back to article Tesla Autopilot crash driver may have been eating a bagel at the time, was lucky not to get schmeared on road

The Tesla driver who crashed into a stationary fire truck may have had his hands off the wheel, and Autopilot engaged, as he ate a bagel and drank coffee, according the US National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday. Robin Geoulla was cruising along the Interstate 405 South in Culver City, California, on 22 January, 2018, …

  1. Kernel Silver badge

    What a complete plonker!

    "I remember that day it didn't ask me to hold the wheel," the motorist told the investigator. "My hand was right there under it but it didn't ask me. "

    So in other words, despite the fact that he knew it should have been telling him to hold the wheel and that he knew he should be holding the wheel, on this occasion he didn't do so because "it didn't ask me."

    It's hard for me to say that anyone deserved to die, but this man is so very close to crossing that line.

    1. 0laf Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: What a complete plonker!

      Beat me to it. He basically states "I was not in control of the vehicle and I was not engaged in the process of driving therefore did not see the object I crashed into".

      Your vehicle, you are in control, your fault.

      As I keep saying, I'm not interested in 'autopilot' until it is legally responsible for driving the car.

    2. overunder Bronze badge

      Re: What a complete plonker!

      Why ridicule him, as he said, it's "just normal". You'll sympathize the next time you sit and watch yourself crash into a parked firetruck @ 65mph.

      I've decided I want flying drones to follow all Tesla's around. Think of the "stunt" footage we could have.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        What, you regularly crash into stationary fire engines!

        Hand your License in immediatly!

        1. Nolveys Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: What a complete plonker!

          I have blinders and earplugs for sleeping. My car didn't tell me not to wear them, hence I hit the fire truck.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        I've decided I want flying drones to follow all Tesla's around. Think of the "stunt" footage we could have.

        As a bonus, we'd get another type of footage as well...

        (Rhymes with 'stunt", starts with c...)

        1. MCMLXV

          "starts with c..."

          This is a tech website, with reasonably intelligent people. Did you really think you had to explain what would otherwise have been a rather good joke?

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: "starts with c..."

            This is a tech website, with reasonably intelligent people. Did you really think you had to explain what would otherwise have been a rather good joke?

            I made the post, so I guess my action answered your question before you even asked it... :)

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: What a complete plonker!

      He acted stupidly, but it is a natural consequence of semi autonomous driving systems. The more the system does, the less likely a driver is to be inattentive. Vehicles have to account for human nature and enforce attentiveness. If they don't get attentiveness they should slow down and disable the autonomous feature.

      This has always been Tesla's failing. Tesla are quick to whip out metrics after an accident to "prove" they are not at fault. Yet their car's software allowed this situation to develop in the first place. The car fails to take into account human nature and allows them to take their hands off the wheel for too long. I even saw one Carwow review video where the car didn't even detect the reviewer releasing the wheel to demonstrate the failsafe behaviour. So Tesla are partly culpable for all these incidents.

      1. Ragarath Silver badge

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        Plus arn't these things supposed to be able to spot objects and stop? It spectacularly failed at that one if so.

        1. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: What a complete plonker!

          Actually, no.

          Autopilot is capable of following the traffic in front, and around you.

          Anything stationary is filtered out as noise. It essentially relies on someone in front of you slowing and the lane markings to know what it is doing.

          In the case where there is a car in front of you that sees a stationary object (e.g. fire truck) in the lane in front of them and switches lane to avoid it, autopilot now sees an empty lane in front of you. It will therefore continue at the configured cruise-control speed. If the system had slowed you down (with the car in front slowing because of the hazard) it will actually accelerate you into the stationary object.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What a complete plonker!

            So the Tesla system is even more screwed up. Even the adaptive cruise control in my Toyota slows me down when I'm still well back from approaching the car in front (detected by its radar) and slams on the brakes if I get too close before plonking my foot on the brake pedal (sensed by the windscreen camera). If I take my hands off the wheel for a few seconds, even that system warns me (and I found that out by trying to test the lane departure system on a deserted road).

            Toyota makes no claims for autopilot - just driver aids. In fact, its literature and advertising downplay its ability.

          2. mevets

            Re: What a complete plonker!

            Stationary? Whether you are approaching an object, or it is approaching you, it fills an increasing part of your visual range. This is a good hint that there is going to be a collision. Ignoring a large red object with flashing lights that is getting bigger^2 as a filtering problem seems a bit understated.

            Somebody here once suggested that all vehicles should have "This is a vehicle" written on them in a computer friendly font to help some of these moron projects out.

          3. Terry 6 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: What a complete plonker!

            That makes sense. (The analysis, not the occurrence)

      2. a pressbutton

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        erm

        The more the system does, the less likely a driver is to be inattentive.

        a)

        The more the system does, the more likely a driver is to be inattentive.

        or

        b)

        The more the system does, the less likely a driver is to be attentive.

        FTFY x2

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        Plus, the more capable the system is, the more dangerous will be the situations where it decides it can't cope and tries to hand back control to the driver.

        And because the driver has got used to a capable autopilot system doing all the work, they'll be quite happily eating a bagel rather than paying the close attention to the road that they'd need to save themselves.

      4. Mike 137 Bronze badge

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        "The more the system does, the less likely a driver is to be inattentive"

        do you really mean this (more automation, more attentive driver) or do you mean "the more likely a driver is to be inattentive" or "the less likely a driver is to be attentive"?

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        Its also a natural consequence of my wife's nagging, The more she does it, the less I pay attention!

        So even if Tesla had nagware, we're still likely to end up ignoring it.

      6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        "So Tesla are partly culpable for all these incidents."

        There's no mention of anyone else being in the car at the time. His coffee and bagel were beside him so I assume that means they were on the front passenger seat. He states he was looking ahead at the road. The fire truck and police had their emergency lights flashing and were stationary in the High Occupancy Lane.

        This raises a couple of questions such as why was he in the high occupancy lane in the first place, I though Tesla cars were supposed to be able to read road signs (am I wrong here? maybe) and if he was looking at the road, how the fuck did he not see high intensity flashing emergency lights directly in front of him, let alone personally realise he was illegally using a High Occupancy lane.

    4. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: What a complete plonker!

      I downvoted this because it seems to me to be yet another example of the "blame the user" mentality that pervades far too much technology today. (e.g. "You're holding it wrong"). I do agree that paying Tesla $5000 for their "Autopilot" technology, then turning it on may not be overly clever. Seems to me that there are simply too many complex driving situations that today's technology is unlikely to resolve optimally to let a computer "drive" a car on any typical roadway. OTOH, I haven't used the system. Maybe it works better than it sounds.

      In a better world, Musk probably wouldn't be allowed to peddle this crap in its current form and if he did, people wouldn't buy it.

      In this case, the problem apparently wasn't anything exotic. The Autopilot drove into the vehicle in front of it -- which happened to be a fire truck. If that's the full story, it's pretty damning. What good is a collision avoidance system that fails to avoid easily avoidable collisions?

    5. TRT Silver badge

      Re: What a complete plonker!

      "I remember that day, it wasn't reminded to breathe, you know. So I was just like sitting there, ready to breathe in, but no-one told me to, and then BOOM! anoxic brain damage there right in my face. It was scary."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        > ready to breathe in, but no-one told me to

        Cue plentious blonde/Essex jokes..

        1. PM from Hell
          Flame

          You do know it's the 21st century don't you

          With a profession which struggle to recruit and retain talented female colleagues it really is about time we grew up and stopped this kind of crap. Yes I do have a sense of humour but this was not funny and is just another acidic drip which make women feel uncomfortable in our tech communities.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: You do know it's the 21st century don't you

            is just another acidic drip which make women feel uncomfortable in our tech communities.

            Do you actually work in the sector?

            I know many women who work in tech, and who have a sense of humour. I can't say I know any who'd be put off by a "blonde/Essex" joke.

            Some might be put off by the tired old stereotype/trope that we need to make some sort of effort to 'attract' them to jobs that they largely aren't actually interested in (women who want to be engineers become engineers, those who don't, don't).

            If women are feeling uncomfortable around you, then perhaps it's because you're trying too hard to treat them as something different. Treat them as an equal part of the team, as a person, not as a woman or some precious fragile thing that'll break if some complete stranger says something on some random forum.

            Whether it's been farming, demolition, engineering or automotive work every women I've met in those fields has wanted and expected to be treated as any other member of the team, and all have resented any form of 'special treatment' because they're female. I can only speak for my experience of course, and I know there are women out there who consider men to be sexist pigs if we don't treat them differently, but most just want to be part of the team, face the same expectations, and have the same opportunities (both social and job advancement).

            To act differently because there are (or might be) women around is to act in a sexist and condescending manner towards women.

            </rant>

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: You do know it's the 21st century don't you

            "With a profession which struggle to recruit and retain talented female colleagues it really is about time we grew up and stopped this kind of crap. Yes I do have a sense of humour but this was not funny and is just another acidic drip which make women feel uncomfortable in our tech communities."

            Why would someone so sensitive to Political Correctness and sexist comments make the assumption that "blond/Essex" was about women? There are blond men in Essex as well you know.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: You do know it's the 21st century don't you

              "There are blond men in Essex as well you know."

              And from what I've seen, they give Florida Man a run for his money ...

    6. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: What a complete plonker!

      So in other words, despite the fact that he knew it should have been telling him to hold the wheel and that he knew he should be holding the wheel, on this occasion he didn't do so because "it didn't ask me."

      I didn't see that bit in the NTSB report. It did report witnesses seeing the driver with a hand on the wheel, but looking at <something>. Possibly his food, possibly an iGdaget. Report said investigators found no sign that the driver was on the phone or texting, but can't tell if they may have been using an app.

