Category Archives: Autopilot

Can Autopilot survive sue-happy USA? Part II

On Christmas day, 2015, TeslaMondo predicted that Americans would soon start suing Tesla for inflicting Autopilot on the poor public. That same post introduced y’all to Sean Kane, the “safety advocate” who poses as a dry analyst and often gets nose-picking reporters to fall for his ruse — even though he’s on the plaintiff payroll.

Well, it took a little over a year, but here comes the litigation. The lawyer is Steve Berman as usual. He pursued, with the emphasis on the “sued” part, the farcical sudden-acceleration cases against Toyota despite the NHTSA and even NASA finding zero defects. Toyota predictably settled many of those cases out of court. Ka-ching! Now that Tesla has money, it’s time to grab some. Stand and deliver, Mr. Musk.

And, of course, here comes Sean Kane, right on cue. Are Kane and Berman talking to each other behind the scenes, plotting a little PR campaign to dial in some pressure on Tesla? You can bet on it. Look for some juicy sound bites from “safety advocate” Kane.

Further reading: Part One.


Autonomy hits a chicane

As the feds study Autopilot anew due to a fatal accident, Tesla has written a defensive post that serves as a preemptive counterweight against the inevitably offensive press to come.

It’s abundantly clear that:

* The list of “corner cases” in autonomous driving will never really end.
* Tesla’s vanguard position means it will bear the whole brunt of those corner cases, and will have to tolerate public tisk-tisking from rival automakers.
* Each stair step to autonomy will bring slips and falls, some fatal.
* The biggest challenge is going to be the gray area wherein the driver sorta kinda surrenders control to the car but sorta kinda has to be super-vigilant all the while. That’s not easy for one brain. Remember, airplanes have two pilots.
*Over-the-air control of such systems, including the ability to turn off the whole enchilada, is crucial to allow for NHTSA intervention if needed. Today the agency issued a warning to drivers of old Hondas to STOP DRIVING THE CARS due to new data about the Takata airbag risk. Isn’t it nice to know that if the feds say so, Tesla could simply disable AP for the entire fleet instead of commanding everyone to stop driving?

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 7.37.19 AMUPDATE: The truck driver involved in the accident claims the Tesla driver was watching Harry Potter in the car, something Tesla says is impossible on its touch screen. Was there a mobile device involved, or is the truck driver just fabricating this detail to mitigate his role?

Meanwhile, Mobileye says “Lateral Turn Across Path” detection will begin in 2018. Until then, its systems detect only rear-collision scenarios.


Autopilot spooking peers in the biz

Akio Toyoda, who saw a viral 911 call turn into the Toyota sudden-acceleration farce of 2009-2010, says he’s scared that a serious Autopilot accident could set autonomy back as a whole. Of course, he’s probably right. Everyone is thinking the same thing. But every inch of leash given to automated cars surely has raised the same goosebumps and will continue right through full autonomy, whenever that happens.

Ready for a soapbox mini-speech from TeslaMondo? Here goes: We elect leaders to determine whether stuff like Autopilot is reckless or not. In every country except Japan, those leaders have given the green light. Ok, so they’re not exactly elected in some countries, but you get the idea. But wait, you say, the technology is still in “beta.” So is everything else in the universe. In fact, the universe is still expanding. Shouldn’t we wait until it’s finished?

TeslaMondo says it’s not the automotive technology that’s so spooky, but the hypervigilant social media technology that’s really spooky. YouTube, Facebook etc. would make an Autopilot accident into worldwide headlines within a half hour. There’s the rub. If this were 1980, maybe we’d see more courageous rollout of autonomous driving, and a lot of other things. Nowadays, viral videos ruin careers. And hamper technology. Technology is stifling technology.

So Musk once again plays the role of the unfettered explorer. What’s next? Mars?

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Autonomy, Model III converging

If Elon is right about full autonomy arriving in about three years — and supposedly he’s recalibrating his forecasts for better accuracy — this could mean:

When the Gig and Model III hit full song, the car will drive by itself using a million-mile powertrain, monitor its state of charge, find and occupy parallel parking spaces, seek out Superchargers, provide ongoing feedback for the Tesla fleet as a whole, park itself in a garage (or Supercharger) and plug itself in using one of those robotic snakes. Sounds like a car that Tesla and/or a Tesla owner could rent out.

And by then, some other cars might be “awake” to each other. A new proposal from the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee would give automakers green credits if they use advanced safety technology, such as vehicle-to-vehicle awareness and autopilot-like stuff, for vehicles built 2018 and beyond. Why the tie-in to green credits? Because connected cars get better MPG by keeping more constant speed, staying out of trouble that would cause accidents (and tie up traffic) and avoiding the “accordion effect” of scrunching up with other cars and then spreading out.

TeslaMondo has often berated legacy automakers for whining about MPG and emissions standards. Well, here’s an alternative way for them to earn extra credit and avoid flunking the course. The big beneficiary of such regulation: MBLY.

Here’s the proposal. Scroll WAY down.


Autopilot already outpacing lexicon

Early this year, TeslaMondo wrote that we’re headed for a tangled mess of terminology as cars become self-aware. Well, now that Tesla’s Autopilot has arrived, the chaos has begun. The news coverage this morning runs the gamut from “hands-free” to “sort of hands-free” to “driverless” to “sort of driverless” to “keep your hands on the wheel” to “you don’t have to touch the wheel.” Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ bar undoubtedly is on high alert. This terminology is going to become legally significant upon the first accident.


And the most interesting angle of the story — the continuous feedback loop that allows each car to learn from the others —  is the most difficult to grasp and therefore given short shrift by reporters on deadline. HOW EXACTLY DOES THIS WORK? What constitutes a beneficial experience that should be shared with the fleet? Are there negative experiences that should not be shared? If, so, how are they filtered? And how exactly does my car learn from your car, and how fast?

If there’s an article out there that explains this stuff, please link.


The final frontier for auto-steer


Faded lane markings on gray asphalt and solar glare. This is the final puzzle for Tesla’s auto-steer system, says Elon today. Unless Tesla can solve this problem, you might have to pull a Luke Skywalker. You know — shut off the instrumentation and just use the Force.


How autopilot might work

Bosch autopilot TeslaMondoJoin a computer-generated humanoid for a semi-autonomous commute to work in a Model S.