane can have a software fault, a hardware fault that brings the plane down, and the aircraft manufacturer is held at fault regardless of which. The airline also bears responsibility whether its pilot error or not. Why should auto drive products be any different?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Volvo already stepped up to the plate.

      Volvo are wonderful clever Swedes, but they are talking about their fully autonomous vehicles that are years away, not a software update that automates a few more driving functions that rolled out this week.

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