back to article Aut-doh!-pilot: Driver jams 65mph Tesla Model S under fire truck, walks away from crash

Another Tesla driver needs reminding that the flash motor's Autopilot mode doesn't mean you can ignore what's on the road. On Monday morning, a Tesla Model S slammed into a stationary firetruck at around 65mph on Interstate 405 in Culver City, California. The car was driven under the fire engine, although the driver was able …

  1. unwarranted triumphalism

    Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

    There should be at least 10 of them here by now to assure us that this is nothing to do with their precious lord and master and his criminal enterprise.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

      Hmm, instead, we get you, with your ridiculous tirade.

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

        Another one white-knighting for that criminal. Lucrative is it?

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

          There you go again. What did I tell you last time?

          1. unwarranted triumphalism

            Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

            I never read your asinine replies.

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

      @unwarranted triumphalism

      Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

      ???

      Sorry, but some tool sticking the car on autopilot before going to sleep or surfing porn, can hardly be blamed on the manufacturer of the vehicle.

      That said, a simmple law change to ensure the driver inputs are recorded immediately prior to any accident where autopilot is engaged should suffice. If the drive doesn't react when they should have done, charge them with dangerous driving. It is, after all, a matter of time before one of these buffoons kills someone because they're too stupid to read the warning about what autopilot is and isn't.

      1. Domquark

        Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

        @LucreLout

        "Sorry, but some tool sticking the car on autopilot before going to sleep or surfing porn, can hardly be blamed on the manufacturer of the vehicle."

        Trouble is, if you call a spade a spade, most people will assume that it is a spade. Autopilot is a contraction of Automatic Pilot which by definition is "a device for keeping an aircraft on a set course without the intervention of the pilot". Most people know what an Autopilot is, so when Tesla call their glorified cruise control "Autopilot" the tool (as you call him/her) that is behind the wheel quite logically and reasonably thinks that this is akin to an aircraft's autopilot.

        The reality is that the Autopilot system that Tesla have is cruise control, but they can't call it that because Autopilot sounds so much better. Because Tesla's own manual state that the driver has to be aware at all times, WTF is the point of having it? Rip it out, save money, save lives (by not confusing people with misnomers like Autopilot) - everybody happy!

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

          The reality is that the Autopilot system that Tesla have is cruise control, but they can't call it that because Autopilot sounds so much better. Because Tesla's own manual state that the driver has to be aware at all times, WTF is the point of having it? Rip it out, save money, save lives (by not confusing people with misnomers like Autopilot) - everybody happy!

          I quite like that Tesla backers and owners are funding a lot of R&D that may one day lead to self driving cars. People that are too stupid to use a car should be denied access to one - whether that's an ICE or a self driving ladyshaver.

          Dangerous driving happens when a driver takes an action or fails to take one in line with expectations of a normally competent driver. As such, engaging autopiolt and then not mentally driving the vehicle, fits all the required criteria. We have sufficient law on the statute books to handle this already - the police & CPS just need to be given appropriate guidance. (Yes, I realise this accident was in the USA, but they too have sufficient law)

          1. Domquark

            Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

            I would prepose that the money would be better spent on automising trains. Maybe they would run on time?

            The DLR has operated driverless for years (yes, I know it was designed to be driverless), the only 2 accidents they have had were when a human was driving! But at least (here in the UK at least), we may end up with a railway that is fit for purpose!

            1. Hans 1 Silver badge

              Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

              @Domquark

              I would prepose that the money would be better spent on automising trains. Maybe they would run on time?

              May I attract your attention to the FACT that we have had autonomous trains since 1983 in productive service ? Look through my comments, I commented on them not too long ago ... if you know the Intertubes, you might have heard of search engines named Bing, Google, or DuckDuckGo ... search for "VAL trains". If you ask nicely, I might even send you a fully prepared link to the search results of a search engine ...

              1. Domquark

                Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

                @Hans1

                May I attract your attention to the FACT that I never said that autonomous trains did not exist? In fact, I mentioned the DLR, which has been going since the 90's and I have used many times.

            2. PNGuinn
              FAIL

              Autopilot shmaltopilot

              The fact is that a driver on a public road (and in the UK that can include your private driveway) has to be alert and fully in charge of the vehicle AT ALL TIMES.

              If an autopilot is simply a cruse control to maintain a set speed until the driver touches the accelerator or brake, that's fine - it's not interfering with his concentration. But when it takes over the driving to the point where the driver's immediate concentration and speed of reaction is impeded - and by definition, an emergency demands lightening reactions - It's time to ban the damn things. Things like autopark ate perhaps ok, IF you can convince the driver to keep a check on the machine. Can we honestly, in the present state of the art, trust the machine and its software to spot every animal and child and idiot?

              IF, and its' a big if, the technology improves to the point that it's acceptable on the road, great. Until then, wait. The motor industry hasn't exactly got a stellar record on safety.

              I can see applications for driverless cars - I'm past retirement age, and I've no idea how long I'll de able to go on driving. Dad had to give up at 82 when his eyesight started to fail. An uncle went on into his late 90s. (His memory had totally gone, but as long as he had someone to tell him "turn left an the lights, next right, left into the supermarket car park, park the car ... he was fine. Driving skills, eyesight, reactions etc. Doctor checked him out.

              The sharks in the motor industry need to be freed from the "me too" pressure and made to meet very stringent standards. Preferably mandating open source software.

              On the railways automation is simpler. The train is constrained by rails and the railway company owns the rights of the road. But even here, with all the automation, where there are still drivers, there are regular audible alerts to signals which the driver has to cancel, or the train stops. Train separation protocols mean that can be accomplished safely. Rail is not comparable to road.

              1. Muscleguy Silver badge

                Re: Autopilot shmaltopilot

                My father was a mechanical engineer for NZ Rail. There was a dead man's switch system back then, the driver had to keep his foot on a pedal. Though it was a common problem to find their lunch box on the pedal.

                The more modern regular warnings requiring interaction which the driver cannot subvert (without a screwdriver, soldering iron etc and maybe a Pi to spoof the auto reporting system as well).

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

            "(Yes, I realise this accident was in the USA, but they too have sufficient law)"

            Welllllll, The governor of California signed into law some legislation that specifically allows manufacturers to test automated driving systems on public roads with almost no restrictions. Just register the car (with a recent increase in registration plus an added fee for EVs) as a test vehicle. Uber was refusing to do even that (not surprising) and got booted out. They set up again in Arizona and got in an accident IIRC.

        2. steward
          Boffin

          Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

          "Autopilot is a contraction of Automatic Pilot which by definition is "a device for keeping an aircraft on a set course without the intervention of the pilot".

          And if you're a pilot on an aircraft and you're surfing the web when you're supposed to be looking out of the cockpit for other planes, flocks of birds that can jam your engines - and you survive your mistake - you're going to lose your license.

          Keeping an aircraft on a set course does not mean keeping an aircraft away from obstacles. In fact, the Tesla is more automatic than the definition for an aircraft; there are some avoidance systems built in.

          1. Domquark

            Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

            Hmm. Not many obstacles at 30,000 feet! Looking out for other planes is taken care of by TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) and on-board RADAR, as the chances are, a pilot of your average airliner wouldn't see another aircraft in time to avoid a collision. Your average 747 is crusing at 550MPH. And if you are in a situation where you do need to keep an aircraft away from obstacles, you're either landing/taking off or flying way too low!

