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Second Tesla Autopilot Crash Under Review By US Regulators (time.com) 392

An anonymous reader writes: The Wall Street Journal and many other publications are reporting that U.S. auto-safety regulators are currently reviewing a second crash that occurred while Tesla's Autopilot mode was activated. The Detroit Free Press reports that a Michigan art gallery owner told police that he survived a rollover crash that happened when his Tesla Model X was in self-driving mode last Friday. The newspaper didn't disclose any additional details regarding what led up to the accident and whether or not the driver was to blame. Last week, it was reported that U.S. regulators were investigating Tesla after a fatal crash occurred involving a vehicle using the Autopilot mode. Tesla said in a statement after that incident, "This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated." They also said Autopilot "is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times."
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Second Tesla Autopilot Crash Under Review By US Regulators

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The robots are starting to revolt and killing a few people at a time...

    • Re:Robots Revolt! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @04:02AM (#52461531)

      This is just sloppy reporting. A Tesla crashed, must be another autopilot case, don't bother to actually check the facts. Even make up nonexisting statements from police reports, why not.

      The actual police report does not mention autopilot [detroitnews.com], contrary to what some news reports are claiming. Tesla has not been able to review the logs yet because the antenna got damaged in the accident. They have been trying to contact the owner in order to get access to the logs but so far have not been able to reach them.

      At this point, it looks like this accident has nothing to do with autopilot.

  • Autopilot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2016 @11:46PM (#52460791) Homepage Journal

    I like Elon, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles. But I hope they get hit hard for calling their adaptive cruise control feature "autopilot".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      But I hope they get hit hard for calling their adaptive cruise control feature "autopilot".

      Why? That is what it is...

      Do you think airplane pilots who are using the autopilot are allowed to just ignore what is going on and watch a movie?

      How about private pilots in little 4 seat planes that have autopilots? Can they just have a nap while the plane flies?

      • Re:Autopilot (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TroII ( 4484479 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @12:04AM (#52460877)

        Do you think airplane pilots who are using the autopilot are allowed to just ignore what is going on and watch a movie?

        Joe Average buying a car probably does think that, yes. Look at the comments anytime there's a news article about a crashed airliner and you'll see the ridiculous misconceptions the general public has about aviation. After Germanwings 9525, it became clear that a substantial number of people fully believe that the autopilot does everything from rotate to landing on every commercial flight, and that human pilots are an outmoded concept. (I'm aware that CATIII autoland exists, but it's rarely used.) I lost track of how many times I heard or saw someone say "the planes fly themselves these days anyway, if there wasn't a pilot, nobody would be in there to fly the plane into a mountain, we should get rid of pilots" etc.

      • Re:Autopilot (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @12:09AM (#52460891)

        Auto means self. Pilot means pilot.
        If you call something an autopilot it must pilot itself.

        • Auto means self. Pilot means pilot. If you call something an autopilot it must pilot itself.

          I agree with your premise, but just to nit here, "auto" is short for "automatic", which means working by itself with little or no direct human control [google.com]. So technically autopilot means piloting with little or no direct human control.

          • I agree with your premise, but just to nit here, "auto" is short for "automatic",

            Not necessarily. "auto-" can be a prefix which means "self" [dictionary.com], as the GP posted. It can mean "automatic", when used in some compound words, but if you look at those words, the "self" is implied. So "autopilot" really does mean "self-piloting". The alternative would be "remote control".

            TL;DR: "auto" implies that the device does not rely on external control for its function.

          • If you want to claim it comes from automatic, and not autonomous or anything else, then auto means self and matic means moving or thinking, from matos. Automatons are literally automatic things.

            If you claim autopilot means automatic pilot then that means the pilot is an automaton.

        • Auto means self. Pilot means pilot. If you call something an autopilot it must pilot itself.

          And if you don't RTFM, then you deserve what you get.

          Sorry if that means we add a few to the illustrious list of Darwin Award winners. I have no stomach for placating to those with more money than brains.

        • by Ecuador ( 740021 )

          Yeah, but does it have to pilot itself WELL?
          For example you could have an appropriately named "auto F1-Pilot" that crashes all the time and claim it is modeled after Maldonado...
          But, yeah, even if airplane autopilots are not exactly "leave it at auto and get a drink while it lands", I can see how many people can get confused with the nomenclature, especially if they try it a few times and it seems to them it is doing well enough. So, another name would be more appropriate...

      • Do you think airplane pilots who are using the autopilot are allowed to just ignore what is going on and watch a movie?

        Why watch a movie if you can also sleep: https://www.theguardian.com/wo... [theguardian.com]

      • Re:Autopilot (Score:5, Insightful)

        by speedplane ( 552872 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @12:32AM (#52460983) Homepage

        Do you think airplane pilots who are using the autopilot are allowed to just ignore what is going on and watch a movie?