      Report also said the 'autopilot' had been following another vehicle, which moved out of the HOL. For an attentive driver, that may have been a clue to figure out why? And combined with keeping a safe driving distance, given an attentive driver time to avoid driving into the back of a big fire truck with it's emergency lights flashing.

      But.. Too me, it suggests the attention modes don't work, or are easily bypassed. So keep one hand on the wheel, focus your attention on a pron video and the 'autopilot' is none the wiser. Especially if driver alert messages are just visual cues rather than loud messages like 'WAKE UP!' or 'BRACE BRACE BRACE'.. But if the 'autopilot' can't autopilot, those warnings may be frequent and annoying to drivers, who'll probably figure out ways to disable them.

      But much like in the aviation world, this accident can be attributed to pilot/driver error rather than establish potential liability for the manufacturer. I'm guessing in this case, the problem is the car's detectors can't identify or act sensibly @65mph when there's an unexpected object in the driving area, even if it's as big & obvious as a fire truck.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: What a complete plonker!

        "this accident can be attributed to pilot/driver error rather than establish potential liability for the manufacturer."

        I see it as both. The name of the system, "Autopilot", is misleading and it's good enough most of the time on a motorway. "Good Enough most of the time" is a big problem. The one time it isn't means bits of car all over the road. The autopilot on an aircraft switching out still leaves a pilot with some time to sort out what's going on if they didn't already know. In a car, there isn't that luxury of time. The driver of the car also has to understand the limitations of the system.

        Just the other day there was video of a driver sleeping while his Tesla was driving along a freeway in Los Angeles. There was a person in the next lane recording them and they did wake up with a WTF/Where am I jump and look on their face.

        Are people that like to have one too many going to be getting cars with all of this tech so they aren't weaving down the road and giving away they're completely S-faced?

    7. rcxb Bronze badge

      Re: What a complete plonker!

      despite the fact that he knew it should have been telling him to hold the wheel and that he knew he should be holding the wheel,

      He was saying this in retrospect, perhaps prompted by questions from investigators specifically asking if the lights were flashing and bells ringing.

      He could just as well have believed it just didn't need his help on that day, on that road, until after the crash.

      Not that I'm saying he's not responsible for the accident. You have a responsibility when handling a deadly weapon to know, and not guess or assume, what it's capabilities and limits are.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Did he get a ticket?

    Per the article, he was in the "high occupancy lane" which is supposed to be used only then passengers present. A single occupant is a no-no. And he really must not have paying attention as usually firetrucks with emergency lights on are quite visible from a distance which means he didn't notice other cars moving over to the other lane that is if there were other cars in that lane. I smell a porkie.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Did he get a ticket?

      Single occupant electric vehicles are OK in HO lanes in most states. It would seem they are "special".

    2. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Did he get a ticket?

      And he really must not have paying attention as usually firetrucks with emergency lights on are quite visible from a distance which means he didn't notice other cars moving over to the other lane that is if there were other cars in that lane. I smell a porkie.

      Not defending the tesla dolt.

      I've been in a couple of crashes (mostly NOT as driver, just FTR), and known others who've been through them. Accurate recollection of events is rather difficult even for the best people. People go through quite a shock - physical and emotional - in accidents, and recalling what you were doing or what was where at the moment things became a serious problem really is very hard.

      Especially when you plough into a parked vehicle while looking for that bit of pie you just dropped (nope, never done this, but you should be able to find footage on YT of someone doing just that)

      1. baud Bronze badge

        Re: Did he get a ticket?

        I've been in a car crash, as a driver and it was totally my fault. In my case I was the only car implicated, it took some time to process it but I could give an accurate (in terms of details) record of the events. And it's true I was in a state of shock the rest of the day.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          it took some time to process it but I could give an accurate (in terms of details) record of the events

          Was that immediately afterwards or some time later, when things had calmed some?

          Many years back there was a uni lecturer giving a lecture on some subject. One of his students jumped up, yelled "You're wrong", pulled a gun and fired several times at the teacher who of course collapsed, then ran out the room. The teacher stood up and asked the students to write down exactly what happened. The details, even moments after, varied quite a bit [details as best I can remember them, maybe some 30 years ago that I read this, at least 20 years back I'm sure]

          Other studies have found our memories quite unreliable, no matter how we convince ourselves otherwise :)

          1. baud Bronze badge

            Re: Did he get a ticket?

            It's quite true that I would have been able to give this account that day or any of the following days and I think that there's quite a lot of post-event reconstruction/invention: I can give a lot of details, but I don't know which are true.

            > a uni lecturer giving a lecture on some subject. One of his students jumped up, yelled "You're wrong", pulled a gun and fired several times at the teacher who of course collapsed, then ran out the room. The teacher stood up and asked the students to write down exactly what happened. The details, even moments after, varied quite a bit

            Damn, I've been to the wrong uni

            1. baud Bronze badge

              Re: Did he get a ticket?

              Argh, I wanted to say "I wouldn't have been able to give this account"

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Did he get a ticket?

            There's that lovely study where the subjects are asked to watch a simple ball game. Afterwards they can all comment on various aspects of game play, but failed to notice they monkey* walking between the players.

            *Guy in a monkey suit.

            1. Midnight

              Re: Did he get a ticket?

              https://youtu.be/vJG698U2Mvo , even though you already spoiled the ending.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Did he get a ticket?

            The teacher collapsed and then ran out of the room?

          4. SloppyJesse

            Re: Did he get a ticket?

            Human memory of events is highly flexible.

            I had an accident on a roundabout where the vehicle to my left decided they wanted to turn right and drove straight into the side of me. Dashcam showed they'd joined alongside me, gone very wide and then turned in so when they hit me their car was almost 90 degrees to me. I'd have sworn blind they had come from the second entry not from the same one as me without video proof.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          I've been in a car crash

          Likewise (in fact a few in the 35+ years of having a full licence, none of which have been over 20mph) - one of which wasn't actually my fault..

          (Saw that there appeared to be a large number of stopped cars in front of me, put the brakes on to no effect and slid gracefully into the back of an existing pileup. A diesel tanker coming out of a petrol station had managed to leave a big slick all along the (wet) main road and, it being a very grey winters day, said slick wasn't very visible. Resulted in the writeoff of my then car (Peugeot 309) because the car behind me hit us at an angle and twisted the sub-frame. She also tried to claim that she had stopped in time and that we had "bounced back into her". Given that physics doesn't work that way, the whole thing was resolved to be a 50:50 accident. There were 20+ cars involved - presumably the first car tried to stop and their tyres only started to bite once they hit clean tarmac and then the following cars added to the pileup.)

          I've had a couple of bike crashes too - none of which involved anyone else and all were at low speed on slippery surfaces (the last one involved black ice).

          I can remember the events of all of them.

    3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Did he get a ticket?

      @Mark 85: "emergency lights on are quite visible from a distance"

      You'd like to think so, ... but a few months ago, there was a minor fender bender outside my office. The road has a bunch of mini-roundabouts on it, instead of regular junctions, and this catches some people out, as they fail to give way when they should. This was just one such occasion, where a car turning right off the main road had priority over the oncoming vehicle and that should have stopped, but didn't, and they had a collision. Anyway, nobody was hurt, the Police directed traffic, and tow trucks arrived. I went to lunch, and when I came back, instead of two slightly bent cars and two tow trucks, there were now also several Police cars, a fire engine, and two ambulances. WTF? I thought, anyway, the Police eventually came in to see us (they'd been on their way to us in the first place, as we house the City CCTV control hub) and they said that while they were tidying up from the first crash, someone had come zooming down the road, totally not noticed the massive tow truck covered with flashing lights, rear ended it, and this time, got hurt.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Did he get a ticket?

        Sounds like the... unfortunate... who rear-ended the highly visible tow truck was also not paying proper attention to the road and surroundings.

        Doesn't really help your assertion that emergency lights may not be as visible as we'd like to believe.

        Icon for "The simplest answer is usually correct" etc...

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          Doesn't really help your assertion that emergency lights may not be as visible as we'd like to believe.

          In some circumstances red flashing lights can be somewhat lost in the 'noise' if there's a lot of them around.

          I've noticed in NZ in recent times ambulances and fire trucks now have red and white lights on all sides including to the rear. Police cars with blue and red lights haven't been quite so affected.

          Makes them much more noticeable under adverse conditions. (But while it may lessen the incidence significantly, I bet it still won't stop twits driving into them!)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Did he get a ticket?

            Kiwis are silly

            Emergency vehicles (police, fire, ambulance) should all have blue lights. Anyone else with a blue light visible anywhere on the outside of their vehicle should hauled in front of a judge. Catch a glimpse of a blue light out the corner of your eye and you know there's an emergency vehicle coming.

            Why anyone would think giving ambulances lights the same colour as everyone's brake/tail lights would make them more visible.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge

              Re: Did he get a ticket?

              Emergency vehicles (police, fire, ambulance) should all have blue lights. Anyone else with a blue light visible anywhere on the outside of their vehicle should hauled in front of a judge.

              I agree - all EVs should have blue lights on them and any other flashing blue lights should = long chat with an unfriendly judge in a very foul mood.

              Seems to be pretty common the world over that fire engines have red lights on top, with a few blue ones showing up in very recent years.

              So I guess your own area is just as silly.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          who rear-ended the highly visible tow truck was also not paying proper attention to the road and surroundings.

          Likewise the muppet who ran into a Police Range Rover parked in the emergency lane at the top of a motorway slip road (there had been a crash in the slip lane which had resulted in a queue - muppet decided that he'd circumvent the queue by zooming up the emergency lane and failed to notice the police range rover [with all the disco lights running] at the end of the slip lane..)