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

              "Not many obstacles at 30,000 feet! "

              Exactly. The autopilot allows the pilots to monitor all of the systems of the aircraft eliminating the Flight Engineer job. They are also keeping track of weather in their flight path and at their destination. It's better for gas mileage too. Long straight flights are tedious to the extreme and at 30k+ feet, there aren't any references so you are sure you are straight and level. Finally, there should be more time to asses a situation and take over if necessary in an aircraft.

          2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

            Not a lot of point in looking out of the window if you are flying in IMC (i.e. inside cloud). Not even a lot of point in looking out if you are flying above unbroken cloud or the sea either, because "empty field myopia" will usually ensure that your eyes are not focussed on anything outside the aircraft so you wouldn't see conflicting traffic anyway.

            You do need to monitor your instruments to ensure that the aircraft systems, engines, fuel quantity, course, speed & altitude are all satisfactory, and possibly keep an eye on the weather radar, but you only need to do that every few minutes.

            While leaving the cockpit unattended while you take a leak or make a coffee is illegal and not recommended, the probability that anything bad will happen is extremely low, and many pilots of large transport aircraft do so routinely on the boring parts of a long-haul flight while the other pilot is sleeping. It's even been known for both pilots to fall asleep. Most bad things that could happen will bring up an alarm and wake them up.

        3. Patrician

          Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

          "Trouble is, if you call a spade a spade, most people will assume that it is a spade. Autopilot is a contraction of Automatic Pilot which by definition is "a device for keeping an aircraft on a set course without the intervention of the pilot". Most people know what an Autopilot is, so when Tesla call their glorified cruise control "Autopilot" the tool (as you call him/her) that is behind the wheel quite logically and reasonably thinks that this is akin to an aircraft's autopilot."

          I'm pretty sure that even when an aircraft is on auto-pilot a human being is expected to be monitoring the aircraft systems and radar/instruments at all times; I don't think that anyone believes that auto-pilot can be engaged and the flight crew pop off to bed for a "solid eight hours" leaving the flight-deck unmanned.

          1. Domquark

            Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

            @Patrician

            "I'm pretty sure that even when an aircraft is on auto-pilot a human being is expected to be monitoring the aircraft systems and radar/instruments at all times; I don't think that anyone believes that auto-pilot can be engaged and the flight crew pop off to bed for a "solid eight hours" leaving the flight-deck unmanned."

            I'm not suggesting a pilot would or should leave the flight deck unattended. What i am saying is the autopilot on a commercial aircraft is a complex beast indeed, able to follow a planned course, make required turns, course corrections, speed and height changes etc. all completely automatically without pilot intervention. It is even possible for the autopilot to land the plane. In fact, the only things a Cat IIIb type autopilot does not do is taxi and take off (but this is to be included when Cat IIIc systems come out). Unless something happens, the pilot rarely needs to intervene. In a Tesla however, a driver needs to be concentrating at all times on the road ahead, needs both hands on the wheel to steer (the "autosteer function is minimal) and their foot hovering ready to apply the brake. What's the point in having it? What's the point in sticking an extra £10 or £20 grand's worth of equipment in, when you can get cruise control for free in another cheaper model?

            For Tesla to call their cruise control system the same as a commercial aircraft system is just wrong (I would say criminally), as the capabilities are a world apart and it is [understandably] confusing for the average monkey behind the wheel of a car.

        4. bigtimehustler

          Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

          That is what it is called on a plane, does that mean the pilot can get drunk and sit in the back? No of course not.

        5. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

          The reality is that an aircraft autopilot is FAR stupider than Tesla's autopilot. It's really only good for flying in straight lines, moving the plane up and down, and turning to follow radio beacons.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

        "can hardly be blamed on the manufacturer of the vehicle."

        I am more than happy to blame the manufacturer. If the system was nothing more than adaptive cruise control, that can be called a driver aid/assistance, but it's a half baked autonomous driving system that is unsafe to unleash on the public. I liken it to a revolver with ten thousand chambers and one round loaded. You can play Russian roulette for quite some time, but eventually there is a bang.

        As long as somebody can keep ignoring the warnings to put their hands back on the wheel without anything happening, that's a big problem. A fire truck is a heavy piece of kit. What if it was a disabled car with people inside. A collision at 65mph is likely to be deadly for them. If the "Autopilot" can miss seeing a fire truck, a small Honda has no chance.

    3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

      You're thinking of Arse Technica. El Reg isn't infested with such types ( yet? ).

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

        I don't visit Arstechnica due to its leftwing bias.

    4. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

      and his criminal enterprise.

      I'm not a Musk fanboy. I want to see Tesla and SpaceX succeed, but not mindlessly. So I've got to ask....what's "criminal" about Tesla? There are a lot of companies that I would call criminal, but I've seen nothing to suggest as much from Tesla. Overly optimistic about what they can attain, sure. A little loose in the grip regarding reality, yeah. Criminal? How?

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

        Stealing money from the taxpayer and using it to create products which kill their owners is usually considered criminal where i live.

        Is it not on your planet?

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Where's the Elon Musk Attack Brigade today?

        Putting razor blades in a kids craft kit will probably be fine for many kids, but it's not suitable for a goodly number.

        If it was just about the Tesla owner killing only themselves and doing no more damage than creating a furrow on a patch of dirt, Ok, let them have it. The problem is that an accident to going to affect other people.

        I don't avocate that all consumer goods are built to protect the lowest common denominator, but I feel that Tesla's semi-autonomous is such that it's very likely to lull drivers into very unsafe practices since most of the time it works well enough. Level 3 to Level 4 autonomy is the death zone.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. DNTP

    2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

    1988: "Dude, it was, like, on Cruise Control!"

    1888: "Consarn it, Sheriff, I'm drunk but the horse is sober!"

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

      1888: "Consarn it, Sheriff, I'm drunk but the horse is sober!"

      Interestingly, in the UK at least, you can be charged with being ' Drunk in charge of livestock'.

      A horse riding acquaintance was back in the '90s one Christmas eve lunchtime she was relying on the horse to get her back to the stables after a bit of a session in the local.

      My wife at that time owned a horse that was partial to bottled lager, he could drink it out of the bottle.

      I have no idea if there are laws about being in charge of drunken livestock.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

        did he/she open the bottle - if so, well impressed. My grandfather used to dose some of his cattle with stout mixed in with the bran during certain parts of the year. Swore by it, although my grandmother was convinced it was simply a way of allowing him to get a swift Guinness or three while out in the shed. Cattle looked good though (and happy).

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

          "did he/she open the bottle"

          'He' had the teeth for bottle opening but lacked the oppsablethumbs to grip the bottle.

        2. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

          I had ancestor who was married to a woman of a temperance persuasion. He like a tipple occasionally but was not usually allowed at home. He got a bit under the weather and the doctor prescribed stout as a tonic. He thought he was quids in but his wife decided that since it was medicine he would have to have it doled out by the spoonful like other medicines.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

            "He thought he was quids in but his wife decided that since it was medicine he would have to have it doled out by the spoonful like other medicines."

            He's still lucky that the wife wasn't of the opinion that piping it in from the other end would be more efficacious.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

          I was watching a show on beer where the horses drawing the brewer's dray were very fond of a pint at lunch. They didn't open them bottles themselves.

