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 …

  1. tedleaf

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    2. Notas Badoff

      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.

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        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.

    3. Tom Samplonius

      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.

      1. Tam1

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: Bleh

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

            Oh?

          3. Velv Silver badge
            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?

          4. tiggity Silver badge

            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

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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.

            2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

              Re: Bleh

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

              And as they say, safety regulations are written in blood.

              Anyone who wants to remove them is essentially implying the lives lost were worth nothing.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            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.

            1. cray74

              Re: Bleh

              almost no checking of drinking water quality, etc etc etc.

              Not to disagree with your larger point, but this isn't correct. Even in the egregious case of Flint, Michigan, the US was monitoring water quality. The local officials behind the decision to switch water supplies to a river that would leach lead from pipes had extensive data on water quality and contaminants. When citizens filed complaints about water quality, the local officials had more data on contaminants (like coliform bacteria) and issued a boil-water notice. They had plenty of data showing lead contamination, too. However, the officials looked at the data and decided to lie about it, falsely informing state regulators that the high lead levels were only found in homes with aging lead pipes.

              But water quality is regularly checked in the US.

          6. Truckle The Uncivil

            Re: Bleh

            @AC

            They don't have them in Australia either. If they did I would be dead. Dropped my bike on an oil slick and went under a semi with the bike. Came out the other side and picked up the bike with the motor still running. If the semi had had side protection I would have been swept under the wheels. I know they save many lives but they can cost a few too.

        2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          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.)

          1. DJ Smiley

            Re: Bleh

            Even more amusing was the fact his name was Tom.

        3. Louis Schreurs BEng

          Re: BlehRe: Bleh Think your looking at this wrong Tim.

          Your guessing's upvotes make me wanna guess who would want to upvote another person's guess?

          Mu guess is that if the sensors don't sense a huge truck, they'll neither sense something relatively small to the truck stuck to said truck

      2. Anonymous Coward
        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.

      3. Schultz
        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.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          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?

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            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.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              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.

              1. ShadowDragon8685

                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.

              2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

                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.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  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).

              3. werdsmith Silver badge

                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 shit Sherlock. Did you just arrive on the genius bus?

                1. Stoneshop Silver badge

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

                  Nope. Train and bike, actually.

          2. Alister Silver badge

            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.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              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

              1. Alistair Silver badge
                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)

            2. Ptol

              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.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                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.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            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.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              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.

              1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                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...)

                1. MacroRodent Silver badge

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

                  >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...)

                  Hardly. It would just be a slightly larger speed bump. I have also sometimes seen horizontal striped bars hanging from chains before unusually low bridges or underpasses, in the hope that the driver of a tall vehicle would at least hear the CLONK, before hitting the bridge....

            2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              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.

            3. Otto is a bear.

              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.

              1. Dave the Cat

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

                @Otto is a bear

                Having lived next to a hump back bridge for years, I can say with some authority that truckers seem to see the signs more as a challenge than a warning. I quite regularly see trucks taking a run up so even if they are low enough to get hung up the momentum gets them over.

            4. Chemical Bob
              Coat

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

              "we don't have things like level crossings and bridges in Europe"

              You should get them, they're quite handy.

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          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.

          1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

            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.

          2. Shart Tank
            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.

        3. wjake

          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.

        4. Louis Schreurs BEng

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

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

      4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        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.

        1. Smooth Newt
          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.

          1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            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.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              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.

            2. joewilliamsebs

              Re: Bleh

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

            3. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. John Sturdy
          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.

      5. Adam 1 Silver badge

        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.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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).

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              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'.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge
            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.

          3. Adam 1 Silver badge

            Re: Bleh

            Firstly with g/G, I read g as a unit of mass but whatever floats your boat. I was originally going to convert to N but that makes the sheer forces more difficult for someone who hasn't studied physics to comprehend. I don't think that central to my point. There are some pretty unrealistic assumptions in my 25x acceleration due to earth's gravity at some specific location and altitude.

            Firstly, I was very generous with the amount of distance the car has to crumple. Having no engine up front certainly improves that, but you don't get 25G resistance equally across the whole collision. So if the first part of the crumple is say 4 or 5G, the remaining parts must increase well above my quoted figure.

            Secondly, there is a velocity squared relationship here, so 33ms-1 is 4 times the energy to dissipate as 16.5ms-1 all else equal (not double as many people assume).

            Thirdly, I'm not aware of any crumple zones that are able to be dynamically strengthen or weaken their rigidity based on collision speed. I am only guessing here that they pick a set of materials that get progressively more rigid the closer to the T cell you get. I guess it may be possible to use explosive charges to selectively weaken panels during an accident but I'm not aware of any production car that attempts anything like that.

