Driver dies while Tesla's AutoPilot engaged

Mike K

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Ironically, the guy posted this video a few months ago of Autopilot saving his ass when a truck turned into him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I5rraWJq6E

Apparently this happened in May and is just now coming out. AutoPilot is awesome but I think Tesla does a poor job of setting customer's expectations. Or maybe the community does. Either way, the system consists of long range ultrasonic sensors - which are basically parking sensors - a camera under the windshield and a front radar like any car with intelligent cruise control has.

The system isn't so much autonomous as it is just a really good cruise control with lane keeping.

Tesla's response:

We learned yesterday evening that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.

Following our standard practice, Tesla informed NHTSA about the incident immediately after it occurred. What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.

It is important to note that Tesla disables Autopilot by default and requires explicit acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled. When drivers activate Autopilot, the acknowledgment box explains, among other things, that Autopilot “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times," and that "you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using it. Additionally, every time that Autopilot is engaged, the car reminds the driver to “Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.” The system also makes frequent checks to ensure that the driver's hands remain on the wheel and provides visual and audible alerts if hands-on is not detected. It then gradually slows down the car until hands-on is detected again.

We do this to ensure that every time the feature is used, it is used as safely as possible. As more real-world miles accumulate and the software logic accounts for increasingly rare events, the probability of injury will keep decreasing. Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert. Nonetheless, when used in conjunction with driver oversight, the data is unequivocal that Autopilot reduces driver workload and results in a statistically significant improvement in safety when compared to purely manual driving.

The customer who died in this crash had a loving family and we are beyond saddened by their loss. He was a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community, a person who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
 

Spivitz

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That sucks. Prayers to his family and friends. RIP
 

Bruce Jibboo

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:eek: just like the Audi lane management system, I don't think my cousin should have been demonstrating his RS7's through the mountains where if something goes wrong were going off a cliff :eek:
 

lastls1

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Sad to read but not their fault. It tells you to keep your hands on the wheel even while engaged and you cannot just doze off while its driving. I am sure it will get better over time. Doesn't bring the person back however. I assume he was not paying attention at all as the report said neither the car nor driver noticed the semi
 

tinfoilhat

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Perfect conditions to "blind" the computer. Now Tesla can find a way to adjust for the same conditions but I definitely put more blame on the driver then the car in this situation.
 

sickmint79

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AutoPilot is awesome but I think Tesla does a poor job of setting customer's expectations. Or maybe the community does.
i blame the community 100% on this. musk has called people out for doing stupid things. other similar technology has been out for a while from at least benz, and i am under the impression it is as the same if not more mature. but you don't see viral videos of people being fuckwits in their benzes, while it's not that hard to find people being morons in their teslas.
 

lastls1

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Perfect conditions to "blind" the computer. Now Tesla can find a way to adjust for the same conditions but I definitely put more blame on the driver then the car in this situation.
If the report from the highway admin is true and the trailer was sliding sidways the car would not see it. It would look clear in front for the car as its only seeing clear road. I am sure changes will be made because of this but this is a very rare situation. If some blame is being put on Tesla then a good amount also falls on the driver. You obviously were dozing off or complelty distracted not noticing a giant ass trailer coming at you.
 

OffshoreDrilling

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this is going to set a precedence in court on this autopilot stuff going forward. I personally think it gives drivers too much permission to be distracted rather than adding to their safety. If all or most vehicles were equipped with this stuff and roads were designed in a way to accommodate this kind of driving it would be a different story
 

Flyn

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"Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S."
Tesla driver crashes, dies while car in 'autopilot' mode

Sounds like a perfect storm type of crash. Anything in beta testing, including an autopilot system, is going to have bugs.
 

P40E

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After the third or fourth crash somebody is going to take tesla to the cleaners. This will be their downfall .

You put autopilot in a car you're asking for trouble.
 

Bru

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Other automakers have similar features but Tesla has the most autonomy. Most are more conservative in their naming convention. "Pilot assist" or "Driver assistance" have less connotation of autonomy than autopilot. They also require more hand intervention on the wheel, though many owners are defeating those with water bottles hanging from the wheel. I think Autopilot is less intrusive when it comes to reminders on keeping your hand on the wheel.
 