    2. Mayday Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

      In Aussie if you are riding a pushie and you are pissed can be charged with "being drunk while in charge of a carriage" but it won't affect your driver's licence.

      Bit of useless info there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

        But if you’re drunk in charge of a sheep, it’s called “being on a date” in Australia.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

          I thought that was in Scotland?

        2. Scoular

          Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

          Wrong country it is NZ.

          OK silly in either case

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

            According to the police, the idiot tried to claim that he was OK to risk his own life, and that of other drivers, by driving drunk because his Tesla was on Autopilot. He was cuffed at the scene and charged with driving under the influence.

            Absolutely staggering.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

          "But if you’re drunk in charge of a sheep, it’s called “being on a date” in Australia."

          Hey those Velcro gloves were expensive. Gotta get ones money's worth out of them.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

        > In Aussie if you are riding a pushie and you are pissed can be charged with "being drunk while in charge of a carriage" but it won't affect your driver's licence.

        I assume Pushie is an Oz term for pedal cycle...

        And the same is true in the UK, although there is no fixed alcohol level, and there is no obligation to submit to a breath/blood test. The offence is demonstrated by you being 'unable to control your vehicle'. Of course with most bikes the offence is largely self limiting.

        1. Paul Woodhouse

          Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

          ahh, I recall the good old days when I lived in Germany, NO ONE drove a car to parties, they all rode push bikes...

          had some hilarious moments of people just riding straight into bushes or just getting on one side of the bike and falling off the other...

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

            had some hilarious moments of people just riding straight into bushes or just getting on one side of the bike and falling off the other...

            During a festive evening celebrating something-or-other, one of the local security guards came in and alerted us that someone outside had been trying to get on his bike for roughly the past half hour, and would we want to help him?

            1. phuzz Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

              A friend was a little the worse for wear* at a party, so my bother drove him home.

              After an hour or two he decided he was fine to come back so hopped on his bike and tried to cycle back. After falling off a few times, he found himself back at his house, some how he'd managed to fall off, and then get back on the bike facing the wrong way down the road, without noticing.

              * there was lack of trousers involved...

          2. David Nash Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

            "hilarious moments of people just riding straight into bushes or just getting on one side of the bike and falling off the other..."

            Or coming to a stop and forgetting about the toe clips....bike falls over...ouch!

          3. Hans 1 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

            @Paul Woodhouse

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSs0GaCfpqo

            Ich hab's blau angestrichen, vom Sattel bis zum Schlauch und ich das äußerst passend weil blau bin ich manchmal auch!

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

        "In Aussie if you are riding a pushie and you are pissed can be charged with "being drunk while in charge of a carriage" but it won't affect your driver's licence.

        Bit of useless info there."

        I have looked into the uk version of this , mainly to see if it will effect your driving licence. answer:

        Yes you can be prosecuted for riding a pushbike drunk

        Yes it *may* affect your Licence - at magistrates discretion.

        It turns out you can be banned from driving for anything - its just one of the punishments in the armoury like community service , bound over , fines , jail .

        They can ban you from driving for shoplifting in theory.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

      "Consarn it, Sheriff, I'm drunk but the horse is sober!"

      You can, of course, kill yourself by falling from a horse while drunk. I had an ancestor killed that way. History doesn't record whether he was drunk but he was coming back from market.

    4. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

      I'll just leave this here Mind you, I doubt that there are electric canoes being sold with AutoPilot.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

    You call driver assistance features "Autopilot" and are surprised that people treat it like an automatic pilot (driver). You produce something like a Level 2.5 system that works well 95% of the time and are surprised that people lose focus and don't intervene in time in an emergency. Sorry, but anything between Level 2 and Level 5 is lulling you into a false sense of security, and accidents like this will happen.

    1. petur

      Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

      Don't start that discussion again, for a start.

      We've been here before, including the analogy with what the autopilot on a plane does...

    2. Jon 37

      Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

      It's named after autopilot on a plane. Autopilot on a plane does not mean "set it and go to sleep", it means "set it so it handles the routine flying while the pilot keeps alert, looks out for other planes, talks to air traffic control, watches the instruments, and is available to take over immediately if something goes wrong."

      The fact that people think computers are magic has been a problem since Babbage invented the difference engine in 1822. As he wrote:

      > On two occasions I have been asked, — "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        The fact that people think computers are magic has been a problem

        Sadly, the ratio of people in the world at the left end of the IQ curve is pretty much a constant. I'd like to think that there are less chances nowadays for them to get into Parliament but I suspect that would be a Forlorn Hope.

        And not one rewarded by promotion and financial awards either. Or an engraved sword awarded by a Public Citizens committee either.

      2. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

        At least Babbage had several long metal poles with cogs on to try to beat sense into them....

      3. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        Autopilot on a plane does not mean "set it and go to sleep", it means "set it so it handles the routine flying while the pilot keeps alert, looks out for other planes, talks to air traffic control, watches the instruments, and is available to take over immediately if something goes wrong."

        That may be true, but Joe "not-a-pilot" Public doesn't know that.

        If you take the name at face value it's simply something which Pilots (ie. flies the plane) Automatically.

        I see both sides, but still think it's a stupid name, given its capabilities (and limitations).

    3. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

      If you drive into the back of a big red truck that's adorned with flashing lights at 65mph, it's not "an accident", it's an "on purpose".

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        With this level of stupid it really doesn't matter what you call it.

      2. Chrissy
        Coat

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        ...... in the MOV / car-share lane with only yourself on board...THAT is the real crime here!!!

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start @Chrissy

          I suppose it depends when the accident happened and whether the car-share status of the lane was time limited to peak-hours.

        2. This is my handle

          MOV lane usage

          Actually, California has weird laws about use of the "High Occupancy Lane". When I lived there, I was allowed on riding my motorcycle solo. They figured that even 1 person on a GL1000 was enough, I suspect.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

          "...... in the MOV / car-share lane with only yourself on board...THAT is the real crime here!!!"

          It's a perk for buying an EV in California if you also purchase a rather expensive sticker to go on the bumper. Those stickers expire in a few years, so at some point when EV's are more popular, they won't be available any more.

    4. pop_corn

      Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

      > "... accidents like this will happen."

      What's your point? Are you saying that "autopilot" or whatever you want to call it, is only worthwhile if it's 100.0% perfect?

      Of course not, it only has to be better than humans, and as the article says, it's already 40% better than humans, a figure I expect to improve as time goes by.

      If we put self driving (or whatever) on a pedestal of perfection, it's doomed to fail. It's the very fact that it's already very good, in that accidents like this are rare, that make them newsworthy. If Tesla's were crashing like this every week, we wouldn't be reading articles like this.

      1. James Cooke

        Re: Lithium batteries are last century's technology

        I think we would but the pitchforks would be raised even higher!

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        How many humans drive into the back of a (stationary) big bright red vehicle with flashing lights and sirens wailing? That's not a 40% improvement on human driving, under that circumstance it's about 100% worse and the main reason that we aren't hearing stories like this every week is that Tesla has a 0.2% market share (of new cars being sold?) If the market share was a significant percentage of the entire market then by laws of averages this sort of event would occour more frequently.

        The reason it's called "autopilot" is to do with publicity. If you called it "LaneKeeper" then expectations would be a lot lower and it'd be safer because people wouldn't be as likely to watch a DVD instead of watching the road. If it's called "autopilot" then people are going to treat it as one and consider that it has a lot more capability than it in fact has.