          His car got gone over with a fine tooth comb post crash and the laundry list of offences was fairly long. Including driving without tax and insurance, driving while his licence was suspended and a whole slew of Construction and Use failures..

          I vaguely recall that he did time for the crash because it was such a blatant failure, especially when added to all the other charges.

        3. SloppyJesse

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          Emergency lights on the back of police and traffic officers in the UK are highly directional. If you're behind them they're really bright but move off the centre line and they fade quickly.

          Presumably this is by design to limit distraction to other lanes - unfortunately are highway wombles seem to like skewing their cars at an angle behind broken down vehicles. On a couple of occasions I've come round a slow left bend and it's like there are no lights on the back, move over to the next lane and it's like Blackpool illuminations.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Did he get a ticket?

        Magic Roundabout (Swindon)?

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          There's another one at Hemel Hempstead, y'know.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          Magic Roundabout (Swindon)?

          First time I encountered that was at 10pm on a very wet winters night. I just pointed the car in roughly the direction of the exit and drove across :-)

          Pretty much like the locals consistently do now.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Did he get a ticket?

      In California, you can purchase HOV stickers for an EV that give you a couple of years of single occupancy use of the lanes. It's not for life. Other states may or may not require special tags.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Did he get a ticket?

        Ah, someone mentioned upthread about EVs being allowed in HO lanes in man states. I assumed it was one of the carrots to help increase uptake of EVs but now I see the carrot has to be paid for so it's more of a benefit to the better off rather than just a carrot. Capitalism at its best. You have to pay for the benefit but only if you are wealthy enough to qualify :-)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Did he get a ticket?

          The sticker only costs $22 here in California, which is not even 5 gallons of gas(petrol) locally.

          More to the point, it expires. This makes the primary selling point of the electric car (ability to solo in the HOV lanes during rush hour) evaporate at or near resale time. Sorry, greenaholics, most purchasers don't give a shit about saving the environment, they are instead helping to stuff the HOV lanes just as full as the regular lanes in the name of "convenience". As soon as that goes away, sales will plummet. Some say sales are already plummeting for this reason. Here's the CA DMV web page on the subject.

          Purely for amusement purposes, look where they set the bar for "income too high to receive government rebates" ...

          1. Kiwi Silver badge

            Re: Did he get a ticket?

            Sorry, greenaholics, most purchasers don't give a shit about saving the environment, they are instead helping to stuff the HOV lanes just as full as the regular lanes in the name of "convenience".

            That's the motivator you have to play on to get people to change in most things - short-term convenience rather than long-term issues. Smokers, alcoholics etc - all we want is to relieve the immediate longing, what we will be like 20 years (or 5 years) down the road isn't even remotely a consideration.

            That's what keeps people away from a lot of the desired changes, no immediate pay-off (especially when they want you to change a lot of things today instead of small change tomorrow, another one next week and so on)

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Did he get a ticket?

            most purchasers don't give a shit about saving the environment, they are instead helping to stuff the HOV lanes just as full as the regular lanes in the name of "convenience".

            Yes, that was the point I was alluding to. EVs are still expensive for most people so the those who can afford them also get to buy the right to use the less congested lane. It's a bit like the congestion/pollution charging zones here in the UK. If you can't afford a decent car or an EV, then you pay a lot more to drive into those zones. I do see the point in reducing pollution and congestions, but the wealthy just see it as a minor cost for the extra convenience while the plebs either can't go there or have to travel cattle class on the bus.

  3. Kiwi Silver badge
    Devil

    Wondering...

    Did it see the lights and think they were road-side markers, and it was heading off the road so tried to correct?

    Does seem to be a bit of these things doing odd swerves.

    There's a video on YT of some dolt driivng through parts of the UK with one in it's "autopilot" mode. Clearly not requiring the operator to have his hands on anything through most of this. Attempts at sudden lane changes, wrong lanes, all sorts of 'weird' and unpredictable that could be dangerous for other road users.

    Do Tesla's come with the number of the suicide hotline stamped on them somewhere? Seems it should be a requirement.

    Icon coz looks like a car and these things are (for now) rather evil.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Wondering...

      I test drove one and got the Tesla guy to turn autopilot on so I could see how well it worked.

      Car immediately a) got the speed limit wrong and tried to accelerate to 10mph above the speed limit and b) tried to pull off the road onto the verge as it failed to properly detect the edge of the road.

      Needless to say, I'm not getting one in its current state.

      It seems to be another case of static objects being ignored as noise, otherwise anything from overhead gantries to stones on the road would cause the vehicle to stop.

      It just isn't good enough at understanding what is going on around it. While I will not get a Tesla with autopilot, I do look forward to autonomous vehicles which do have the required level of perception (sensors and analysis) to cope with hazards properly.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Wondering...

        It just isn't good enough at understanding what is going on around it. While I will not get a Tesla with autopilot, I do look forward to autonomous vehicles which do have the required level of perception (sensors and analysis) to cope with hazards properly.

        As a motorcyclist I have to agree!

        One thing Tesla seems to be missing (unless it's dead tech?). Years back radar systems from overseas had a "SWS" mode which IIRC stood for "Safety Warning System". I was told that overseas emergency vehicles transmitted a signal when their lights and/or sirens were active, and the radar detectors would pick this up and use it to alert the drivers (I don't believe it was ever deployed in NZ).

        If this still exists and is in use over there, surely Tesla could incorporate it into their cars to at least give them a chance of not running into such vehicles? (Although knowing Tesla, it'd probably see it as a target to be rammed). And if it has gone out of favour, or never existed, perhaps it could be re-introduced?

  4. SJA

    Why would he think that autopilot is named wronlgy? It comes from a plane. Planes had autopilots for decades. There are basic stupid autopilots that just maintain course, hight and speed. They don't take any evasive action etc. and they all require the pilot to be attentive. You wouldn't board a plane with autopilot and no pilot.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

      The GreatUnwashed think that autopilot is exactly what it says on the tin.

      As a side-note, not a single one of my pilot friends wants anything to do with this technology ... and most of them (including myself) think it has no place on the roads, and should be banned. It's not ready for prime-time, and quite possibly never will be as long as there are actual humans allowed to drive on the same roads.

      1. SJA

        Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

        Then he would also think that an automobile does exactely what it says: Moving on its own. Bu tthat's not the case, is it.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

          That's because automobiles have required a human at the controls for over a hundred years, so "everybody knows that". Most folks have only come into contact with autopilot through the movies.

          1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

            You wait until the Teslarti start having 'summon' races here in the UK.

            For those that don't know, 'summon' is where you can tell your parked car to 'come to daddy' (or thereabouts) without you (or anyone) having to be in the vehicle.

            Naturally, under UK laws etc you are not insured if there is no suitably qualified slab of meat behind the wheel but that won't matter. It will be 'Ain't this Cool!' followed by 'Opps'

            These are the people who think that their car is going to earn them $100K a year as a robotaxi AND increase in value at the same time. Something does not compute here IMHO...

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

            That's because automobiles have required a human at the controls for over a hundred years, so "everybody knows that"

            For that matter, who ever calls a car an "automobile" these days anyway? I think it must be old 1960's TV and films where I last heard even the diminutive "auto" for a car.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

              Go to a car show. Here in the US, vehicles over a certain age seem to be called automobiles, not cars or autos. There is no exact cut-off date, it seems to be attached more to the "classicness" of the vehicle in question. The term "auto" is mostly used by old-timers talking about V8(ish) powered luxury cars from inception through the late 1960s/very early 1970s ... There are exceptions to the above, do not take them as hard and fast rules.

        2. Kiwi Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

          Then he would also think that an automobile does exactely what it says: Moving on its own. Bu tthat's not the case, is it.

          30 years ago I was a kid working on various farms.

          On all of them we had tractors that had a hand-operated throttle. Said throttle could be set to a low speed, with the tractor in a low gear, and you could let it toddle off on it's own while you walked beside it doing things (eg feeding out hay to the animals). That's how we used to do it commonly, only of us out with several tons of machine keeping an eye for direction while feeding stuff. If we needed to adjust, well it was moving slower than walking pace.

          I also helped move a mob of cattle through the Taranaki back country. Mitsubishi L200 ute. Had a throttle control much like a choke knob on older cars, but this was again set to keep the engine at a very high 'idle' so it could be put into gear and move at a walking pace without needing driver interaction - ie we had it keeping pace with us but we only interacted with it when we were needing to go around a corner or straighten it up some (it'd find it's own centre on the hump of the road easily enough - single lane roads and in the country, well this sort of thing is normal so no worries with other road users)

          So yes, there have been 'auto mobiles' that can move under their own without driver interaction. In fact I cannot think of any car that, on a flat in low gear, wouldn't be able to move without someone in the wheel especially if the idle was high or you'd sat a toolbox on the gas pedal. They are quite capable of moving by themselves - look at all the footage of people who've left automatic's idling and they've slipped into reverse and started doing backwards circles in a parking lot.

        3. David Woodhead

          Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

          Then he would also think that an automobile does exactely what it says: Moving on its own. Bu tthat's not the case, is it.

          Ah, so you think it's likely that anyone would know that the roots of the word 'automobile' come partly from Greek (autos - self) and partly from Latin (mobile - moving), would parse it accordingly, and would therefore modify their behaviour based on this? Right.

          And it's 'exactly'.