    4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      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.

    5. paulc

      $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

  2. a pressbutton

    Being human

    I feel sorry for the truck driver.

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Being human

      Not sure, there's an element of culpability there, he was after all sideways across a highway.

    2. Goldmember

      Re: Being human

      I do as well. Although the truck driver apparently pulled a pretty stupid manoeuvre, the driver of the Tesla should have been paying attention, should have seen the truck and should have taken evasive action. Quote from the article;

      "Brown's final trip lasted 37 minutes, from buckling in until the crash. During that time he had his hands on the wheel for 25 seconds"

      Twenty. Five. Seconds. In a 37 minute journey. Completely entrusting his life to beta software.

      I remember seeing one of the driver's previous dash cam videos where he'd been paying no attention to the road (he was too busy taking "no hands" selfies) and had relied on the Tesla to stop him from crashing into another truck which he should have seen but didn't. On that occasion the Tesla saved him.

      Advanced driving aids are nowhere near ready to take full control of our vehicles, no matter how good they appear to be. It was only a matter of time before this happened to him, sadly. And quite frankly, it scares me to think I have to share the roads with such reckless people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Being human

        quite frankly, it scares me to think I have to share the roads with such reckless people.

        .. which neatly summarises my problem with all this beta testing.

        If I beta test software, worst case it will make a mess of my system and that is a risk that I accept and mitigate via backups. If I beta test auto pilot software on a live road, not only am I risking my own live, I'm also risking other's life without their permission and given the impact of things going wrong that is not something I am impressed by.

        Bonus question: what will your insurance say when you screw up using the automaton? If I were an insurance inspector, the first thing I'd want to see with a Tesla is exactly the autopilot logs.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: Being human

          We used to joke in engineering school that software engineering wasn't real engineering because, with a few (mostly niche) exceptions, you couldn't kill anyone by not doing your job properly.

          Then I ended up working in a field in which I can't kill anyone no matter how negligent I am, while increasingly complex and autonomous software is becoming far more widespread in life critical systems. Whoops.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Being human

        "Completely entrusting his life to beta software."

        And this guy ran a tech company. Unbelievable.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Being human

        I do as well. Although the truck driver apparently pulled a pretty stupid manoeuvre,

        The NHTSA report states that the Tesla driver would have had 8 seconds to take evasive action. From that statement I take it that he was cresting a hill, or there was a curve in the road. That's a little over 250m that the truck driver would have seen as clear the moment he started crossing the eastbound lanes. Not really a stupid manoeuvre, IMO, especially if one could expect approaching drivers to have a modicum of self-preservation and actually adjust speed and course to avoid a collision.

  3. elDog Silver badge

    Darwinian selection.

    Stupid enough to trust your life to technology.

    Maybe that speaks to most of us now. Just that this idiot was richer and stupider.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Darwinian selection.

      But he only died because he was sitting up in the front seat.

      If he had been lying down asleep in the back he would have gone under the trailer safely.

  4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Still driving?

    I'm getting a strong sense from the article that the car kept going despite the likely instant death of the driver and the ripping off of the entire roof. Some sensors were obviously damaged as it went on to crash into some trees, but from the article write-up, didn't appear to have made any attempt to do the equivalent of "oh shit, hit the brakes!".

    At the very least, there must have been a huge physical shock through the car bod and chassis as the roof was ripped off, sudden changes in the environmental cabin sensors, ie lots of data screaming that something significant had happened and yet the car seems to have driven on, oblivious to the accident.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: Still driving?

      The question is, why would the scenario you mention trigger the brakes?

      A sufficiently sized pothole could trigger the sensors the same way as the impact could. Would you really want the Tesla to slam on the brakes in traffic just because it hit a pothole?

      Same could be said for cabin environment. Winding the window down/opening sunroof would cause changes to cabin pressure, so would you want the car to slam on the anchors just because the driver lit up a smoke and opened a portal to allow the smoke to escape?

      Yes, I realise they could program in extra inputs to detect these things, but the more inputs, the more things can go wrong, especially when this tech is still in development. But until the current tech is robust enough, I wouldn't go along adding in more points of failure.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Still driving?

        A sufficiently sized pothole could trigger the sensors the same way as the impact could.

        Nope. Hitting a pothole or a ditch would initially be seen primarily by the suspension sensors, with the suspension extending, then compressing, and a longitudinal deceleration being sensed on the wheel(s) hitting the far edge of the pothole. Hitting a truck in such a way that the windshield is smashed and the roof ripped off would quite likely primarily be detected by a deceleration sensor, the same way as when hitting a moose or something similar not triggering the fender impact sensors.

        1. Ptol

          Re: Still driving?