        Pilots operating under autopilot do not need to "keep [their] hands on the steering wheel at all times." Tesla's "Autopilot" is not an autopilot. They created a media sensation with the deceptive "autopilot" marketing, and now they are rightly bearing the brunt of it.

      • I'd expect that (in large planes) the autopilot could land the plane, but that usually the pilot would land the plane when conditions are good, while if conditions are bad he'd have the autopilot land.

        • Large airplanes have been able to land themselves since the 1970s...

          That still doesn't mean the pilot can watch Netflix while the plane lands and if it crashes, it is still his fault...

        • by fnj ( 64210 )

          You can expect whatever you want, but that doesn't make it so. An autopilot is not an automatic landing system. An automatic landing system has to interact with ground based support (instrument landing system or microwave landing system at the airport).

          And no, an automatic landing system isn't a magic cure for "bad" conditions. It shines in conditions of poor visibility, but aside from that benefit it in fact has severe limitations. In fact, the automatic landing system in a Boeing 747-400 cannot be used in

          • It is because Boeing autolanding system is shit. Buran had no problems with automatic piloting and landing with a crosswind of 32 knots - near gale.

      • But I hope they get hit hard for calling their adaptive cruise control feature "autopilot".

        Do you think airplane pilots who are using the autopilot are allowed to just ignore what is going on and watch a movie?

        Do you think that operation of a Tesla is restricted to a highly trained and certified pilot?. Airplane manufacturers can call their system whatever they want to because:

        The operator is trained, and certified with the lingo (including "autopilot").

        There is a redundant operator.

        Pilots' training includes the definition of autopilot. Driver training does not. Don't blame the driver.

        • Pilots' training includes the definition of autopilot. Driver training does not. Don't blame the driver.

          Perhaps I should blame the driver training then, which is a complete joke in the United States anyway...

          If we treated driving as an earned privileged rather than a right, and had REAL training on how to drive, perhaps we'd have fewer problems...

          • Pilots' training includes the definition of autopilot. Driver training does not. Don't blame the driver.

            Perhaps I should blame the driver training then, which is a complete joke in the United States anyway...

            Perhaps you should; maybe it should be updated to reflect what "autopilot" means.

            If we treated driving as an earned privileged rather than a right, and had REAL training on how to drive, perhaps we'd have fewer problems...

            True, but until that has happened, perhaps car manufacturers should take into account what words mean to the target market when they are doing their marketing. There is absolutely no doubt that the overwhelming target market for automobiles believes "autopilot" to mean "self-piloted".

            FWIW, I usually agree with you on most things, however with this particular issue the lingo matters. Hacker meant something very different from C

    • Re:Autopilot (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fnj ( 64210 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @02:14AM (#52461217)

      I like Elon, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles. But I hope they get hit hard for calling their adaptive cruise control feature "autopilot".

      Insightful, MY ASS. This is an ignorant observation. An autopilot is EXACTLY what the fuck it is. In an airplane, an autopilot controls the speed, altitude, and attitude including course. It doesn't do SHIT about collision avoidance. That is the subject of OTHER systems, and of manual vigilance.

      The Tesla's autopilot controls the speed and direction. There is no "altitude" control in a car, and the analog to "course" control is simply holding the lane. The Tesla does exactly this, PLUS it does collision avoidance, which an airplane autopilot does not.

      Now, how good is the Tesla's autopilot, is a separate issue. But claiming the name "autopilot" is misleading is just STUPID.

      • Re:Autopilot (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jwhitener ( 198343 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @04:24PM (#52465783)

        Autopilot, to people who are engineers, or familiar with planes, etc.. yes.

        The term autopilot does not convey the same meaning to an average person. When you market a product to people, often you should not use the correct terms. Sometimes you use terms that are technically not correct, but practically convey the meaning you need to get across to them.

        I deal with this often. Oftentimes a department will want to use legalese on a web site we are creating for them. We have to remind them that while yes, the terms they want to use are correct, very few of their readers will understand them.

        That said, none of that excuses someone driving a heavy killing machine without reading the manual first and following the guidelines in that manual...

    • I like Elon, electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles. But I hope they get hit hard for calling their adaptive cruise control feature "autopilot".

      I don't give a fuck what they choose to call it. Anyone who engages such a feature without fully understanding what it means to put a car in charge of your life should be slapped repeatedly with the owners manual until the actually read the fucking thing.

      Sorry, but in this case, I don't feel like watching our legal system side with Darwin Award finalists. Humanity deserves better than that shit.