      2. Al fazed

        Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

        I seem to remember that at least one of these dozey plonkers driving/notdriving a Tesla was a pilot

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

        But in reality cars should never be allowed on the road anyway. Even the most basic generally can travel at over 100mph, all controlled every portion of society almost without exception other than some illnesses. These can be driven by criminals, ne-er do wells, people intent on causing damage, people who haven't slept for 24hours, people under the influence of drink and drugs, people with limited comprehension for all the rules of the traffic code, people who are inattentive, people who are eating, People who are super angry, super emotional, on the phone, texting. All of this while controlling a vehicle with a series of levers, steering wheel, gear lever, brakes clutch (for manual obviously), and needing to check certain things and do things in a certain order and be mere centimetres away from the other person while doing it, the consequences of which can cause death or serious injury very easily.

        This leads to over 1million deaths per year, globally.

        They would never be allowed if they were a new invention at the current capabilities.

        However they are pretty convenient and I couldn't do without one so lets keep them and hope that autonomous driving comes along quickly to alleviate some of those deaths caused by meatbags who aren't in a capable state to drive. <easures to improve road safety by adding features to a vehicle are a double edge sword in some ways, due to their ability to make people complacent, but research shows that overall safety features in cars are reducing death and serious injury.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

          and needing to check certain things and do things in a certain order and be mere centimetres away from the other person while doing it, the consequences of which can cause death or serious injury very easily.

          Years back, as part of the training work I'd do, I'd take a new-coming driver out on my bike with me (with intercom).

          I'd pick an oncoming car, ask the student what was wrong with it, and get a little closer to the centre line. Eventually they'd twig that a) they couldn't tell if there was something wrong with the car or not and b) they were very close, the only thing separating us being a little strip of paint and the skill of each driver.

          I was very selective in the cars I picked for this, and I often shift to the opposite side of the lane when I don't like the looks of certain cars, or weave in an "anti SMIDSY manner"[*] when I see ones intending to cross my path who may not have noticed me.

          [*] SMIDSY - "Sorry mate, I didn't see you". The weaving makes a motorcyclist a lot more noticeable, both by helping the other driver judge distance and speed as well as introducing a little "WTF????" factor that tends to make them hesitant to cross paths with the approaching loon.

      4. NotBob
        FAIL

        Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

        If you and your pilot friends think it ought to be banned, consider yourself welcomed to the club. Unfortunately, you may not be so thrilled when you find the club is of luddites, flat-earthers, and other anti-progress and anti-technology folks.

        There's nothing wrong with the tech at this stage if it's used as a driving aid, much the same as old-school cruise control or the autopilot in a commercial aircraft.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Because most Tesla drivers are not pilots.

          There's nothing wrong with the tech at this stage if it's used as a driving aid,

          The problem is the number of reports of people having to fight the car eg over "lane departure" systems, times (rare it seems, thankfully) when emergency braking triggers, and times when the car itself decides to take evasive measures and sharply avoids a radar ghost, injuring/killing everyone in the vicinity.

          Youtube has 'one or two' videos of such happenings if you care to look.

          I'd like to see the tech properly done and safely deployed, but for now I have to be worried that a gnat landing on a sensor may be taken as a truck blocking the lane, and the same sensors fail to see me on my bike. Knowing the tech would stop cars pulling out in front of me is great - but during these early stages too many people trust it to replace their attention, and people are dying as a result.

          Not wanting to die because of someone else's screw up does not make me a luddite. Understanding the issues the tech faces and knowing they've not overcome enough of those problems does not put me in the same camp as the FES (a few of whom seem rather intelligent in other fields....)

    2. Kiwi Silver badge
      FAIL

      Why would he think that autopilot is named wronlgy?

      Because 'auto" means "self" and "pilot" means "drive", so the name means the vehicle drives itself.

      It comes from a plane. Planes had autopilots for decades.

      And for decades movies have been showing planes on AP that fully fly themselves without any existing pilot whatsoever.

      Many "realistic" [cough[ flight sims (the closest any non-pilot will ever get to "really flying") also do stuff fully automatically. Most of us aren't pilots, aren't even clued up on the most basic stuff about flight, thus have no idea what happens in the cockpit. Mostly we have movies and some RWE that tells us that the planes do most of the flying themselves. RWE - remember when kids were allowed into the cockpits on planes in-flight? I do. I remember chatting with the crew who were mostly facing me, with maybe only a glance and an instrument panel. Admittedly this was for a few minutes on a multi-hour-over-water flight, but my impression was I was there more to alleviate the boredom than out of any other sense - they appeared to be doing nothing active. Probably the co-pilot was keeping an active watch while the captain addressed me and vice-versa, but the appearance was no active monitoring or control.

      and they all require the pilot to be attentive.

      From posts on El Reg I've learned that many systems were automated in planes for a while, but then taken back to being controlled by the crew. This was reportedly because the crew were loosing focus and in an emergency it took too long to regain focus.

      You wouldn't board a plane with autopilot and no pilot.

      I would, without issue. But then, I'd expect that the system had undergone rigorous testing and to be properly up to the task (unexpected glitches aside which have killed many even with highly experienced pilots at the controls).

      The guy is right. The general public's perception of AP is that it does all the work between take-off and landing, and they could probably even do that if we let them. Pilots and those who've had an interest in flight know AP in planes still means little more than straight and level. Public with no interest in how flying works only have movies, adverts and newspapers to go on, and they say "AP = Fully capable of self control".

      1. SJA

        The general public's perception of AP is that it does all the work between take-off and landing? Then surely the passengers of a plane wouldn't have problems with pilot and co-pilot leaving the cockpit and getting drunk partying with the flight attendants while the AP is doing it's thing....

        Oh wait... I guess passengers wouldn't be amused by such behaviour.

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          You keep arguing that people know what Autopilot on planes really does, and therefore wouldn't make the mistake of assuming Tesla's AP is anything but straight-and-level in a car.

          Yet, we're commenting on yet another news story where a driver has ended up in a prang whilst doing something that's best explained by a belief that Autopilot would handle things for him. And not the worst example of it, at that.

          You're arguing semantics whilst ignoring what's happening in the real world - if you're not capable of observing the real-world effects, why are you so convinced that the average joe public is sufficiently capable of observation to know what a plane's autopilot actually does?

          To answer your reductio-ad-absurdum though, yes the passengers would likely object. But, how can you tell whether that objection is because they know what autopilot actually is, or because they perceive the crew as being there to respond to serious emergencies (which they can't do if they're pissed)?

          1. NotBob

            There was news made when a driver of a motorhome put cruise control on and left the driver's seat while going down the highway. You cannot use the stupidity of a few to say that the tech is bad on the whole.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              That's actually just an urban legend that's been making the rounds since the 1970's.

        2. Kiwi Silver badge

          Then surely the passengers of a plane wouldn't have problems with pilot and co-pilot leaving the cockpit and getting drunk partying with the flight attendants while the AP is doing it's thing....

          There have been quite a lot of movies showing just this sort of thing. Doesn't matter that it's not real, it's what the public see. As they are generally not privy to (and seldom interested in) what happens in the cockpit, they have no indicator to show otherwise.

          Hence the common belief that aside from take off and landing (the two most dangerous bits of flight after all) there really is nothing for the crew to do other than a cursory glance at things - or responding to an alarm/radio message should something come up.

          I do know that you can cause a plane to turn by setting the AP on and then adjusting a tiny little knob smaller than the volume control on most stereos to set the bearing. If the plane can follow that, then surely it's only a small jump in software to make it be able to follow a number of waypoints? I mean the exceptionally realistic (according to the marketing blurb) "Janes WWII Fighers" showed that 1940s fighter planes could do just that - follow a course of waypoints without the pilot having to do anything. If they could do it back then, why not now? (No, I know that's not realistic - at least I'm pretty sure it's not - the point is the game is supposed to be realistic, I know real planes can be turned by a small knob and a bit of computer power, I also know real planes were having a problem with too much automation (according to other commentards), so really I have no reason to believe (other than other commentards posts) that planes cannot fully fly themselves - as I said earlier I've even sat in the cockpit with the crew chatting with me and seeming to not be paying any attention to the controls or instruments)

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Planes can (and do) follow a set of waypoints. And have been capable of doing that since the introduction of Inertial Navigation Systems and today they use GPS backed up by INS. Nowadays, theoretically planes COULD be built that do the entire flight autonomously if everything keeps working. Currently you need a human in the cockpit to handle comms, switch settings, press buttons, and handle anything out of the ordinary. The systems we have to do unmanned flight are not as reliable as having a well trained human in the mix, so nobody wants to use them. And it's very likely it'll stay that way for quite some time. On top of that those systems only work if everything keeps working as expected. Throw a failure into the mix (even something innocuous) and things will go bad fast. No matter how slim the chances, I'd like a plane I'm on to be flow by something that can handle something unexpected. Be it something small (like an engine exhaust running hot and diverting to an alternate before something goes bad) or something large (like the Gimli Glider or the Sioux City DC-10 crashlanding). It's not a guarantee for success, but it gives a chance.

          2. Electronics'R'Us
            Holmes

            Automation

            The subject of aircraft automation has been a hot topic in the aviation and avionics circles for some years and is just as relevant to vehicles, if not more so, given the density of vehicular traffic is orders of magnitude higher than that of aircraft.

            In addition, passenger aircraft are fitted with TCAS (although there have been occasions when it had been turned off) but it has made flying safer by alerting the crew that perhaps they need to be ready to take manual control or adjust the autopilot. Equivalent systems would need to be available on vehicles, but given how close vehicles get to each other (unless you are traversing deepest Kansas) they would have to be far more complex.

            All this automation is, as with any technology, agnostic. It will do what it has been designed to do, provided the flight (or road and traffic for vehicles) conditions are within reasonable limits but there are times it cannot do its intended task. This is what happened on AF447 (the pitot tubes froze and the flight control computers had no way of knowing just what the aircraft speed actually was and therefore no way of being able to control the aircraft - I am not getting into the aftermath of that event).