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

          How many humans drive into the back of a (stationary) big bright red vehicle with flashing lights

          You know those highways agency trucks with the massive illuminated direction arrows and flashing lights. Have you seen the size of the crash structure on those. Yes, it's a regular enough problem for them to have built that much absorption into the truck.

          I have witnessed it. You literally couldn't get anything more visible on the road.

          I'm not going to comment on the gender of the driver.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

            "I'm not going to comment on the gender of the driver."

            I'm guessing it would be hair color in one case and a certain anatomical measurement in the other?

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

          How many humans drive into the back of a (stationary) big bright red vehicle with flashing lights and sirens wailing?

          An old aquaintenance of mine was a police sergant and had to deal with someone driving into the back of his police Range Rover - while it was parked at the top of a motorway exit, in the emergency lane. With all its disco lights going.

          The famous phrase ("but I didn't see you!") was apparently uttered. Something he was quite used to since he was also a motorbike cop.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

            "Something he was quite used to since he was also a motorbike cop."

            Which I believe is where the phrase 'Looked, but didn't see' came from.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Not learning from pilots

              Air crash investigations have identified various physiological reasons humans fail to see things, and pilots get training in lookout techniques to work around those limitations. Road users don't get that training, so continue to fail to see things, or don't recognise them as a collision risk. Smaller things like bicycles and motorbikes are more likely to be masked, or hidden by the brain's image processing. There's an overview of the issues from an RAF crash investigator at the link below.

              http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/raf-pilot-teach-cyclists/

              1. Hans 1 Silver badge
                Windows

                Re: Not learning from pilots

                Road users don't get that training, so continue to fail to see things, or don't recognise them as a collision risk.

                BS argument, sounds like the drivers of old that claim "When I passed my license, we did not have round abouts, so I do not know how to drive in one."

                If while preparing for the driver's license you did not get special training to anticipate and keep an eye open for stationary vehicles, pedestrians etc YOU SIMPLY HAVE NOTHING TO DO BEHIND THE STEERING WHEEL ... it is as simple as that.

                Autopilot is meant for highways, like cruise control, AND heavy traffic or traffic jams, UNLIKE cruise control, where the repetitive use of the pedals can induce RSI, however, it does NOT relieve you of your task, control the vehicle if needed.

                Why USians don't get this is beyond me ... then again, in the US, as long as you can park a car in a 100 yard long parking slot and drive around in a circle you get your license ...

        3. Stoneshop Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

          How many humans drive into the back of a (stationary) big bright red vehicle

          Definitely not none.

          with flashing lights and sirens wailing?

          When they're stopped at the accident they keep the flashing lights on but cut the sirens.

      3. find users who cut cat tail

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        > What's your point?

        And what's yours? Fighting a strawman?

        The point is that you cannot expect people to be alert all the time with autopilot on. This is simply not how human attention works, so stop pretending it is possible and everything will be fine when the pesky humans just start doing that.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

          However you can, perhaps, expect them to be alert to life-threatening danger.

          It's one thing to be adjusting the stereo and slow to react, it's quite another to be laid out on the back seat browsing porn on your mobile phone!

      4. Alan Johnson

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        "Of course not, it only has to be better than humans, and as the article says, it's already 40% better than humans, a figure I expect to improve as time goes by."

        At best the combination of human and Tesla autopilot is 40% better than a human alone.

      5. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

        " it's already 40% better than humans"

        I don't find the approach and controls on arriving at the percentage are valid. Statistics aren't kept on how many accidents are avoided by human drivers. It's a tough metric to calculate since there are so many variables to account for.

        One problem could be that people who can afford $100k cars are just worse than average drivers. The instant performance levels in a Tesla are likely too much for many drivers. I remember when my friend put a 5l Ford V8 in an Austin Healey Bugeye and one of the first times out, almost catapulted himself into a shop window on the other side of the road. He did get the traction worked out a treat. It was very hard to spin the tires, but it would accelerate like stink, no problem. He wound up removing the passenger side with a guard rail before he completed the build and that was the end of it.

    5. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Don't call it Autopilot, for a start

      Autopilot on boat, doesn't look where it's going.

      Autopilot on plane, doesn't look where it's going.

      It's actually more autopilot than the original autopilots, so the name is suitable.

  5. petur

    anti-collision

    I am, however, interested in hearing why the anti-collision didn't do its work...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: anti-collision

      I'd like to hear that also - providing the AutoPilot was actually on.

      What is truly amazing is that people can walk away from these things. Must be giving the Darwin Award people fits.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: anti-collision

      It possibly did. The photo of the accident scene doesn't look like the car was still doing 65mph at the moment of impact.

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: anti-collision

        Exactly my thought. In fact I'll put a month's salary on that being below 45mph, absolute maximum. You don't walk away from a 65mph head-on collision with a mostly immovable object (I guess if the pump wasn't full of water the impact might have pushed it forward a bit.) I learned to drive somewhere with many mature broadleaf trees right next to the road. Much to some people's very short surprise, trees don't snap; it's like hitting a motorway bridge abutment. It's going nowhere and you're going 65-0mph in the time it takes the tree trunk to travel half the length of your car bonnet. If you're lucky - or unlucky - you might survive.

        1. cambsukguy

          Re: anti-collision

          > His deceleration from 173 km/h (108 mph) to 0 in a distance of 66 cm (26 in) is one of the highest G-loads survived in a crash.

          A Tesla is not a race car but they didn't have airbags then either. Even 65mph to 0 in a similar distance seems reasonable - mind you, I think that guy was injured (his organs moved a lot).

          I crashed into a braked truck at about 20mph and saw similar amount of front-end shortening so I concur with the general view that he was going slower at impact.

          As I have said here before, forget the auto driving, have auto braking if you want to reduce casualties at least.

          .

        2. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: anti-collision

          @Tom Paine

          Indeed...to bring their insurance costs down, a company I worked for some years ago sent all company car drivers on and advanced driving course.

          I still remember seeing pics of - and being told that - a tree (even a relatively small one) is just about the single worst thing to collide with in a car as they are almost entirely immovable and are just the right kind of shape to cause the maximum amount of damage.

          Stuck with me ever since.

          1. John Arthur

            Re: anti-collision

            Re: TonyJ, I could not agree more having seen the results of my wife's car hitting a telegraph pole at such a low speed the airbags were not deployed. Total write-off and made me feel glad she had slowed from ~50 mph to around 5 or so.

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: anti-collision

              @John Arthur. I hit a lamp post last year. Slow (waking speed impact) - it managed to be in both my visual (turned head AND mirrors) and parking sensor blindspots.

              It mashed the back quarter of the motor up unbelievably. Thank god I was going so slow.

            2. Mark York 3 Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: anti-collision

              Possibly NSFW - Jim Davison Crucial bit starts at 3.00.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6XoPn7dKvY

              Boot Note - Mr Drake is apparently THO's (Great?) Uncle.

          2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: anti-collision

            Yes I was sent on a 2 week (abbreviated) Police course and the advice was - wall or tree - always go for the wall.

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: anti-collision

          Much to some people's very short surprise, trees don't snap; it's like hitting a motorway bridge abutment

          I've seen the results of crash-test comparisons between lamp posts and trees. Given the choice, I'd really, really rather hit a lamp post.