          "Nope. Hitting a pothole or a ditch would initially be seen primarily by the suspension sensors, with the suspension extending, then compressing, and a longitudinal deceleration being sensed on the wheel(s) hitting the far edge of the pothole"

          I have seen several "pothole collisions" in telematic data capture systems. Perhaps when the telematics is built into the car at manufacture, they have sensors on the suspension, but the retrofit systems I have seen rely on inertia sensors to detect sudden accelerations in a collision.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Still driving?

            but the retrofit systems I have seen rely on inertia sensors to detect sudden accelerations in a collision.

            We're talking about a Tesla here.

            1. AIBailey

              Re: Still driving?

              I'm getting a strong sense from the article that the car kept going despite the likely instant death of the driver and the ripping off of the entire roof.

              I'm not actually sure how a "regular" car would cope any differently.

              My 2011 car has standard cruise control. If I wasn't paying attention and ended up instantaneously losing a few KG of body weight, along with the instant conversion of my car to a cabriolet, I don't know whether my car would necessarily stop either.

              Disabling my CC requires me to operate either the brake or the clutch, or manually disengaging it via the controls. I'm pretty sure that the CC software only has a limited set of programmed scenarios that will cause it to turn off.

              The car failing to stop is the least of the issues here - the fact that some guy got behind the wheel, set the cruise control for almost 15% over the maximum speed limit on the road, and then sat back and only made contact with the steering wheel for, on average, 1 second for every minute and a half that the vehicle was moving, just goes to prove that some people are too stupid to be trusted with technology in some cases.

              I'll probably never be able to afford a Tesla, but if I could, and it came fitted with "autopilot", or whatever they've renamed it to now, I still have enough common sense to know that it's not the equivalent of a digital taxi driver. It's a driver assistance only, and still requires input and concentration from the person behind the wheel.

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Still driving?

        Mr. Damage - your rebuttal is realistic, but perfectly contradicts the BS claims, and naive hopes and dreams of our A.I. powered Self Driving Car future.

        Your response is highly revealing of the sad reality about Strong A.I. for such Outdoor applications.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Still driving?

        "The question is, why would the scenario you mention trigger the brakes?"

        Part of enhanced cruise control include automatic braking such a catastrophic loss of and changes in sensor data, along with the sudden deceleration the crash most likely caused sounds to me like an ideal time for the system to apply the brakes. The fact it then went off the road, past a pond and then hit a tree also strongly indicates that it's time to hit brakes as sharply as seems safe.

        It's worth also bearing in mind that this is not just enhanced cruise control but is part of a specific path to self driving according to Tesla. Crash avoidance is part of the existing system and has been trumpeted as saving lives. But it only seems to work if all the sensors are working. The loss of a load of sensors and massive change in data from other surviving sensors didn't appear to trigger any sort of reaction.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Still driving?

          The loss of a load of sensors and massive change in data from other surviving sensors didn't appear to trigger any sort of reaction.

          From 13:36:12.7 (US Pacific time, so 17:36:12.7 local time) through 13:36:25.8 the car's data logging reports "Vehicle alert consistent with collision damage", and a number of sensor fault/sensor missing messages, including "Brake controller CAN node is MIA". So even if a brake command was issued, there would have been no response.

          I wonder if one can design an emergency braking system for a fully electric vehicle such as a Tesla that can stop the car if for any reason the power fails. And does Tesla have a power-assisted mechanical steering linkage, or is that fully electrical as well leaving you at the mercy of Newton's laws?

          1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

            Re: Still driving?

            It is still required to have a mechanical linkage between the wheel and steering in the US. Lots of automakers would love to move to steer-by-wire because it would radically open the interior to substantial design changes but the US DOT isn't budging as of yet. In a way it is a pity as a joystick like control would greatly ease driving for persons with certain disabilities as many functions could be integrated into a single control and if centrally located the driver could sit on either side making cars region agnostic.

            Emergency braking shouldn't be too hard, just switch it so the motor goes into full regen mode although I believe Tesla uses induction motors so that won't bring it to a full stop as there is always some slip.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Still driving?

              it would radically open the interior to substantial design changes

              <suppresses bad joke here>

              if [joystick] centrally located the driver could sit on either side making cars region agnostic.

              If it's a multifunction controller, I think you want to use your dominant hand. But it wouldn't be very difficult to position the joystick for optimal control, left or right of the driver, as desired.

              although I believe Tesla uses induction motors

              They do. Problem is, those need some current and a working power controller to work as a generator, which is how you use them for braking. The rotor might have some remanent magnetism, but that won't be doing much regarding braking if power is lost.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Still driving?

                "Problem is, those need some current and a working power controller to work as a generator, which is how you use them for braking."