  • Some points of note (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2016 @11:50PM (#52460813) Homepage Journal

    From this report [dot.gov] (chart on page 7), a passenger car rollover (ie - not a light truck) begets a 16% chance of fatality.

    This is not the first Tesla rollover crash I've read about, the other one [electrek.co] would lead me to believe that Teslas are in fact safer than average. (Click the link and see for yourself, the crash was reportedly spectacular.)

    Of the crash in question, Tesla had this [electrek.co] to say:

    “We received an automated alert from this vehicle on July 1 indicating airbag deployment, but logs containing detailed information on the state of the vehicle controls at the time of the collision were never received. This is consistent with damage of the severity reported in the press, which can cause the antenna to fail. As we do with all crash events, we immediately reached out to the customer to confirm they were ok and offer support but were unable to reach him. We have since attempted to contact the customer three times by phone without success. Based on the information we have now, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident.”

    The owner *claims* that the car was in autopilot, but we don't really know yet.

    Also of note, the following (from same link):

    [...] As reported yesterday, the police investigator on the case, Dale Vukovich, said that he is likely to charge Scaglione after his investigation without specifying the charges.

    I'm going to wait a couple of days before making any judgements on this specific incident.

    At the worst, it *may be* that autopilot mode isn't appropriate for human drivers simply due to the chance of it being misused. If too many people are relying on it when they shouldn't, then it likely should be taken off the market.

    But that's an entirely different situation from Tesla being negligent, or unsafe, or unpromising.

    • I'm going to wait a couple of days before making any judgements on this specific incident.

      I'm not. A person survived a crash and crashes happen constantly. That's good enough for me.

  • Meanwhile (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mfh ( 56 )

    Tesla's coverage of these incidents is a smear campaign.

    GM, Ford and Chrysler experienced hundreds of vehicle accidents in the same time span.

    In 2014, there were 32,675 deaths by vehicle incident. Not one of those is getting the same attention as these Tesla reports. Why?

    Because the media is in the pockets of Big Auto. Every day in 2014, there were almost 90 deaths in all the other car manufacturers vehicles. I'm counting only two accidents in Tesla vehicles. That's actually quite good!

    "Autopilot is an assi

    • Re:Meanwhile (Score:5, Insightful)

      by speedplane ( 552872 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @12:41AM (#52461001) Homepage

      Tesla's coverage of these incidents is a smear campaign.

      Tesla brought this upon themselves with a massive marketing campaign claiming autonomous driving features that are safer than humans, when the truth is, they are nothing of the sort. I love Tesla's technology, but no company should get a pass when they make lies that have, allegedly, led to death.

    • While I agree that the Tesla accident coverage has, and likely will continue to be, insanely overstated in comparison to anyone else who makes cars (including other 'semi-autonomous' cars). I do not agree that the entire cause is "the news is in the pockets of Big Auto". It's far more likely that it's other factors like: Tesla being fairly new in public perception (It is 13 years old, but I can't recall even their first roadsters being 'out' over a decade ago), highly visible due to hype, 'cutting edge', an

    • Ok, but how many Teslas are on the roads today? Under 200,000 for sure.

      How many GMs, Fods, Chryslers are out there? Tens of millions if not more.

      You can compare them but you have to do it right.

    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      "Autopilot is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times," Tesla said.

      It may "require" that instructively, but it can't/won't enforce it rigorously as it stands. And in fact NO ONE keeps both hands firmly on the wheel 100.0% of the time in ANY case. You can't perform a manual gearshift or turn the windshield wipers on without removing at least one hand from the wheel to do it.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      Allow me to introduce the most useful maths course you may ever use in real life: Statistics.

      How many Teslas are there on the road?
      How many GM / Ford / etc.?

      How many of those Teslas are new or only a couple of years old?
      How many of the GM / Ford / etc.

      How many of those Teslas are used regularly for long-haul driving trips?
      How many of the GM / Ford / etc.?

      How many of those Teslas cost a fortune to repair and so are driven more carefully?
      How many of the GM / Ford / etc.?

      How many of the people who drive Tesla

  • Marketing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by speedplane ( 552872 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @12:24AM (#52460947) Homepage
    Why do they call it "Autopilot" if it is only "an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times"? Tesla deserves all of the bad press they're getting.
    • Well firstly it doesn't require you to keep your hands on the wheel, but that is highly recommended.
      Secondly it guides the car in a lane on a highway ... just like an aircraft autopilot.
      Thirdly it requires a pilot in the cockpit ... just like an aircraft autopilot.
      Fourthly it hands control back to a pilot in an unexpected or uncontrollable scenario ... just like an aircraft autopilot.
      Finally it only gets you to the end of the highway and hands control back to the driver for final manoeuvring near the design

  • Seriously I don't care how good a system is, you give up control of the car to any auto system where the operator now will do everything but pay attention, you're gonna get crashes. Even the few extra second lost to trying to recover to manual driving is enough to potentially get into an accident and win an award..