          (I'd like to point out at this moment that the only thing I've ever hit on the road have been other vehicles. And none of them have been over 10mph. Even that time I was driving up the dual-carriageway near Watford, coming over the hill where the limit went from 70 to 40mph with about 200m until a set of lights. I sensibly put my foot on the brake to slow down only to have it go flat to the floor with no resistance. Amazingly, a Mini Metro[1] gearbox can survive going into 3rd at 70mph and 2nd at 50mph. And the handbrake can stop you surprisingly quickly as long as you stay in a straight line.)

          [1] Owned by my mother. It went surprisingly fast if you switched off all vestiges of mechanical sympathy. We sold it shortly after that (and told the buyer about the intermittent brake problem - which my mother had known about but forgotten to tell me..)

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: anti-collision

        It possibly did.

        Concur - about 30-40mph. The car looks exactly the way it looks after a front test on an EuroNcap rig.

    3. Dazed and Confused

      Re: anti-collision

      Maybe it's like W10 and was too busy loading updates to do any work.

      1. Spiz

        Re: anti-collision

        "Maybe it's like W10 and was too busy loading updates to do any work."

        I know it's a silly comment but by golly it made me laugh. Have an upvote! (and I now have to try and pick noodles out of my keyboard).

    4. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: anti-collision

      That looks like a 20 MPH impact. The entire front of the car needs to crush to survive a 65 MPH impact into a solid barrier like a fire truck. Even so, you'd be in no condition to refuse treatment.

      More likely for LA : Going 95 MPH and the anti-collision system could only see far enough ahead to shed 75 MPH before impact.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: anti-collision

        I've got to agree as it seems to me that the vehicle was braking just before impact. The back end of the fire truck is pretty low and the attitude of the Tesla looks to me to be distinctly nose down and under the back of the truck which would indicate it was braking. The damage looks comparable to the 2013 NHSTA crash test which is done square on at 35 mph but the fire truck looks to be at a slight angle.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: anti-collision

          "Tesla looks to me to be distinctly nose down and under the back of the truck which would indicate it was braking. "

          There were no skid marks to be seen behind the Tesla. The ABS must be stellar if it was braking.

          I'd rather like to see a Model S sitting close to that model of fire truck to believe that it was nose down from hard braking. The Model S has always looked to me to sit rather flat even when driven hard. Is there a "comfort" mode on the suspension for a softer ride?

    5. The Nazz Silver badge

      Re: anti-collision - avoidance

      I'm mystified why the car didn't just floor it and steer away from the Firetruck?

      Optimal acceleration to the wheels coupled with optimal traction? How wide is a firetruck, 8'?

      Must've been easier for the processors to navigate other vehicles around than stopping in an incredibly quick manner?

      Presumably such "programmed software" doesn't do much in this area?

      Anyways, last Sat morning our local fire lads had a quiet morning and were washing down the trucks as usual when a young lad appeared, with his soap truck being pulled by his pet cat and dog. As the lad took an interest in the men so did they in him.

      "what you got there sonny?"

      "It's my fire truck"

      "Mighty nice firetruck you got there sonny"

      "Thank you"

      "Can't help noticing but would you get more speed out of your firetruck if you attached the dog's lead to it's collar and not it's balls?"

      "Yeah, maybe so, but then what would i do for the siren?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: anti-collision - avoidance

        We have no idea if/what vehicle was driving next to the tesla at the time, preventing avoidance - I assume Teslas aren't programmed to sideswipe the vehicle next door to save on braking...

      2. Named coward

        Re: anti-collision - avoidance

        @The Nazz "I'm mystified why the car didn't just floor it and steer away from the Firetruck?"

        Because Tesla doesn't have an autopilot, it has driver assistance - the driver is supposed to see the stationary fire truck on the highway and make the necessary adjustments themselves

  6. mad_dr
    Stop

    6 Warnings to keep your hands on the wheel

    Instead of just 'beefing up' the process that warns Telsa drivers whose cars are on autopilot to remain attentive and keep their hands on the wheel, is there a good reason why Tesla doesn't just program the car to come to a stop safely and lock-out the autopilot function for, say, the next hour or so?

    1. macjules Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: 6 Warnings to keep your hands on the wheel

      Oh, but Tesla give you so many LOVELY things to do in your car while you are driving, so why wouldn't you want to do such clever distractions as Easter Egg hunts (Page 180)?

    2. petur

      Re: 6 Warnings to keep your hands on the wheel

      It already does. If it thinks you're not keeping the hands on the wheel, it disables autopilot and the car must come to a complete stop before it can be enabled again.

    3. Marcus Fil
      Joke

      Re: 6 Warnings to keep your hands on the wheel

      The seventh warning ends "...within 3 seconds or driver rectal spike will be activated". Hi Elon, TFTFY.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 6 Warnings to keep your hands on the wheel

      "If the driver is driving on an unrestricted road—with a center divider or limited access—with maximum cruise speed of 90 mph, the initial visual warning for hands-off operation would occur after 3 minutes. If the driver does not place hands on the steering wheel within 15 seconds of the initial warning, an auditory warning sounds, followed by another auditory warning of greater intensity. If the driver does not place hands on the steering wheel within 5 seconds of the second auditory warning, the system initiates controlled deceleration of the vehicle. Furthermore, at that time, the system disables the use of Autopilot for the rest of that ignition cycle.

      Tesla also added another constraint to Autopilot 8; Tesla referred to this as a “three strikes and you’re out” rule. If any three warnings occur during a single trip, that sequence will cause Autopilot to be disabled for the remainder of the trip."

      1. Missing Semicolon

        Re: 6 Warnings to keep your hands on the wheel

        So, you have to watch, concentrate, keep your hands near the wheel. If you follow the instructions properly what's it for?

  7. Rebel Science

    The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

    The nasty truth is that deep learning is prone to catastrophic failures. It's the same flaw that pretty much doomed expert systems. In fact, despite denials, DNNs ARE expert systems. Unlike human drivers, a deep learning system, the kind used in self-driving cars, cannot see something it has not been pre-trained to recognize. It's a monumental flaw that guarantees that catastrophic failures are unavoidable.

    But the deep learning community will continue to hype this technology to death. The AI winter cometh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

      Interesting as your comments are, they've got fuck all to do with a Tesla, which does not claim to be, and is not, an autonomous vehicle.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

        No, but they do claim semi-autonomous driving.

        And also:

        "As of 2017, Autopilot included adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, emergency braking, Autosteer (semi-automated steering), AutoPark (parallel and perpendicular parking) and Summon (recalling the vehicle from a parking place)."

        Seems that the emergency braking isn't really up to scratch, nor Autosteer. Whether or not "Autopilot" is enabled, why does a car that CAN detect it's about to hit a large stationary fire truck at 60mph allow such an action when it clearly should have been able to brake in time?

        And, sorry, but the OP is right... such things are not intelligent in any way, shape or form which is why even with Autopilot on they don't see large trucks crossing the road ahead and plough straight into them. It's not been trained on the exact circumstance, so it's reaction to it is largely arbitrary. And yet they're claiming you can let it safely "autosteer", "autopark", "drive itself from a parking place", "brake in an emergency", "tell if you're straying out of a lane", and "change speed to match surrounding cars" as per the list above.

        No matter what you might think, the technology isn't there and companies like Tesla are complicit in letting people believe it is. We do not have AI, or anything vaguely intelligent enough to do these things. They're all just "trained" heuristical systems that are pretty much unpredictable in any given situation.