                It's not that bad as it only requires a set of caps across the terminals to supply the reactive power to work as a generator. The downside is that if the load current exceeds the generators capacity it stops producing power and it needs to be disconnected and restarted. If the charging circuit is dead or shorted thus incapable of supplying the load it could be switched to an appropriately sized set of power resistors which will likely get nice and warm but then so would the brake discs.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Still driving?

            From 13:36:12.7 (US Pacific time, so 17:36:12.7 local time) through 13:36:25.8 the car's data logging reports "Vehicle alert consistent with collision damage", and a number of sensor fault/sensor missing messages, including "Brake controller CAN node is MIA". So even if a brake command was issued, there would have been no response.

            Thanks for that. I didn't get that far. It does raise an interesting question for their roadmap to autonomous self-driving cars though. If the person inside (no longer the driver) has no mechanical linkage to the brakes, then the car really must have a failsafe method of applying the brakes in a power-fail emergency. I don't think actual self-driving cars have been in that sort of catastrophic event yet, mainly because they tend to go slow under relatively controlled conditions with a "minder".

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Still driving?

              f the person inside (no longer the driver) has no mechanical linkage to the brakes, then the car really must have a failsafe method of applying the brakes in a power-fail emergency.

              Thinking about this problem a bit, and knowing how it's implemented in trains, I think the following should work (provided the actual braking system is hydraulic, like in conventional cars, c.f. Eddy Ito's comment on mechanical steering linkage still being a DOT requirement): a small reservoir holding compressed air is connected to a cylinder via an electrically-powered normally-open valve. This pneumatic cylinder is linked to the master brake cylinder. As long as the valve is powered, it's closed; when the power fails the valve opens, the pneumatic cylinder presses down on the master brake cylinder, and the car should stop.

          3. Kiwi Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Still driving?

            I wonder if one can design an emergency braking system for a fully electric vehicle such as a Tesla that can stop the car if for any reason the power fails.

            That technology has been around a very long time! Hoists I used to use had a simple braking system on their motors. Apply power and a solenoid activated, removing a braking plate from the end of the motor. Cut power and the spring pushed the plate back into place.

            That would of course be close to something locking up the wheels, which in itself could be quite dangerous. But maybe something like some other systems use (I cannot recall where I came across this) where if power disappears, the spinning electric motor becomes a generator and the circuitry attempts to put the device into a "safe" state. ISTR someone telling me that's how self-parking disk heads worked on MFM drives, but the ones I've opened had a very high-tech spring that, in the event of no power to the rest of the head mech, would withdraw the heads to the park.

            Actually, electric cars have independent motors in their wheels don't they? A fairly hefty resistor, and a relay? Things normal, the relay is OC and everything works as expected. Power drops, the relay contacts close, and instead of being a motor the assembly becomes a generator, with a hefty power sink in the resistor providing braking resistance. A secondary system like the above can then clamp on when the final bits of power are gone, ie when the car is going slow enough locks wheels won't matter. I'll swap this idea with Tesla (or another car manufacturer) for one of their decent cars, otherwise it's patent/copyright etc etc etc :)

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Still driving?

              Apply power and a solenoid activated, removing a braking plate from the end of the motor.

              That would add unsprung weight on at least two wheels, which is something vehicle designers want to avoid as much as possible as it degrades vehicle roadholding. It would also take a fair bit of power to keep the electromagnets engaged against the force of the springs. A reservoir with compressed air would store the actual energy to apply the brakes, and an electrical valve requires way less power than an electromagnet keeping a braking plate disengaged directly.

              where if power disappears, the spinning electric motor becomes a generator

              Regenerative braking, as used on nearly all electric (and hybrid) vehicles. Used to store the energy otherwise lost by braking (as friction/heat) back into the batteries, or a capacitor bank.

              Actually, electric cars have independent motors in their wheels don't they?

              Negative, because of the unsprung weight. For Tesla, the standard model S has rear wheel drive with one 270kW or 310kW motor driving both rear wheels, the D (dual) variant has two motors, one front, one rear.

              ISTR someone telling me that's how self-parking disk heads worked on MFM drives,

              Self-parking wasn't that common on MFM/RLL drives; it started to become a feature on early IDE drives.

    2. Blotto Bronze badge

      Re: Still driving?

      @ John,

      yes i agree, i assume the camera is mounted at the top of the windscreen in front of the rear view mirror (next to the light sensor for turning the lights on etc) to not obstruct the drivers view and also for a better view of the road. Surly the camera, light sensor and controls for the sunroof or other roof mounted controls going off-line at the same time would trigger an auto pilot off or emergency car stop.

      modern cars can tell you when and which bulb is out, electric windows stop closing when obstructions are in their way, aircon changes mode when sunroof or windows are open, modern car alarms listen for the noise of braking glass their mics are often in the ceiling, driver attention monitors monitor driver input, curtain airbags again ceiling mounted firing down checked and primed on car switch on plus lots more sensors who's sudden going offline would indicate a good reason to stop a car.

      the above is mainly what i know about my 2011 car (not a Tesla). I'd imagine a more modern car would be similar or have more sensors.