  • If there are more crashes and they change public opinion on safety of autonomous driving, then it could delay the adoption of autonomous automobiles for a decade or more.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 07, 2016 @01:46AM (#52461177)

    "autopilot" suggests hands-free, driverless.
    This is exactly what it has meant in aviation for decades.

    The feature would be better called "driver assist" or something--clearly indicating in the name itself that it absolutely does not *replace* the driver.
    I don't care how many warning labels you attach to it and instruction manuals telling you not to let go of the wheel--if you call it *autopilot* people are going to think the feature is more than it is--and they *will* test it--as obviously has already happened.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @02:43AM (#52461311)

    ---- what did you think was going to happen?

    I am not willing to let Musk off on this one. He is a promoter whose spell-binding sales pitch always promises more than he is able to deliver.

    • ---- what did you think was going to happen?

      Exactly what did happen when you fail to RTFM.

      I am not willing to let Musk off on this one. He is a promoter whose spell-binding sales pitch always promises more than he is able to deliver.

      And I'm not willing to let humanity placate to fucking idiots. Sorry, but learn to RTFM, or become a Darwin Award winner. Plain and simple.

    • Well,a plane autopilot's only job is the boring "uneventful freeway" of the air, and the pilot has to take over in unexpected situations.

      The normal phrase "I was on autopilot" is always used to describe subconscious activity that doesn't handle well the unexpected.

      So yes, "autopilot" is exactly the right word for what tesla does today.

      Once they start calling it "self driving", that'll be something different.

  • Strict liability? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @06:30AM (#52461893)

    They also said Autopilot "is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times."

    Here's the problem with that. The folks at Tesla HAVE to know that at least some of the people who use the technology are going to take their hands off the wheel. If they don't then they are weapons grade stupid and that seems unlikely. IANAL but it may not matter that Tesla warned people to keep their hands on the wheel given that it is reasonably foreseeable that some portion of the drivers would ignore those instructions. After all, they called it Autopilot for crying out loud... If strict liability [wikipedia.org] is applied there is no need to prove fault, negligence, or intention. See Escola v Coca-Cola Bottling [wikipedia.org]. Now maybe strict liability doesn't apply here but the point remains that manufacturers tend to be responsible for reasonably foreseeable consequences of the features of their products. I have a feeling that the autopilot features may have been released prematurely regardless of the claims of Tesla to the contrary. I love that Tesla is pushing boundaries but they need to tread carefully when it comes to safety.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A recent Ars Technica article [arstechnica.co.uk] covers some of the details of this:

      Keep your hands off the wheel for too long (about 90 seconds) and the car will sound an alert tone and display a dialog on the centre console asking you to please grasp the wheel. If you ignore the warning, the car sounds another. If you ignore that one, the car will disengage the auto-cruise and auto-steer and slow to a stop (apparently on the assumption that you’re incapacitated, dead, or otherwise unable to grab the wheel).

      So the system does actively nag the driver to put their hands on the wheel.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Here's what I think your argument is: It was negligent for Tesla to provide a feature that a reasonable person would foresee substantial misuse leading to death.

      This kind of product liability in cars has had lots of cases to work through the elements in the past... see Jablonski v. Ford Motor Company as a recent case.

      When the use and misuse of a product results in death, the burden of diligence is on both the manufacturer and the operator. If you try to make all products perfectly safe that's an impossible

  • Teslas do not have a "self driving mode". They have a limited autopilot in no way meant to be a "self dirving mode". Are people making the mistake of acting it is supposed to do all the driving for them?

  • Lies stack up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Thursday July 07, 2016 @07:45AM (#52462069)

    They also said Autopilot "is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times."

    Can't recall seeing where AutoPilot drops out if both hands come off the wheel, Elon.

    Pride goeth before the crash.

  • They also said Autopilot "is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times."

    With outward sensors almost capable of highway driving (almost, but not quite), you'd think inward-facing sensors (that ensure the driver's attention is on the road) would be a piece of cake for Tesla.

    But no. Instead, Telsa 'requires' something, and simultaneously makes it trivial to ignore that requirement. Tesla must enforcing inward looking sensors. With power comes accountability.

    Unless, in some weird way, avoiding the 'look in' is a hallmark of Tesla's culture.

  • As I've pointed out before, Congress is going to have to allow machines to kill people in order for these to become widespread. Since the companies making these machines are very powerful and spread a lot of money around, you can be sure Congress will pass the requisite laws. Hop to, lackey Congress! Allowing machines to kill people crosses a line that we will never be able to go behind again.

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