      2. Rebel Science

        Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

        Interesting as your comments are, they've got fuck all to do with a Tesla, which does not claim to be, and is not, an autonomous vehicle.

        You realize that the Tesla vehicle was on AutoPilot and that 'Auto' means autonomous, don't you?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

          You realize that the Tesla vehicle was on AutoPilot and that 'Auto' means autonomous, don't you?

          No, it doesn't, Auto in this case means automatic, not the same thing at all.

          To quote from the Tesla manual:

          Traffic-Aware Cruise Control is designed to slow down Model S if needed to maintain a selected time-based distance from the vehicle in front, up to the set speed. Traffic-Aware Cruise Control does not eliminate the need to watch the road in front of you and to apply the brakes if needed...

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

          You realize that the Tesla vehicle was on AutoPilot and that 'Auto' means autonomous, don't you?

          Really? How smart is your smart watch?

          1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
            Terminator

            Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

            Or indeed your Smart car.

    2. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

      Not really my area, but presumably as more vehicles do more autonomous miles (and occasional encounter an unanticipated crash condition), the number of unanticipated conditions likely enough to occur during the vehicle's lifetime drops off exponentially. No?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

        " the number of unanticipated conditions likely enough to occur during the vehicle's lifetime drops off exponentially. No?"

        But is that how it works? Come to that, how does it work? Does the human driver's response of "I don't like the look of that" derive from sorting through a growing list of things they've encountered previously or simply an appreciation that it's big, it looks solid and the distance is closing too fast? Other than inattention how does a human driver fail to handle a bad situation? Is it just down to there being no way it can be handled (e.g. vehicle emerges at speed from blind entry side road without stopping) or is it information overload with an over complex situation? What would an AI system do? In the side road case it would be no better but would it be better or worse at handling the information overload? Does the brain's architecture, essentially parallel, process information better than a computer, faster but essentially serial?

        1. Remy Redert

          Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

          In the vast majority of cases, you should expect the AI to do better because it has a much faster response time than the human driver, which means even if an accident is unavoidable, the AI will be go slower than the human.

          The problem is that the Tesla's autopilot is not at the point where it can do this reliably. Funnily enough, the emergency braking systems in more and trucks and some of the higher end cars are getting to the point where they can reliably perform an emergency stop.

          Either the Tesla's sensors failed horribly, the autopilot failed horribly or the autopilot wasn't turned on and for some reason, emergency braking is linked to it rather than being a separate system.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

            Either the Tesla's sensors failed horribly, the autopilot failed horribly or the autopilot wasn't turned on and for some reason, emergency braking is linked to it rather than being a separate system.

            I wonder how high up the sensors are located? It's entirely possible that the view of the fire engine, from the sensors position, was blocked by a vehicle in front, which then changed lanes because of the fire truck, leaving the auto pilot scrabbling to stop.

            Just a guess, based on 30 years of watching humans encounter and screw up that exact problem.....

    3. Rebel Science

      Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

      I see the DeepMind employees and fans are out in force. Makes no difference. DeepMInd is just a deep learning outfit. Their leader, Hassabis, does not even know that the brain learns without backprop. It's embarrassing.

    4. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

      "a deep learning system ... cannot see something it has not been pre-trained to recognize."

      That's just not true. You'd expect a classifier to pick out the things it recognises just like a human. So even if it had never seen a fire engine then you'd expect it to say vehicle even if it's not sure what type of vehicle.

      Pretty much the same way as a two year old human will classify all construction vehicles as "digger".

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

        That's just not true. You'd expect a classifier to pick out the things it recognises just like a human. So even if it had never seen a fire engine then you'd expect it to say vehicle even if it's not sure what type of vehicle.

        I'd.. hope not. Or this is the problem. The report following the 'Tesla Into Truck' death described the autopilot as having a database of carbutts to check against. So an image recognition challenge. Other sensors looked to be too short range to help at high speed, or triggered correctly so the collision ended up low speed. Having a database full of every possible object you could drive into may help a Tesla AI win at 'I Spy', but I'd prefer something different. So a 'simple' check to see if the space ahead is larger than the car. Or large enough that if a seat tensioner yoinked the driver/passenger seats flat, they'd mostly fit. But that's also challenging to scan the road ahead for obstacles, and far enough ahead to stop the vehicle.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

          Machine learning of a trained network tends to have a logarithmic pattern - it learns quickly at first, then quickly plateaus and it takes a lot to "untrain" it onto something else.

          This is why most of these "AI" things peak with basic functionality, because after 100 trainings it might get the idea, but between 100,000 and 1,000,000 trainings it improves very little indeed. And it also becomes MUCH harder at that point to change what it was trained on... because it may have reinforced the wrong parameters a million times and you can only feed it a handful of corrections.

          This is why Google doesn't have just one massive AI that they use to do all their AI jobs (e.g. "Viki"). They start fresh each time and retrain only on what they want it to know. Because when the plateau strikes, it's no longer any fun to beat your head against a brick wall. Their Go robot loses at poker, their poker robot loses at Go.

          It's also the reason that PhD students in the area can operate - train a model, get it to do something interesting, realise that you can't make it do any more, write up paper, flee for some high-paid job.

          Anything sold to you as "AI" today is lying. It's not even close. It's just a huge statistical model with heuristics to tune it to what you want it to do. It's not intelligent in any way, it's just seeking statistical similarities with its training material. The more training material, the slower, harder and less reliable a particular result will be (e.g. train it to see bananas and apples and it will start to classify things in the wrong group, as opposed to just training it to see bananas and saying yes/no). And the best bit - being "AI" you have absolutely no idea what criteria it's judging on. You train it, sure, but is it just looking for "image is mostly yellow" or "image has mostly yellow in the middle" or "image has a curve" or what? You have no idea the hidden criteria it's associating with the image of the bananas you're training it on. Which means you have no idea how it will react to any one image, that you have to counter-train it (i.e. give it lots of things that are not bananas), and you will also find it very difficult to modify its behaviour later on if it turns out to not be looking for what you think.

          Pretty much, there's not much difference between what people are pushing as "AI" and a Bayesian spam filter. Sure, they're useful. But they are far from reliable or predictable. And at the end of the day it takes a human to feed it enough data (not just emails but "This was spam", "This wasn't spam") to actually get close to useful, and then it can be easily undone by anything it's not encountered before.

          That's a worrying facet for a machine that's driving your car in the real world. Pretty much if a UFO were to park itself on the M25, people would still recognise it as a hazard and know how to stop their cars safely. "AI" like this won't necessarily, and you have absolutely no way to tell what it'll do until the day it happens.

          1. Baldrickk Silver badge

            Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

            That's a worrying facet for a machine that's driving your car in the real world. Pretty much if a UFO were to park itself on the M25, people would still recognise it as a hazard and know how to stop their cars safely. "AI" like this won't necessarily, and you have absolutely no way to tell what it'll do until the day it happens.

            I would hope that an unknown object, vehicle or not would be identified as an obstruction and handled appropriately.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Jellied Eel Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

          "The report following the 'Tesla Into Truck' death described the autopilot as having a database of carbutts to check against."