    3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Still driving?

      Famously, A.I. is hard.

      Hard means incredibly difficult, far worse than anyone can imagine.

      A.I. outdoors is infinitely harder still.

      A.I. outdoors will require endless sensors, vastly more than they've yet contemplated. Microphones to hear the sirens. Nerves to feel the missing roof. Nose to smell the burning battery.

      Helen Keller was intelligent, but not much good outdoors on her own.

      Nobody has hoisted aboard much of the above.

      It's hard to make A.I. when our own I. is so weak.

      Hubris is the rule.

      Most "A.I. For Outdoors" claims are ignorant B.S.

      Self Driving Cars can be better than humans, only because we have so many idiots driving.

      Self Driving Cars will be making bone-headed moves for the next 20 years. There will be regular News Segments on the latest mass death by A.I. hilarity. Legal liability, OMG.

  5. Snowy
    Facepalm

    They still call it Autopilot?

    Calling the driver assist an Autopilot sure does not help. Maybe instead of issuing six audible warning alerts that he'd spent too long with his hands off the wheel it should have pulled over after 3.

    1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      Re: They still call it Autopilot?

      I think they've since changed the name.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: They still call it Autopilot?

        Ah, yes, the Sellafield solution.

    2. Kernel

      Re: They still call it Autopilot?

      "Maybe instead of issuing six audible warning alerts that he'd spent too long with his hands off the wheel it should have pulled over after 3."

      Agree! - Tesla should be on the hook here because there is an established and obvious solution they negligently failed to implement in their "autopilot" system.

      It's been many years since dead man switch mechanisms have been mandatory in locomotives - all over the world - and it wouldn't be hard to implement this in some form in of road vehicle that is designed drive without constant human attention - perhaps a warning every five minutes, with a second warning after 30 seconds if no action is taken on the first warning and automatic pull over and stop if no response to the second warning.

      Alternatively, we could just wait until some vehicle with a non-responsive (drunk, dead, asleep) driver ploughs into somebody's family at speed, followed by much hand-wringing and 'thinking of the children'.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: They still call it Autopilot?

        "It's been many years since dead man switch mechanisms have been mandatory in locomotives - all over the world - and it wouldn't be hard to implement this in some form in of road vehicle that is designed drive without constant human attention - perhaps a warning every five minutes, with a second warning after 30 seconds if no action is taken on the first warning and automatic pull over and stop if no response to the second warning."

        Except people have become rather ingenious at mindlessly dealing with nuisances such as vigilance controls. I think there have been instances where crashes occurred with vigilance controls and it turns out the driver was so numb to the routine he was doing it in a zombie-like state without even thinking about it.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: They still call it Autopilot?

          If ignoring a warning for more than 10 seconds meant the car pulled over and would require waiting a few minutes before moving again, it wouldn't be possible for people to let it do all the driving for them like this guy.

          Tesla should have known better. Giving warnings that can be ignored is pointless, and it should be illegal to sell a car that will let you allow it to drive while you're ignoring warnings or even asleep when it is incapable of safely doing so.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: They still call it Autopilot?

            My ordinary car has a system that will warn the driver to take a rest if it detects driver input consistent with the driver being sleepy or not alert. But it won't stop me driving.

            1. tiggity Silver badge

              Re: They still call it Autopilot?

              Is that a special addon to stop old folks driving the car?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They still call it Autopilot?

          "Except people have become rather ingenious at mindlessly dealing with nuisances such as vigilance controls."

          Like when I wake up an hour late, and realise I must have hit the snooze button 6 or 7 times, but I don't remember doing it at all.

      2. The First Dave

        Re: They still call it Autopilot?

        I'm also amazed to learn from this that the car didn't know it had crashed, though not entirely clear on why it _ever_ came to a halt - presumably the sensor suite must have been damaged too badly for it to navigate properly, but again, surely that should have triggered an immediate halt?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: They still call it Autopilot?

          presumably the sensor suite must have been damaged too badly for it to navigate properly,

          The crash report states the Tesla's battery pack and navigation system were disabled by the collision, so it must have simply coasted more or less straight on, gradually leaving the road. It then hit a fence and an utility pole, coming to a stop after some 300m. From the picture in the article it appears those impacts weren't very violent.