            The problem with any automation is that the human in the cockpit / behind the wheel / driving a train becomes complacent. Although it has its upsides there are significant issues with it. In modern fighter aircraft, it is impossible to manually control the aircraft without flight control automation. The B2, for instance, which has no vertical stabiliser, could not possibly fly without flight control automation. A great deal of training goes into ensuring those operators can cope with sudden loss of automation when the backup system kicks in.

            Such training would be necessary for vehicles as well (whether it would actually be implemented is another matter).

            Just in case everyone thinks that the pilot must be in control during landing, that is not so; in benign conditions some aircraft are quite capable of landing themselves (I had that experience in the mid 1990s in a B757 arriving at Salt Lake City; smoothest landing I have ever experienced).

            All this can, of course, go horribly wrong. The old McDonnell Douglas F-4 radar (really a missile guidance system) had a terrain following mode which followed the terrain to impact in many cases and operators were duly advised not to use it.

            That gets us to the crunch of the problem; automation technology is not a replacement for a properly trained operator (I would agree that does not appear to apply to many road users) but augments the operator (or it should).

            Trusting technology too much is rather silly, to put it mildly.

            A signature line from some years ago is still very apt: "As a computer, I find your faith in technology amusing".

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        " crew were loosing focus and in an emergency it took too long to regain focus. "

        Anything which removes from the driver feeling the need to remain in constant control and concentrating is a high risk.

        Because there will always be a point when s/he thinks that they can put attention elsewhere for a brief moment. And if nothing catastrophic happen then they'll do it more and for longer in future. And so on.

        It's not about driving as such. But about perception.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Anything which removes from the driver feeling the need to remain in constant control and concentrating is a high risk."

          One problem. Given the average human, anything which adds stress to the driver is a high risk, too. And since mass transit can't go everywhere, cabs are expensive, and the weather can be quite bad in places (ask the North American Atlantic coast about what happened last week), you're asking a lot.

      3. Def Silver badge

        Here's a pilot discussing what they actually do between climb out and final approach:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnQ7pdR_mOo

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Here's a pilot discussing what they actually do between climb out and final approach:

          Thanks for that.

          So.. He talks at the 14+ minute mark of crew reading newspapers and even sleeping in the cockpit (45 minutes at a time, but one asleep one (hopefully) awake).

          Also a little before this he talks of a crew flying across the USA who missed their descent by over 30 minutes because both were on their laptops.. Oops.

          So.. Pilots don't use AP to let them do other stuff hmm? (ok, he mentions in the laptop case that he believes both lost their licenses as using personal electronic devices is a no-no...)

          Does fill a few gaps in my knowledge (at least for the brief time it can stay in knowledge when it's midnight :) )

          Much thanks for the link!

          1. Def Silver badge

            I think you'll find the autopilot is engaged from a minute or two after take off until right before landing. That's what the controls you can see at the top of the flight deck are for. (Where you see heading/altitude with a few buttons and dials underneath.) When an unprogrammed course or altitude correction is required, I believe they're usually just dialled in using those controls.

            1. Baldrickk Silver badge

              A plane autopilot also has a lot less to do - most don't look out for hazards automatically - they don't have to - there isn't typically a line of planes all in a line and going through junctions...

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                And not too many people crossing in front of planes or other planes stationary or suddenly turning in front of them.

          2. DCFusor Silver badge

            Yeah, but....

            Cars don't have the equivalent of air traffic control that will at least attempt to alert an off-course airplane, and if they can't manage that, divert other traffic, as they do in any emergency. With cars...it's a wild world out there.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Pint

              Cars don't have the equivalent of air traffic control that will at least attempt to alert an off-course airplane, and if they can't manage that, divert other traffic, as they do in any emergency. With cars...it's a wild world out there.

              And here we have a big part of the problem. People (perhaps rightly given the discussion and linked video in this thread) perceive auto pilot as capable of controlling a great deal of the flight with the crew doing very little much of the time (there are, I believe, even planes (fighters) that humans could not directly fly but require a flight computer to manage most of the load). But we fail to make the critical connection - the skies are well managed with lots of space between aircraft (and by necessity - airliners cover a great deal of ground in a few seconds and if a bit falls off you can't simply pull over and stop!) where as the roads, well.. Any idiot can get on them at any time, and a great many do.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                "there are, I believe, even planes (fighters) that humans could not directly fly but require a flight computer to manage most of the load"

                I believe that started with the F-117, which wasn't really designed to be aerodynamic in the first place but to be stealthy. That said, I read that modern fighters and other aircraft built for maneuverability tend to be built with a tendency not to make them very aerodynamically stable, as this makes them more responsive when turning.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why would he think that autopilot is named wronlgy? It comes from a plane. Planes had autopilots for decades.

      True, planes crash into fire trucks all the time.

      1. dfsmith

        Well, autopilot will happily fly into mountains.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Airlines_Flight_965

  5. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Naming

    I think that Tesla should rename "Autopilot" to "Darwin". It may be employing a fairly direct algorithm, but it is certainly weeding out those less fitted for survival in a highway environment.

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Naming

      ooh, ooh, what about a naming competition?

      CrashAssist

      Trucky McTruckface

      DeathMode

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Naming

        ooh, ooh, what about a naming competition?

        Perhaps something that plays a bit of Springsteen? Only needs a couple of seconds of "Born to Run" - the words "Suicide machines" looped over and over when the thing is engaged.

        Few seconds of that looping and they'd be paying Tesla for it to crash and burn. Oh wait, what am I saying? They already paid through the nose with a high chance of that happening!

        Maybe take my earlier "suicide hotline" statement and combine it with an old kids toy - "Suicide Hotwheels"? Certainly after the batteries go up the wheels will soon be rather toasty..

        (Reminds me of the 'capacitance gel' scene in "Demolition Man")

      2. Cederic Bronze badge

        Re: Naming

        Oh, I like that. You can upgrade it to Super Enhanced DeathMode Plus too.

      3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Naming

        Bender Mode

        (kill all humans)

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Naming

          Bender Mode

          (kill all humans)

          Perhaps the most appropriate.. I mean, they already go through "bend over mode" when they buy one!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Naming

          See also: https://dilbert.com/strip/2018-01-30

      4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Naming

        Hmm.. Aha!

        auto-da-fé

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Naming

          "auto-da-fé"

          Yes, they do burn rather nicely, don't they?

          You'd think Musk would ask his engineersmarketing department look into that. Maybe he has 'em confused with his rocket toys?

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Naming

            Yes, they do burn rather nicely, don't they?

            I blame the crayon department..

            They were having a round of drinks after successfully eliminating one of the more serious design problems. Someone suggested they 'toast the new design', and it got taken as an order....

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Whole story

    This guy is definitely not telling the whole story here.

    Seems that prospective buyers should take a lie detector test and an IQ test before being allowed to buy a Tesla.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: IQ test

      Not sure that would work. It seems that buying a Tesla has a serious impact on the IQ of the buyer.

      This guy said his eyes were on the road and he wasn't sleeping, meaning that he saw the car going straight for the fire truck and did nothing about it.

      So his IQ is at stupid moron level now, but it could have been perfectly acceptable before purchase since he was capable of making the money required for said purchase.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: IQ test

        Not sure that would work. It seems that buying a Tesla has a serious impact on the IQ of the buyer.

        Beat me to it. If they're buying a Tesla they've already failed the IQ test.

        This guy said his eyes were on the road and he wasn't sleeping, meaning that he saw the car going straight for the fire truck and did nothing about it.

        So his IQ is at stupid moron level now, but it could have been perfectly acceptable before purchase since he was capable of making the money required for said purchase.

        Not necessarily. I've seen a bit of YT footage of people testing the "auto pilot" and in urban environments the things have been seen to want to suddenly do strange things.

        We generally have a reaction time of 1-2 seconds. Ever been in a car when the driver has an incident, or following one? It takes a moment to realise what's going on, especially when you expect them to safely go past the parked truck not veer into it.

        I don't mean to defend the guy, but I can see that if he was in a state where he wasn't fully focused or was expecting the car to continue on a steady path, well, at highway speeds you cover a LOT of ground in a second. Of course, if he'd been in control - well I believe there are reports of Tesla's taking some form of 'evasive action' when not needed and swerving into other things, even when not in AP mode and being directly controlled by the driver. ICBW of course.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Whole story

      Seems that prospective buyers should take a lie detector test and an IQ test before being allowed to buy a car

      ftfy

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Whole story

        As said before, wouldn't help. What you need is a professional test done on a crash course randomized for each driver. This actually accounts for the big problem with your idea: the difference between OUTSIDE-the-car IQ and INSIDE-the-car IQ, which can be significant.

  7. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    "Because it's not an autopilot. It's a very good cruise control with a little bit more advanced technology in it"

    Then it is actually better than most autopilots, which are just the equivalent of cruise control.

    For deity's sake, Tesla go out of their way throughout all their manuals and most of their publicity to state that you must remain attentive and ready to take over with your hands on the wheel. How much clearer can they be?

    Also, he states that he did remain attentive and knew he needed hands on. However;

    1) he chose not to keep his hands on the wheel "because the car didn't tell me to", and

    2) how much attention could be have been paying off he didn't notice a bloody fire engine?!?!

    Sounds like the problem is the nut behind the wheel to me....

    1. jake Silver badge

      Not just a bloody fire engine.

      Emergency vehicles (plural), with their lights on. Quoting TOA, " a fire truck and a California Highway Patrol vehicle had stopped on the High Occupancy Vehicle lane with their emergency lights flashing."

    2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      > 2) how much attention could be have been paying off he didn't notice a bloody fire engine?!?!

      There is still the question, though, of why the Tesla also failed to recognise it.