          Which report was that? Would you be able to provide a citation for that assertion, as the NTSB report certainly didn't say that.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Jellied Eel The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

            But of course..

            https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HAR1702.pdf

            2.2.4 Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking

            On the 2015 Tesla Model S, the FCW/AEB system uses vehicle-resident camera and radar sensors and computer processing to provide warnings to the driver and to activate braking to prevent or mitigate an imminent crash. The system is designed to recognize and detect slow, stopped, and decelerating vehicles when they are traveling ahead of the Tesla in the same lane. TACC, when enabled, incorporates an AEB feature that can respond to an object that the camera system detects in the Tesla’s path but cannot classify as a vehicle. Such an unclassified object in the path of the Tesla must be detected by both the camera and the radar for the AEB to activate.

            Another report had a handy diagram showing sensor locations and view arcs. There's a related presentation that goes over some of the datalogging capabilities as well. So unless it was a stealth fire truck (California, possible), the obstruction should have been detected. And I suspect was, ie reports of 65mph but damage looks low speed. So driver may have ignored warnings and the car slowed itself.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Jellied Eel The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

              The claim: "The report following the 'Tesla Into Truck' death described the autopilot as having a database of carbutts to check against."

              Right, so it doesn't mention anything about having a database of car butts to check against!

              Database of car butts = a collection of know rear ends of cars that are programmed into it, meaning that a car that is not in the database would not be recognised.

              That section you highlighted clearly does not mention that it mentions that the FCW/AEB is designed to recognise slowing and stopped vehicles.

              Autopilot which is a collection of a number of systems including TACC.

              Your highlighted paragraph specifically mentions that TACC can detect other objects in its path.

              Therefore the claim that "The report following the 'Tesla Into Truck' death described the autopilot as having a database of carbutts to check against." is busted, I'd say.

    5. Jon 37

      Re: The Nasty Little Truth About Deep Learning

      The thing is that humans are so bad at driving, an imperfect AI can still have a better average safety record than humans.

      But it's going to fail in *different* ways, there will be scenarios where an average human driver would have been fine and the computer kills everyone, and there will be scenarios where the human would have killed people and the computer has no problem.

      Of course, "computer controlled car goes for drive, no-one dies" is not (any longer) a news story, so much of the press will be of the form "computer screws up when human would have been fine".

  8. Stu 18

    of course you could

    just program the 'autopilot' to keep slowing down until it is crawling or stopped if the user will not conform to whatever eyeball scanning, hand holding or whatever it is that it checks for. Either user gets the message and conforms or it goes so slow that the cops pull it over for being dumb (it is an offense to go to slow as well as to fast) and if it crashes, well a slow crash is better than a fast one.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      keep slowing down until it is crawling

      Well in the Case ofthe bay bridge it sort of did that and the cops came upon a stopped car.

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Re: of course you could

      > just program the 'autopilot' to keep slowing down until

      Or better still mandate a "rat on a twat" feature. Any driver not paying sufficient attention the car calls the cops and hands over the evidence that they deserve to spend some time walking more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: of course you could

        they deserve to spend some time walking more

        Not to worry, he probably will be taking more frequent ride on Shanks' pony. Tesla are already infamous amongst owners for their appalling performance in getting car parts to authorised repairers; And the insurers are already punishing the owners with monstrous premiums because of the high cost of repairs, related to lack of trained technicians and authorised repair centres, along with the parts delays.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: of course you could

          Considering the car has a whopping great battery, maybe wiring the seat with an ' attention getter' could be an idea. A few milliamps at a lot of volts should get the driver's attention.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: of course you could

          "And the insurers are already punishing the owners with monstrous premiums because of the high cost of repairs"

          Probably why he turned down medical attention. He can't afford that and the premiums.

        3. 404 Silver badge

          Re: of course you could

          Odd you mention that about spare parts - I was all curious as to why I was seeing Tesla parts on a Chinese discount website (fasttech.com), I guess I know at least a partial why now.

        4. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: of course you could

          Premiums on my X have not changed much since I have had it (OK only one renewal so far). To be fair, I live in the countryside but it is used for business.

  9. kain preacher Silver badge

    OF course her refused medical. If that stupid to drive in the back of fire truck there is nothing that can be done. Well except making sure you can never drive again

  10. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    Every time I read one of these articles

    I'm reminded of the apocryphal* story of some random guy who purchased an RV/motorhome and took it on holiday. During the trip, the vehicle ran off the road and wrecked. When asked by the local constabulary what happened, the clueless driver responded that he'd put the vehicle on cruise control and went to make himself a sandwich.

    * I've heard at least half a dozen variants of this tale going back to the early 1970's

    1. DNTP

      Re: Every time I read one of these articles

      This was re-enacted (along with many other mythical, yet plausible scenarios) for the best documentary film ever to star Winona Ryder, appropriately titled "The Darwin Awards".

      The guy in question is being orally entertained by his wife instead of driving at the moment of impact, hence removing his reproductive potential and qualifying for a DA.

  11. Flakk

    Darwin Robbed Again

    Driver slams into the back of a stationary vehicle at 65 MPH... and walks away! Absolutely astonishing. I don't care for Tesla Motors or their vehicles, but I cannot help but to admire the engineering that kept this doofus alive.

    We can only hope that the fire truck had a rear-facing camera active at the time of the crash.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Darwin Robbed Again

      Well... pretty much if you want to pass EuroNCAP that's a necessity.

      This is why everyone moans about modern cars "being made of paper" in terms of deformability. That old Volvo might survive a tumble off a tower-block but if you're inside it you won't.... you'll be killed by that immovable object surrounding you.

      Modern cars disintegrate so that by the time your body hits something, you're only really going from about 30mph to nothing instead of 60mph to nothing. Short of head-on 70+ vs 70+mph, or anything out of the ordinary (i.e. a car front coming up into the windscreen itself), you stand a damn good chance of walking away or at the very least being alive enough to worry about the insurance.

      One of the things I did when I bought my last car was watch the EuroNCAP crash videos of it. They can be very telling as to the build quality of the car and quite why your windscreen supports are thicker than you have ever seen on an old car.

      P.S. I drive a Ford Mondeo... rated 5-stars. Watch the videos on their page. You and your passengers / kids end up in a cushion of airbags. Who cares about the car, we can walk away when some idiot like this ploughs into us.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Darwin Robbed Again

        @Lee D

        A few years ago the motoring programme that used to be on Channel 5 (5th Gear?) did a little test where they towed a smart cart up to 70mph (might even have been more) and let it crash head on into one of those huge concrete "temporary" motorway barriers you see during roadworks.

        Amazingly there was very little deformation of the car itself and even less of the safety cage. They could actually open the doors.

        My immediate thought - actually later articulated by the presenter - was that as impressive as that was, the simple fact was that you wouldn't walk away from such an impact.

        I think it was last year that NCAP celebrated 25 years of being around with some stats on how much more likely you are to walk away unhurt from a collision at various speeds than you were back then and it's staggeringly better.

        They also had some videos of then and now vehicles - the vehicles back then just folded, effectively.

  12. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Carshare

    In the carshare lane, you say ?

    So how's the passenger ?

    1. MD Rackham

      Re: Carshare

      No passenger needed in California for all electric vehicles; those get a sticker that authorizes them to use the carpool/carshare/diamond/HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane.

      As for those asking why the Tesla didn't swerve: he was on the 405--the HOV lane may have been clear enough to allow 65 MPH driving, but chances are the adjacent lanes were bumper-to-bumper stopped. "Rush hour" on that stretch of the 405 lasts 24 hours.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Carshare

        "No passenger needed in California for all electric vehicles; those get a sticker that authorizes them to use the carpool/carshare/diamond/HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane."