          Would the battery cutting out disable the brakes? So that even if the car's logic (if still working, which it probably wasn't) had commanded braking following the loss of camera and other sensor data, it simply couldn't?

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: They still call it Autopilot?

          >I'm also amazed to learn from this that the car didn't know it had crashed,

          We need lawmakers to demand all cars have a "roof torn off by driving under truck" sensor

    3. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: They still call it Autopilot?

      "Calling the driver assist an Autopilot sure does not help."

      "I think they've since changed the name."

      It's never officially been called an "autopilot" - maybe in some marketing, but not in the manual etc.

      Besides, it does more than an actual autopilot in a plane so...

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: They still call it Autopilot?

        Baldrikk tried, "It's never officially been called an 'Autopilot' - maybe in some marketing..."

        That's funny.

      2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: They still call it Autopilot?

        Besides, it does more than an actual autopilot in a plane so...

        And the autopilot in the plane has *way* more testing before being deployed for live use

        1. MOV r0,r0

          Re: They still call it Autopilot?

          Indeed - plus the benefit of a bunch of human beings on the ground making sure no other vehicles are in the way

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They still call it Autopilot?

      Maybe instead of issuing six audible warning alerts that he'd spent too long with his hands off the wheel it should have pulled over after 3.

      I would propose triggering the ejector seat instead :).

  6. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    NTSB authority

    The NTSB does not issue fines or judgements. Their role is to find the root cause of the accident and make recommendations to avoid the problem in the future. Any fines or administrative action against Tesla (in this case) would be done a by different agency. Also, recommendations are implemented by other agencies. Also, the NTSB will work with any interested parties to accident to determine the cause including the vehicle manufacturers and owners.

    Based on the various articles I have seen, the driver was at fault for ignoring system warnings he take more control. So other than improving the sensor 'viewing' area and some interlocks, I doubt much will happen to Tesla since it appears the driver ignored repeatedly safety warnings.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    74 mph, not in active control

    Hmmmm, seems legit.

    NOT!

    1. Hasselhoffia

      Re: 74 mph, not in active control

      Would this have happened if he had set the cruise control to 73mph? Or, just putting it out there, 65mph?

  8. Tringle

    I hate them stealth trucks

    How on earth are you supposed to see something shiny and the size of a housel and have time to react? Is there a Darwin nomination here?

    1. jmarked

      Re: I hate them stealth trucks

      The cars' sensors aren't perfect yet.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I hate them stealth trucks

        jmarked offered, "The cars' sensors aren't perfect yet."

        Understatement of the Decade.

        A.I. Outdoors needs lots of sensors. Vastly more than they have now.

        Helen Keller was intelligent, but she was rubbish outdoors.

        1. DJ Smiley

          Re: I hate them stealth trucks

          The faulty sensor here, wasn't part of the car...

  9. Blofeld's Cat

    Still driver in charge...

    In this case both vehicles were being driven by humans, and the accident was a consequence of their actions, or inaction. The level of automation used in one vehicle didn't really change that.

    Had the Tesla driver been watching the road and seen the truck, he could have overridden the software by attempting to brake or swerve, and so possibly avoided or at least mitigated the impact.

    I suspect that lawyers and insurers will have a field day when there are accidents involving self-driving taxis and the like where technically (or indeed physically) nobody is at the wheel.

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Missing information

    Presumably this accident happened at a crossroads, as the car appeared to hit the middle of the trailer at 90 degrees. If so, what were the road priorities?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Facepalm

      RTFA

      "But then a truck slowly pulled out of a side road onto the highway,"

      And even if you have right-of-way, it's ill-advised not to yield to something large and heavy in your path (a.k.a. the Sixteen Ton Rule)

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: RTFA

        How does pulling on to a highway result in a 90degree hit in the middle of a trailer?

        How wide was the highway?

        What lane was the car in?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: RTFA

          From the NTSB investigation: The truck was traveling west and then turned south across the eastbound lanes. Brown’s Tesla was traveling east in the rightmost lane. So, not quite "out of a side road", but rather "into a side road", but the end effect is the same, the truck being squarely across the lane the Tesla was in.

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: RTFA

            @Stoneshop

            Thanks for that. Gives a very different picture from what the article suggests.

            Have one of these.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RTFA

          > How does pulling on to a highway result in a 90degree hit in the middle of a trailer?

          T-junction. Truck turning left. Means it needs to cross the near lanes, then the median, to complete a left turn. Collision happened in near lanes.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RTFA

        And even if you have right-of-way, it's ill-advised not to yield to something large and heavy in your path (a.k.a. the Sixteen Ton Rule)

        I seem to recall this in sailing, too. On sail-powered 12 foot boat, you have the right of way over powered vessels, but that fully loaded supertanker you're approaching is probably NOT going to yield to you.