      I'm not excusing him, one bit, but his screw-up doesn't change the fact that the Tesla seem to have missed a fairly basic/common - and highly visible - obstruction.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        But stationary. And stationary objects are treated as noise.

        If the car in front of you stops, the Tesla will stop with it.

        If there is a stopped car in front of you, the Tesla will run into it. It's not smart enough to be able to distinguish a pothole, stone or overhead gantry from a stopped truck.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "He said his eyes were on the road, and he was looking ahead just before the collision. “I honestly don't know what it was, but it was – nothing, nothing out of ordinary," Geoulla said. "It wasn't like I was, you know, I was sleeping or nothing – you know, nothing like – just normal.”"

    So he was vaguely looking at the road while drinking and eating ... And didn't see anything at all ...

    Clearly, he was not paying attention. Looking at a direction and paying active attention are 2 different things.

    It really seems those technologies are pushing the most morons drivers, of which there are sadly plenty, to casually look, rather than keeping control of anything.

    It's quite perverse in my view.

    1. The First Dave Silver badge

      That was the thing that jumped out at me - he said "I wasn't sleeping" (without that being a direct question, as far as I could see) so I think subconsciously he knows that he WAS asleep. Like autopilot in a plaine, sleeping isn't like it is in the movies - no-one actually knows when they are asleep. Usually when you wake up again you realise that you have 'missed' a bit of road, which sounds like exactly what this guy is saying.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Boffin

        Maybe, Maybe not

        To be fair, that's not always the case. You can successfully negotiate a series of complex junctions in a town, then 5 minutes later on the open road can't remember any of it at all - especially if it's something you do every day. Your brain has the ability to decide which events are important enough to move from RAM to 'storage'.

        Having said that, the guy was indeed a plonker.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Maybe, Maybe not

          our brain has the ability to decide which events are important enough to move from RAM to 'storage'.

          Obviously Tesla's AI crew took part of that a little too literally...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's always a firetruck

    This is what, the third or fourth firetruck an autopiloting tesla has hit? Teslas seem to have a thing for them.

    I have to admire Phony Stark's ability to develop a car as a firetruck-seeking-missile and still somehow trick people into saying it's "safer" than normal cars

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's always a firetruck

      I'm sure other cars have also hit firetrucks and other emergency vehicles before now, also due to driver inattention.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: It's always a firetruck

        But, Tesla's systems aren't supposed to be capable of inattention?

        He _should_ have been paying attention and taken over to avert it, it's true. But why does Tesla's keep hitting a fairly routine obstruction?

        Hell, the thing had lights flashing and Tesla uses cameras, so arguably had an advantage of LIDAR for detecting this stuff. Or perhaps that's the issue? That the intensity of the lights occludes the image slightly and Tesla fails to handle it?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's always a firetruck

          " But why does Tesla's keep hitting a fairly routine obstruction?"

          Maybe, just maybe, it is only Teslas that get reported in global news when they hit something and actually other car brands also hit things just as often, or maybe more often, without reliable stats it is not possible to tell.

          Tesla are well known for not using LIDAR.

          Using RADAR can determine that there may be something in the patch but it depends on a number of factors, however you can't brake for every obstacle because most of the time they aren't actually obstacles, they are radar reflections. This is a problem common to all cars. They work when they detect a slowing object but sometimes don't work so well with a sudden stationery object.

          My car, non-Tesla, with a multi-sensor pack did not detect someone pulling out in front of me from a side turn, but regularly brakes for a car turning off in the lane next to me, if I'm on a corner.

          So you have to use the cameras and AI to know what it is seeing in front of it is actually something that needs to brake for. Humans are pretty good at object recognition, AI and Machine Learning, are better in some cases but much worse overall in every case.

          1. IlyaG.

            Re: It's always a firetruck

            Tesla does not have and does not use AI.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: It's always a firetruck

              Maybe it'd be worth explaining that? I mean it's questionable whether anyone uses or has developed AI (as a truly universal neural network capable of independent thought and decisions).

              However in the more contemporary looser sense of AI being lumped in with ML and other technologies then of course they do. They even created their own custom "AI" chip.

              So is your answer based on semantics or are you saying that every scenario and object has an algorithm and is programmed in?

              1. IlyaG.

                Re: It's always a firetruck

                Semantic.

                See what Google does? Waymo? They try to inbreed human and computer, that is to look for instructions in the texts, and this is "semantic" (using your terminology). However they took only one patent (on AI-parsing and profiling) and ignore the other two (on dictionary and synonymous clusters).

                My know-how is not into the patents. So I doubt Google can succeed with my semantic approach.

                Let's see what Tesla and Mask can do...

                I'm a spectator, I've been crossed off by the CIA bureaucrats from the list, and there's nothing I can do.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: It's always a firetruck

                  You seem to have taken a strict definition of what you (and some others feel) is a requirement of AI.

                  However the term is not Copyright or IP of any person or entity. It is a generic term that has been used to define many forms of simulated intelligence, from narrow machine learning to to broader pattern matching and simulated neural networks.

                  There is nothing stopping a term being appropriated to describe something in contemporary terms. I mean a data bus isn't a bus at all its a small piece of conductive substance that allows electrical signals to pass over it. A hacker is now often seen as a person who uses illegal methods to break into a another person's processor based equipment. Decimated often means reducing by a amount much greater than the normal, rather than just 1 in 10.

                  AI is now used in different ways and you know even the classical term doesn't have to involve intelligence from vast databases of texts. Normal intelligence doesn't require being able to read, write and study texts. It requires the ability to learn and react in a logical way to situations that occur - hence animals can have intelligence. So there would be no requirement for artificial intelligence to require texts to parse.

                  By piping up in random forums when stating something is not AI so that you can then state about the patents and non parsing of text does not provide any significance to that post, I would suggest.

                  Sorry for you troubles with the CIA though, bloody bureaucrats eh?

                  1. IlyaG.

                    Re: It's always a firetruck

                    There is Arithmetic and Differential Analysis.

                    What you call "normal intelligence" is arithmetic operations with immutability. For example, with an apple which always remains exactly what it was.

                    AI was created for differential deeds. I. e. an apple roten and becomes quite other thing than it was in the early.

                    In terms of Philosophy:

                    1. The standard systems (of "normal intelligence") you are talking about is based on Moore-Russell-Wittgenstein teaching which is called External Relations theory.

                    2. AI is based on the theory of Bible-Maimonides-Hegel, Internal, where everything becomes what it was not.

                    Machine Learning is for AI is not at all what you saw and know. At least, purely formal, because it has not been not taken into account feedback for finding new solutions, the download of new structured into synonymous clusters texts.

                    The only and only innovation in the entire History of computer and AI is my AI-parsing and my synonymous clusters, which replace 1) the only existed and dominated n-gram parsing and 2) all programming languages.

                    If you do mind - please tell aloud that still a new has appeared over the last 75 years? (In computer and AI field?)

                    Nothing?

                    Thus doing something in AI you take me as your full partner whether you want or not, with all the following consequences.

                    1. IlyaG.

                      Re: It's always a firetruck

                      I, of course, mean quality novelties! Although so far only quantitative novelties have happened in computer world.

                    2. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: It's always a firetruck

                      Are you a poorly programmed "AI" bot?

                      1. Kiwi Silver badge
                        Pint

                        Re: It's always a firetruck

                        Are you a poorly programmed "AI" bot?

                        Think it's a case of "off his meds".

                        I don't think even the worst bot from Microsoft and Tesla combined could function that badly!

                      2. IlyaG.

                        Re: It's always a firetruck

                        "It is a generic term that has been used to define many forms of simulated intelligence"? But in fact only one form of real AI exists and it answers questions, nothing less or more. Everything else is the progressive development of technologies that have existed for many years and only the "answering" AI is the revolutionary novelty.

                        Endlessly repeating the same thing I try to draw attention to the AI as answering questions mechanism... Their tactic is to divert attention from it and my strategy is the opposite.

                        Who are "they"? All business giants, the government: my task is to form a strong opposition to "them". Which I do, showing you how to make billions.

                        You're paid, I leaked you the technology. Forward! We need to sweep these giants to hell!

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          Re: It's always a firetruck

                          "Are you a poorly programmed "AI" bot?"

                          Sounds like a "yes" to me.

                          1. IlyaG.

                            Re: It's always a firetruck

                            Money talks!

                            MongoDB Doubles Down on Sales.

                            Rather than just organizing information into tidy rows and columns for SQL queries, developers are looking for databases to help them analyze unstructured data.

                            https://finance.yahoo.com/news/mongodb-doubles-down-sales-133000114.html

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: It's always a firetruck

            "but sometimes don't work so well with a sudden stationery object."

            Except it's not stationary. It's coming at you at whatever speed you are driving. A car you are approaching that is driving a bit slower than you are is coming at you at a slower speed (in the same direction). A car going the other way is coming at you faster than the speed you are driving.

            Frame of reference issues?

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: It's always a firetruck

              Frame of reference issues?

              That's common among motorcyclist accidents.

              If two of you are approaching a curve or an intersection (eg roads that intersect at 90deg), one vehicle can appear relatively staitonery in relation to it's background due to the changing angle of approach apparent from the other vehicle. Due to this effect, drivers can mis-judge approach speeds quite easily, as the main indicator of speed we use is changes relative to background (especially in the case of smaller vehicles). That's why a fly buzzing across your field of view appears to be going much faster than an airliner a dozen miles away in a clear sky. (well, that and the changing angle-to-target as well)

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: It's always a firetruck

        It's called machine learning and the minimisation of consequences paradox.

        Accidents have better outcomes for the meatbags onboard the faster a firetruck reaches the scene... so in a perverse way it's better for driver survivability to, you know, hit a firetruck.