        New EV's qualify to purchase a sticker to use the HOV lanes, it's not an automatic gift. There are also yearly limits on how many of those stickers they issue. They expire in a few years so they aren't forever either.

  13. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    65mph crash?

    No way, not in these pictures. Maybe 20, 25mph.

  14. Richard Scratcher
    Megaphone

    Red sky at night...

    Fire truck!

    Red sky in the morning...

    Fire truck!

  15. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "As with any piece of hardware, just RTFM. "

    Therein is the problem. Either they can't read or they just don't bother reading as they're under the impression they know all about this "thing". <sigh>

    1. Joe Werner Silver badge

      Re: "As with any piece of hardware, just RTFM. "

      I'm male (and a physicist) - I have a genetic predisposition against reading manuals. I also call it cheating.

      https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2006-12-26

  16. handleoclast

    BAC

    Interesting DUI laws they have in California. If, as the article states, his BAC was 2 times the legal limit and he was passed out then that implies their legal limit is a lot higher than here.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: BAC

      it's .08 every in the US except Utah which is .05. Now He might of had drugs in him Or he could of sober up slightly between the time the crash and his blood draw.

  17. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Please tell me Tesla have finally fitted the "Yeeehaaah!" collision announcement klaxon.

    I gave them the idea, like, two years ago and more.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's only going to get worse

    When you have brain dead operators and not ready for prime time auto pilot controls, people will die. There are multiple pending lawsuits against tesla and the model S for auto pilot defects. Tesla has changed their system supplier since the prior deaths and lawsuits. The fact that there are zero mandated safety systems for auto pilot / AVs means many more people will die or be injured in the rush to be the first with a real AV.

  19. chivo243 Silver badge

    7 Ups!

    Reminds me of the scene in the 7 Ups when Roy Schieder crashes under the semi

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJPSiUj_Abo

    cool chase!

  20. Fading Silver badge
    Holmes

    Cut collisions by 40 per cent?

    "The safety board did note in its report that the introduction of Tesla's Autosteer software had cut collisions by 40 per cent."

    Not sure I believe this even after reading the report (also given the 10 percent reduction in New York's crash rates alone during the same period - I haven't checked all the states figures to see if this is repeated across the whole USA).

    I suspect the figure is accepted due to confirmation bias: earlier in the report we get this quote "IIHS research shows that AEB systems meeting the commitment would reduce rear-end crashes [emphasis added] by 40 percent"

    Need better research before the 40% factoid is accepted.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Cut collisions by 40 per cent?

      I imagine any modern vehicle with collision avoidance would cut collisions by something like 40% even if all it did was emergency brake when there was something way. Minor rear end collisions are common in stop and go traffic, and the growth in texting over the past decade has surely increased the prevalence of such collisions (at least on vehicles without any avoidance features)

  21. DougS Silver badge

    Wonder what the excuse will be this time?

    With the guy whose car drove under the truck it was claimed the truck was "hard to see" against the sky, and the height of the trailer didn't make it obvious there was an obstruction.

    Now we have a big red truck with flashing lights and the car slammed right into it at high speed. Seems they have some MAJOR problems with their software! Obviously only an idiot would rely on it since it isn't intended to be an "autopilot", but it is hard to imagine how it can be so broken as to not see that big honking truck.

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Wonder what the excuse will be this time?

      Seems they have some MAJOR problems with their buyers.

      As DNA almost wrote

      “Not only am I rich enough to afford this ship\car, I am also rich enough not to take it seriously.”

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Wonder what the excuse will be this time?

        “Not only am I rich enough to afford this ship\car, I am also rich enough not to take it seriously.”

        My take would be "I'm rich so I must be smarter than everybody else".

  22. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Pass out at twice the legal limit ?

    Hm, how can you pass out after a SINGLE pint ???????

    In California, the limit is 0.08%.

    One drink equals 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor (40% alcohol), 12 ounces of beer (4.5% alcohol), or 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol). Under current law, everything in red (.08 BAC and higher) is legally intoxicated.

    12 ounces of beer is roughly a half pint.

    Now, don't get me wrong, drink-driving is a big nonono, even after a half pint, we all, I hope, agree here ... but passing out after as much as a pint ? Crikey! That's a cheap fellow to invite over to the pub ... better, have him pay ... just have to wake him when you're thirsty, "Your turn, matey!" ... :D

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Pass out at twice the legal limit ?

      Maybe he didn't "pass out" but just "went to sleep".

    2. Paul Woodhouse

      Re: Pass out at twice the legal limit ?

      *shrug* every American I've drunk with has been a lightweight...

    3. Mark York 3 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Pass out at twice the legal limit ?

      Probably a 16oz pint at that - Lightweights.

  23. Haku

    Artificial Stupidity.

    Do you know why nobody is investigating Artificial Stupidity?

    It's because unlike Artificial Intelligence where it's speculated that it will one day exceed Human Intelligence, an Artificial Stupidity could never compete with Human Stupidity.

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Artificial Stupidity.

      > Do you know why nobody is investigating Artificial Stupidity?

      I thought lots of companies were already investing heavily in artificial stupidity, aren't we discussing a case in point?

      As the saying goes "To ere is human, but to really F*** things you you need a computer"

  24. julianbr

    This is a mutually exclusive situation.

    It beggars belief that the fools who created this system ever assumed that the driver would be "Fully Attentive" when the vehicle is on "Autopilot" - the very name implies mutually exclusive conditions.

  25. dnicholas Bronze badge

    It really shouldn't be called "Autopilot", I think that's half the problem

  26. EveryTime Silver badge

    The vast majority of comments here are assuming that the car was actually on Autopilot.

    Beyond a second-hand statement, there is no evidence that was the case. It's easy to believe that the driver made the statement, because it's self-serving to put the blame elsewhere.

    It appears that emergency forward automatic braking engaged (a feature available on recent mid-range and up cars). If I understand the Tesla system correctly, that's an always-on feature based entirely on the forward radar. While the hardware is shared, it doesn't suggest that Autopilot was engaged.

    To be charitable to the driver, after the collision he may not have remember if Autopilot was engaged and constructed a memory that it was based on the automatic braking.

  27. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    It doesn't need to be completely safe

    In order for any automatic system to be a better option than manual control, it does not have to be anything close to being 100% reliable. It merely needs to be more reliable than a human operator. I wonder how many human drivers drove into a large stationary object on the same day?

  28. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Look out ahead

    An attentive driver is going to be more likely to see something ahead in many cases. They will either see those flashing red lights if there is emergency services on site or traffic flow different than normal. It might just be lots of brake lights as drivers further ahead slow down. I've seen plenty of incidents from a fair distance off that make me get over so I can exit the motorway and avoid getting stuck in the tail back.

    I haven't seen any automated driving systems that show that they are considering traffic and obstacles further out than their immediate surroundings with the furthest extent being across a major intersection. You come up on things pretty fast at 100kph if you aren't looking ahead.

    I'll put money on the person having the "Autopilot" on as they stated and were faffing about with their phone. I'm sure we'll hear very quick from Tesla if it was definitely off. If the person was texting or on the web/net and the phone was sync'd to the car, those details might get release too at some point. There might even be a sensor in the seat that will tattle on them for being a bit "windy".

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