  11. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Distinction to be made...

    The human didn't notice the truck because he wasn't even looking out through the large transparent panel conveniently fitted to the bodywork just in front of his face. If he'd bothered to look, his eyes would not have failed him.

    The Tesla Autopilot has no such explanation. It had one job, and failed.

    Adding to this is that it didn't even register the impact, didn't even notice that its roof had been removed, and then idiotically drove off the road and crashed.

    It's clearly not fit for purpose. Hubris in a can.

    How on Earth do they get away with it?

  12. Grubby

    Technology assists it doesnt do it for you

    Give an inch and some people will take a mile. I've seen too many people assuming that to assist or aid is to do completely, it isn't. The person that has 100% responsibility when they start the engine of their car is themselves. Ignoring warnings, basically lying back and assuming that everything will be done for you is lazy and resulted in his death.

    I see it all the time when I go to companies that are implementing some sort of new tech and the boss says, well if we automate x we'll never need to do anything. Nope, if you automate X you're still responsible for ensuring its completed to a satisfactory level. If you don't monitor it and it doesn't work, it's your fault. Automation changes your job it doesn't remove it.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Technology assists it doesnt do it for you

      Except Tesla allowed owners to make false assumptions fueled by B.S. marketing. Every lesson learned from this incident, every change, every new warning, every update....they're all evidence of previous hubris driven failures. They deserve some blame.

      But yes, most fault falls on the naive driver. He obviously didn't actually understand where State of the Art A.I. technology really is. His view was wildly ill-informed. He believed the claims.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Technology assists it doesnt do it for you

        Utter BS. He ignored SIX warnings to pay more attention. The marketing doesn't come into it.

        And as a former SEAL - who presumably trained to have Situational Awareness well in excess of the normal herd - he had even less excuse than most.

        Autodarwinated. Nuff Said.

        1. Louis Schreurs BEng

          Re: Technology assists it doesnt do it for you

          Autodarwinated. Love that.

          Instant Karma. Love that too.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Technology assists it doesnt do it for you

      "Give an inch and some people will take a mile. I've seen too many people assuming that to assist or aid is to do completely, it isn't."

      You'd almost think no one had ever seen the apocryphal story of the motor-home driver crashing while on cruise control because he went back to make a cup of coffee. Considering the number of times it gets trotted out, you'd think that any company producing vehicles with cruise control from basic through adaptive, to lane-assist, they'd have big warnings all over the place, eg manuals and on the sun-visor, maybe on the steering wheel, to remind people they are still in charge. People are people, and the engineers simply CANNOT assume that drivers will understand the limitations.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Technology assists it doesnt do it for you

        The trouble with big stupid warnings all over the place is that it can make it harder to spot the warnings that are actually useful, though I've noticed some manufacturers have found a way to deal with that: some products I've bought recently had an 8-page booklet, 7 pages of which were covered with stupid boilerplate warnings possibly generated by the legal department, mostly written in the imperative, while the 8th page had some genuinely useful advice written by an intelligent human for consumption by intelligent humans, giving concrete examples of things that could go wrong and ways in which the product differs, perhaps unexpectedly, from other products. Because of the fonts and layout it's very easy to find the one page worth reading.

  13. DJ Smiley

    'Giving warnings that can be ignored is pointless...'

    Pretty sure the law states you are responsible for your car when driving, no matter what systems exist around it (and Captains of Boats and Planes have the same thing - even with Autopilot.)

    Rules, advise and laws all exist, doesn't mean everyone will obey them.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Rules, advise and laws all exist, doesn't mean everyone will obey them."

      But what happens when it reaches the point that NONE obey them, giving you a situation like Prohibition where everyone broke the law because they felt it was an ass?

  14. Craig 2

    Skipped to the end after a few comments because this is an unsolvable & unknowable situation. Every side arguing like they are 100% correct with no room for error. This may, that might, blah blah.... If you believe in self-driving cars you'll make excuses for what happened, if you don't then you'll use it as proof they are the devil incarnate...

    Self-driving cars are coming.

    There will be fewer accidents.

    That is all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Self-driving cars are coming.

      In this case, at 74mph, directly towards a much larger and heavier vehicle

    2. Alumoi

      Self-driving cars are coming.

      There will be fewer accidents.

      Yeah, because all cars will obey all traffic laws so they'll never move from the spot.

  15. Little_Crow

    A dead mans switch is definitely the logical extension of the technology they're already using, but it's only designed to stay in lane, so pulling over to stop might be asking too much right now.

    Switching on hazard lights, slowing gently to a stop, applying the horn etc, is going to leave a car prone on the highway, but this is a scenario you'd hope other drivers are ready for.