        1. IlyaG.

          On machine learning

          On machine learning:

          " Eventually, the technology should advance the state of the art when it comes to providing natural-language answers to questions that would tax the brains of grown-ups as well as eighth-graders." https://www.geekwire.com/2019/allen-institutes-aristo-ai-program-finally-passes-8th-grade-science-test/

          In "layman's terms" this means that images are annotated with text structured into patterns, and computer searches for images guided by these texts.

          Then machine learning is about adding structured patterns in texts.

          1. IlyaG.

            Re: On machine learning

            There has never been a technology to teach AI to synonymous clusters. This technology of machine learning as close as possible, literally copies the standard manner how human learns. It's patented and therefore it is unique, and has no prior art.

            I'm sure Google uses it teaching Waymo cars.

    2. QuantumWarrior

      Re: It's always a firetruck

      The irony is that Tesla's autopilot almost certainly still is safer than a normal car being driven by a meatbag, it's just that car crashes which result in serious injury or death are so incredibly common that it literally isn't even news when they happen. Even with these highly publicised autopilot crashes (many of which I'll add are often the fault of other road users behaving like idiots, or as in this case the inattentive pillock behind the wheel who fully admits he was not ready to take control of the car) I'd wager that autopilot is at least several times safer per passenger mile than a human driver.

      There are lots of places and age brackets where cars are the leading cause of death, driving for many people is the number 1 most dangerous thing they do in an average day.

  10. Free treacle

    TBF if I was in an assisted vehicle driving towards a stationary vehicle (as big as a fire truck too!) I would probably expect the systems to slow the vehicle before any collision. Wonder what happened in this instance.

    If the driver is supposed to maintain a grip on the wheel this hardly sounds like an autonomous vehicle the way I am imagining it. Maybe there should be a tiered system to inform users exactly what level of engagement they are expected every journey before the vehicle moves?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Emergency Braking Systems, from all manufacturers, do not work well with stationary objects in the lane.

      Sounds bizarre, sure, and they can detect them, however there is a false positive issue where they take a non-cautious approach. This is because phantom braking that can be caused by it, potentially leading to a rear-ender or poor driving experience.

      It is being solved by some companies slowly, but it will be a long way before it is fool-proof.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        If ever, or do you recall the Douglas Adams quote about the ingenuity of complete fools?

  11. Dinanziame

    I'm really surprised he survived. Fire trucks are not light, ploughing into one at 65 MPH would be fatal in most cases. He's lucky he escaped the Darwin award.

  12. AIBailey Silver badge

    Tesla should consider installing cameras that point inwards to the cabin, and record a looping 20 seconds of footage whenever autopilot is engaged. This should stay in-vehicle (no need to transmit or store and forward), however in the event of any impact, the data is locked down to assist with crash investigations.

    I expect we all know what it would show in this instance. A guy with a coffee in one hand, a bagel in the other, and not looking at the road at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They have an internal camera but they aren't used yet.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "but they aren't used yet."

        Yeah....... you just keep believing that.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      " record a looping 20 seconds of footage whenever autopilot is engaged."

      And use more flash for the recording? Tesla already has issues with overcycling flash RAM in their cars.

  13. Flywheel Silver badge
    FAIL

    PEBCAK

    That is all.

    1. Neal L

      Re: PEBCAK

      or PEBCASW in this case.

  14. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Autopilot?

    She's gonna have to blow the computer!

  15. Lee D Silver badge

    So, driver admits fault. Insurance solved.

    Now... what about this crappy feature that runs into back of parked cars because it doesn't actually do its job at all?

  16. Curly4

    Self driving or self piloting transportation may some day will be viable but not for some time yet. If the driver/pilot of the vehicle chooses to use the self-drive feature it would be wisdom if they chose the area where there is not many hazards. I doubt UK has areas like that but in many places in the US and I expect in Canada there are places (interstate I-10 for instant) where the roads are straight and few vehicles to inter fear. There may be a jack rabbit to cross the road but not many. Areas such as this would be where I may try the auto pilot but there my hands would be ready to take control. But one day the technology will have advanced to the point where a person will be able to get into the vehicle and tell it the destination and the vehicle will that the passenger to that place then will part the vehicle until called for.

    But until thin, I WILL be the driver/pilot!

  17. nmcalba

    It will be interesting when the 1st similar case happens in the UK what the police reaction is

    I find it interesting that in none of these incidents is there much mention of the driver being charged with anything.

    I don't know details of US traffic laws, but I'm 99% certain that if such incident happened where I live and the driver gave that sort of account the next words out of the police officers mouth would involve the phrase "You will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal for consideration of prosecution for offences under the Road Traffic Act".

    The interesting thing is whether the charge would be "Driving without due care and attention" - a traffic offence carrying fine and possible license suspension or the more serious "Dangerous Driving" which is a criminal matter quite a few of the aspects mentioned would be likely to jump it up to the more serious charge.

    Quite apart from the issues round Autopilot the police attitude here is that there is no genuine reason to run into the back of another vehicle, you were either driving too close, too fast, not paying attention, not driving to the road conditions or had defective brakes/tyres - and its almost automatic for people to be charged, unless they have a really exceptional excuse.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: It will be interesting when the 1st similar case happens in the UK what the police reaction is

      the police attitude here is that there is no genuine reason to run into the back of another vehicle

      There are 2 or 3 I can think of that are more forgiveable.

      1) Some twat pulling in front of you and braking suddenly, or stopping suddenly after moving into your lane without sufficient warning

      2) Someone with faulty brake lights, where by the time you realised how hard they were slowing down it was too late

      3) Someone who rides their brakes a lot, again meaning that where you think they just have their foot resting on the brakes (and triggering the lights) they're actually slowing hard for some reason.

      I've also heard rumours that in some countries there's a get-out-of-jail-free if the person does something silly, like stop in the middle of a major road without obvious reason.

      In NZ it's also almost a strict-liability issue. If the front of your vehicle contacts the rear of the other vehicle, your'e at fault - almost even in cases where they reversed into you (I say 'almost' - I think innocent people have been charged over this).

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: It will be interesting when the 1st similar case happens in the UK what the police reaction is

        #1 is the reason the practice is checked carefully in the US. It was and may still be a common way to commit insurance fraud: pin a car in a single lane with buddy cars, slip just in front of the car and slam the brakes, get rear-ended, and claim damages, whiplash, and other harms. I hear it isn't used as often these days because (a) some of them actually died in the crash, and/or (b) police got wiser to the act and used forensic evidence to prove their case.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: It will be interesting when the 1st similar case happens in the UK what the police reaction is

          Happens in UK too, hence dash cams have become more common. Deters them and provides evidence.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: It will be interesting when the 1st similar case happens in the UK what the police reaction is

          Search "brake check" on YouTube for lots of dashcam footage. Most HGV drivers are using dashcams since insurance is a big bill for them and a suspended license means they're out of work.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: It will be interesting when the 1st similar case happens in the UK what the police reaction is

        "If the front of your vehicle contacts the rear of the other vehicle, your'e at fault - almost even in cases where they reversed into you (I say 'almost' - I think innocent people have been charged over this)."

        That's the default presumption. If you have a witness/dashcam that shows otherwise, you are covered. With the cost of dash cams dropping through the floor, it's a good idea to fit one on your car. Just watch what you say as they record audio which might not be a great thing for you in some cases.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: It will be interesting when the 1st similar case happens in the UK what the police reaction is

          Just watch what you say as they record audio which might not be a great thing for you in some cases.

          Few years back I had BT in the car (still do), and had a, well lets just say "annoying customer" call.

          After the call they hung up, I also pressed the red hang-up button. But somehow was still connected. I'll let your imagination to the rest as it still embarrasses me what I apparently (and believe probably) said.

          Today, if I feel a moment of PTSD-like 'wanting to say what I feel about someone', I make sure I have stopped and moved away from microphones, just in case. Anyone who knows me would understand, anyone who doesn't would have the AOS on my arse in a heartbeat.

  18. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Boffin

    "the driver is not sure if his coffee or bagel was in his hand when the crash occurred,”

    Scolding from the presumably hot coffee might be a clue.

  19. Terry 6 Silver badge

    AI

    Irrespective of definition.

    Is there anyone else out there that thinks ( as I increasingly do) that the lack of natural intelligence makes the artificial stuff seem less and less probable.

  20. DuncanLarge Silver badge

    Total BS

    > He said his eyes were on the road, and he was looking ahead just before the collision.

    BS, total BS. SO he just sat there, watching the road while he plowed into the back of a large, heavy truck that had bright flashing lights?

    Totally believe him. If this was actually the case then me must have some medical condition that should prevent him from operating a vehicle.

    How idiotic is he to think that someone would believe this and still allow him to have a license?

    1. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: Total BS

      BS, total BS. SO he just sat there, watching the road while he plowed into the back of a large, heavy truck that had bright flashing lights?

      Some significant problems with your thinking.

      1) At speed, you travel a considerable distance in a second.

      2) There can be some ambiguity about which lane things are in while you're some distance off, especially if they're around anything of a corner - you cannot always be sure what lane they're in till you're fairly close.

      3) Like many drivers without "AP", he'd let his attention wander. By the time he realised that the vehicle was stopped and in his lane....

      4) 3 assumes the Tesla didn't swerve into the truck from a different lane, as they've been known to do. He may've forgotten this after the trauma of the accident.

      I don't defend his actions, but I have enough experience of human foibles to have no issue trusting him. I've seen very good drivers do very bad things, and it can only take a second for an excellent driver to become an at-fault statistic. IIRC at 100km/hr you're travelling around 30 metres/second, 2 seconds for any sort of response time from a lot of people (IE realise action needs to be taken, develop a plan and execute). So we're looking 60-90 metres at 60mph, the complacency of freeway/motorway/whateverway (wide road with few and gentle curves, no intersections, all traffic going in the same direction at near the same speed) driving coupled with the added complacency of "AP"/"Driver assist" etc doing a lot of the work.