    We're unlikely to ever know, but I'm going to assume the best of the deceased and he was incapacitated through no fault of his own and this sadly had a tragic end.

  16. myhandler

    So let me get this straight - Tesla uses AI hooked up to a camera to recognise obstacles?

    There's no fall back with a proximity detection system like radar?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Darwin award time...

    "Brown “was a friend to Tesla ...who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission"

    Well more fool him, pity he had to pay for his stupidity with his life, but thats what happens when you put your life in the hands of beta software and don't bother paying any attention!

    I feel sorry for the truck driver.

  18. John 104

    @AC

    "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."

    You have no idea what you are talking about.

    In large metro areas we do have electrified rail. The size of the country prohibits running a 3rd rail for class A railroads. The distances are too great.

    Health Care. Well, it isn't perfect and is getting worse from a cost perspective, but I've heard plenty of horror stories about the 'free' health care in the UK.

    Building code in the US is probably the best in the world. We have high rise buildings that can withstand 7.0+ earth quakes and homes that can do the same. Older buildings are either required to be brought up to code or are condemned. And considering the tragic fire last week in the UK due to cutting corners, I don't think you have any room to talk there.

    Car safety requirements are a big reason why a good percentage of cars built in Europe are not allowed into this country.

    Shall I continue?

    1. Simon 4
      Coat

      'Mericah

      Actually, in the U.K., electrified NATIONAL railways run NOT with a third rail but with overhead cables and a pantograph to bridge the gap - like trolley buses.

      We have rail lines running from London up to Scotland. It's 415 miles from London to Edinburgh. The US is big, but not that big to have more than 500 miles between stations.

      As for your "best in the world" building code, that's total cobblers. Buildings may be earthquake proof in areas like San Andreas fault, but they're still poorly constructed.

      Compare a partition wall in the U.K. with the US. We use insulation between the two layers of plasterboard (drywall) and then two skims of plaster. Solid walls.

      You guys just hang the dry wall and say "job done".

      You build matchstick houses in tornado zones (ever read Three Little Pigs?)

      I've seen office towers under construction that were made of timber FFS!

      And of course your electrical system is a joke compared to the UK. Just compare our plugs, the safest in the world, with your flimsy bits of tinfoil that are so good at electrocuting people.

      Anyway, back to the driving.... many Americans know about the daily fender benders on their commute. They often happen at the exact same place. But they don't happen because of some weird road layout. They happen because a good portion of Americans drive like total asshats.

      In the U.K. we learn about braking distances and the "two second rule", which you double when it's wet. But that doesn't work for Americans. If you follow the two second rule, you end up with some dickhead flashing, honking his horn and gesticulating wildly that you're in his way. He wants to drive at 90 mph in the pouring rain, no headlights, and use the driving technique you used on 80s driving arcade games.

      All y'all drive too damn close to each other.

  19. nilfs2
    Coat

    You can't fix stupid with technology

    Driverless cars are on Alpha stage at best, he made a stupid decision and got the expected output, no one to blame but him, he paid the ultimate price.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If $50 won't buy side bars

    It should at least pay for lightweight reflective markers suited to the cameras in use.

    Something like a big (1m long) bar or QR code slung under the trailer side might increase the detection distance?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: If $50 won't buy side bars

      QR code slung under the trailer side

      ... containing the URL for joesfenderbendershop.com, or similar car parts pr0n.

  21. Sherrie Ludwig

    Seeing the truck

    I have read with interest all the "why didn't the autopilot/driver see the truck?" I won't speculate on white truck/sky contrast, but from personal experience there are vehicle and environment colors or conditions where an otherwise visible vehicle is hard to discern. There is a bright metallic blue that comes out every seven or eight years for US cars which looks lovely and quite vivid on the carlot, but somehow disappears on a sunny day. My mum had one, had three wrecks all adjudged not her fault, the last one totaled the car, all in under two years. You never see an older model with that color. IIRC, it was a Tyrol Blue Pontiac Tempest. Giving away my age here.

  22. Dave 13

    Simple solution

    The autopilot could, after warning the driver a few times, simply slow the vehicle down until they put their hands back on the wheel and show they're conscious and aware. If the driver continues to ignore, pull over on the shoulder and stop. Software can address some human stupidity but it's a hard problem and the human owns the blame when SW can't get their attention.

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    All this argument about side-impact bars is well taken, but the fact remains this car ran into the trailer at very high speed while the driver's brain was somewhere else.

    Perhaps it's time to look at the question of speed while under "autopilot". Maybe limiting it to, say, 40 mph would ensure that people only used the function at survivable roadspeeds.

    When I say 'survivable', I am of course referring to the car occupants. The poor buggers standing amongst the scenery are on their own.

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