      And that's before we get into things like "Target fixation" as well, which is something he may've suffered from. Maybe, for a change, the Tesla wasn't at fault and he did what so many other drivers do - another big part of "human foibles" that kills so many of us (and is very useful once you know what it is and how to use it as a survival skill instead of letting it drive you into roadside furniture).

      (OOI - over here we have roadside flares or other markers put out in the leadup to a scene to encourage drivers to move to another lane - why not here?)

  21. proinnsias

    Hit the rear end of the fire-truck ? ... happens more often than you'd imagine

    In Ireland and the UK (and presumably other European countries ?) - the guidance given to emergency services / blue-light response teams on major roads (with vehicles travelling at speed) is to park at an angle to traffic - not "in lane"

    This was after a considerable number of expensive UK motorway police cars (big Volvos / BMW estates etc) being written off by drivers ploughing into the rear of them while they were stopped, lights flashing etc - but in line with traffic.

    It's to do with the "looming" effect - that we perceive something as moving when it's not (or not moving when it is) - if it doesn't seem to change shape as we approach it .. the visual cues that the vehicle was stopped may only have appeared at the last moment.

    The back end of a fire-truck with lights flashing is something we see moving more often than not - and they're big enough that while we see them, we think they're moving if they're in line with the lane and our approach - right until about 2 seconds out at 65mph when we exclaim "oh bugger!" - On the flipside - if we see the broadside of a truck / diagonally parked in the lane - we slow the hell down - as it's even bigger, and obviously going nowhere !

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Hit the rear end of the fire-truck ? ... happens more often than you'd imagine

      The back end of a fire-truck with lights flashing is something we see moving more often than not - and they're big enough that while we see them, we think they're moving if they're in line with the lane and our approach - right until about 2 seconds out at 65mph when we exclaim "oh bugger!" - On the flipside - if we see the broadside of a truck / diagonally parked in the lane - we slow the hell down - as it's even bigger, and obviously going nowhere !

      Doh! I should've taken that into account as well, and well spotted!

      That's a part of the effect the 'anti-SMIDSY manoeuvre I mentioned works - approaching motorbikes can have the same effect on the driver (also why many pull out in front of trucks and buses - they're only moving slowly always, right, so can't be bearing down on me at 50 mile an hour when they move so slowly!). By changing the angle/profile of the bike, it helps a lot with the other drivers assessment of speed and distance.

      And yes, a truck parked at an angle to the lane is easier to see and obviously stopped vs one in line with the line. How often have you been closing on a sea of brakelights slowing gently to match speed with the traffic going at an expected pace, only to suddenly realise that it's not moving at 30 but stopped dead? (common problem on motorways that commonly have big peak-hour slowdowns but few actual stops, when something's happened and they have all stopped - for those who don't believe it just look at all the news reports/spewboob footage on motorway (etc) pileups).

      Icon for me.. If you close your eyes you can almost imagine it's the beer icon, so have one for yourself :)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Hit the rear end of the fire-truck ? ... happens more often than you'd imagine

        "How often have you been closing on a sea of brakelights slowing gently to match speed with the traffic going at an expected pace, only to suddenly realise that it's not moving at 30 but stopped dead?"

        Myself? Precisely never. A quick poll about the place just now (10 adults) suggests what you describe is not common at all. We can all see (some with the help of glasses/contacts) the difference between slowing and stopped traffic from a couple hundred yards.

        Should you be driving? Might want to get yourself checked out just for your own piece of mind, lest you inadvertently kill somebody.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Hit the rear end of the fire-truck ? ... happens more often than you'd imagine

          "How often have you been closing on a sea of brakelights slowing gently to match speed with the traffic going at an expected pace, only to suddenly realise that it's not moving at 30 but stopped dead?"

          Myself? Precisely never. A quick poll about the place just now (10 adults) suggests what you describe is not common at all.

          Well, given your claims about your driving I'm surprised. Forgive me for not believing a word you say...

          It is a common thing with people who drive a lot, especially when we use the same stretch of road and traffic slows but seldom stops (eg where two motorways merge). It doesn't happen often but it'll happen a few times in the career of people who are actually out on the road a lot.

          Initially it can be quite hard to gauge closing speeds. As a pilot - and again, forgive me for thinking you're telling porkies on that - you'd know about the many difficulties humans have judging closing speeds especially with frame-of-reference issues, such as apparent movement (or lack thereof) against a background, the "looming" problem, and many others.

          We can all see (some with the help of glasses/contacts) the difference between slowing and stopped traffic from a couple hundred yards.

          Only if the background allows it. At times, especially with people who take their foot off the brake when stopped, it can make judging their relative position difficult.

          Any one with real driving experience knows this.

          Should you be driving? Might want to get yourself checked out just for your own piece of mind, lest you inadvertently kill somebody.

          Wait.. So you proudly boast about how you aggressively tailgate (something that can get you jail time in places other than barbarica), you expect others to get out of your way and claim they're driving badly when they slow down to mitigate your bad driving, and you say someone else needs to get checked out?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Hit the rear end of the fire-truck ? ... happens more often than you'd imagine

            The lady doth protest too much, methinks ...

            "So you proudly boast about how you aggressively tailgate."

            No. I have never said that. Not here, not anywhere. Lying doesn't make your case any stronger.

            "something that can get you jail time in places other than barbarica"

            Resorting to childish name calling doesn't make your case any stronger.

            "you expect others to get out of your way"

            Actually, I expect other drivers to not even notice there is anybody on the road but themselves. Has kept me alive all these years.

            "and claim they're driving badly when they slow down to mitigate your bad driving"

            I never said they were driving badly. What I said was that they were in violation of California Vehicle Code, to wit CVC 22400 "impeding the flow of traffic". It is not up to you, a civilian, to take the law into your own hands. You are NOT a law enforcement officer.

            "and you say someone else needs to get checked out?"

            Intentionally impeding the flow of traffic is completely different from the physical inability to see the difference between normal, slowing and stopped traffic. The fact that you do the first and think the second "normal" makes me think even more that perhaps you shouldn't be driving.

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Hit the rear end of the fire-truck ? ... happens more often than you'd imagine

              "So you proudly boast about how you aggressively tailgate."

              No. I have never said that. Not here, not anywhere. Lying doesn't make your case any stronger.

              And yet, your posts at https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2019/05/17/on-call/ show where people certainly can get the impression that was your intention even if not your expression. Especially when we also see you boasting about how quickly you could draw you gun and shoot someone in the same thread. (compensating much?)

              Even if my interpretation of your words is mistaken, it still does not make it a lie.

              "The lady doth protest too much, methinks ..." quoth the guy who accuses others of lying.. :)

              "something that can get you jail time in places other than barbarica"

              Resorting to childish name calling doesn't make your case any stronger.

              And yet, you yourself have done the same to others... Pot, kettle 'n a all that..

              "you expect others to get out of your way"

              Actually, I expect other drivers to not even notice there is anybody on the road but themselves. Has kept me alive all these years.

              On that we can agree.

              "and claim they're driving badly when they slow down to mitigate your bad driving"

              I never said they were driving badly. What I said was that they were in violation of California Vehicle Code, to wit CVC 22400 "impeding the flow of traffic". It is not up to you, a civilian, to take the law into your own hands. You are NOT a law enforcement officer.

              But it is up to us, as prudent drivers, to do our best to make the situation safer. With tail gaters that means slowing down. We have similar laws about holding up traffic here, but we also have the advice to slow down and drive to the conditions. In fact, you can theoretically be done for careless driving by NOT slowing down for a tailgater (I doubt it'd ever be tested in court and would be hard for the prosecution to win)

              "and you say someone else needs to get checked out?"

              Intentionally impeding the flow of traffic is completely different from the physical inability to see the difference between normal, slowing and stopped traffic. The fact that you do the first and think the second "normal" makes me think even more that perhaps you shouldn't be driving.

              As said, you'd know how frame of reference (eg moving/static/invisible backgrounds) and other factors can easily affect our ability to judge the speed of other vehicles if you had the experience you claim.

              I am far from alone in thinking this. The University of Exeter has published work relating to such issues, and various other safety organisations have also published reports on issues around determining speed. It's one of the factors that makes the "anti-SMIDSY manoeuvre so effective. Some reading on "Motion camouflage" may also help you understand a little better.

              I spent some years as an advanced motorcyclist instructor, having found a disgusting lack of decent mandatory safety training NZ. I've given talks at motorcycle clubs, sometimes for pay but usually for the love of NOT reading stats of crashed riders. Even quite recently, I've been asked by people advising NZ's ACC and police on certain MC accidents to ride a section of road and come up with scenarios as to what caused a fatal accident (apparent MC-only crashes - I suspect an impatient driver passing another car on a short straight, the MC taking evasive action and neither cager noticing).

              I've spent a lot of time looking into what causes crashes as a guide to how to avoid them. Interestingly, there have been studies published from organisations in California that have been of great interest. I'd expect, living there etc, you'd have ready access to them but I'm sure a few moments with Google can help. Or RevZilla, or CHP, or......

              These problems are not new, are well published, and should be made more widely known. My worst crash was due to "Target fixation" when I was much younger and did not know about it or how to counter it. My best avoid-errant-cager has also been through "target fixation" - understanding it and knowing how to use it to get my 5' wide bike through a 3" gap with room to spare (ie getting through a gap that appears far to small but is the only possible escape route when another's mistake leaves me no room or time to spare).

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