Spivitz

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I tend to agree that auto pilot is a bad idea. After all, it was designed by People.
 
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Mike K

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Other automakers have similar features but Tesla has the most autonomy. Most are more conservative in their naming convention. "Pilot assist" or "Driver assistance" have less connotation of autonomy than autopilot. They also require more hand intervention on the wheel, though many owners are defeating those with water bottles hanging from the wheel. I think Autopilot is less intrusive when it comes to reminders on keeping your hand on the wheel.
It's gotten worse of late but not as bad as say Mercedes where people were weighting the steering wheel to avoid the nannies.

i blame the community 100% on this. musk has called people out for doing stupid things. other similar technology has been out for a while from at least benz, and i am under the impression it is as the same if not more mature. but you don't see viral videos of people being fuckwits in their benzes, while it's not that hard to find people being morons in their teslas.
Yeah, I tend to agree. I think the naming is kind of stupid too. Though I'm sure it's not intentional, the name Autopilot is misleading. Tesla's system is the most advanced currently but is still pretty rudimentary. People tend to think it's this huge suite of sensors that's doing all this when really it's a traditional radar upfront, a camera and glorified parking sensors that can only see something like 17 feet out and have a very limited vertical range of view.
 

guspech750

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More tech to dumb down drivers to rely on others and their cars. Yayeeeeee

No thanks
 

Zack

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I can't find a lick of remorse for a person who sleeps while trusting a machine.
Anyway, RIP.
Tesla seems like an awesome company
 
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Mike K

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Where did you see that he was asleep? On my stock board someone just posted that the truck driver said he was playing Harry Potter on the display and that it was still playing after the car had crashed.

You can't do that stock and the only way you could do it otherwise (that I know of) would be to tap into the rearview camera signal. So that story is suspect but either way, the truck turned in front of him and the car didn't see it but more importantly: neither did he and he should have.
 

Bruce Jibboo

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a truck driver watching harry potter? seems perfectly safe and the whole point is you don't know what the other drivers are doing around you and the best chance of survival is the driver being in full control of the vehicle, especially in any type of surrounding traffic.
 

Euro

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Watching a movie while your car is on autopilot? :picard: Drive the car yourself and save the movie for at home. RIP.
 
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Mike K

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a truck driver watching harry potter? seems perfectly safe and the whole point is you don't know what the other drivers are doing around you and the best chance of survival is the driver being in full control of the vehicle, especially in any type of surrounding traffic.
No, the Tesla driver was apparently watching it. The truck driver was obviously in the wrong for turning in front of him but he didn't even see him. The truck driver said he was going so fast when he hit him that he didn't even see the car until it had passed through under his trailer. Something tells me there were no skid marks. The tesla driver just wasn't paying attention.
 

Flyn

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Mike, you're our Tesla expert. What can be done to make the cars even safer?

I know the driver should have been paying attention but is there a way to make the cars safer to the point that attention isn't needed?
 

blck10th

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I watched a 20/20 special or something on tv a while back. They had a tricked out Mercedes and it still almost got hit in traffic.
They also had a few other autonomous cars.

None of these cars can account for stupidity. There is no stupidity sensor capable of computing the random actions of humans.

I think for me it's best I'm in charge of the car. People need to drive or take public transportation if your that lazy.
 
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Mike K

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Mike, you're our Tesla expert. What can be done to make the cars even safer?

I know the driver should have been paying attention but is there a way to make the cars safer to the point that attention isn't needed?
Volvo came out and threw some shade at Tesla recently, basically saying that Level III autonomy like Auto-Pilot takes too many "safety critical functions" from the driver so that the driver is lulled into a false sense of security and perceives the system to be more capable than it is just by virtue of what it's doing.

The problem is that everything we get until full 100% autonomy is going to be like this. It's going to give you a false sense of security and it's going to take eyes off the road because you'll grow to trust the system regardless of it's limitations.

We're a few years off of that I think. So until then I think the biggest difference maker is going to be education. People need to realize that they are still in control of their vehicle. I'm not saying don't ever take your eyes off the road but watching Harry Potter on a portable DVD player is comically stupid.

That said, if Tesla's numbers are to be believed, worldwide there is an accident for every 60 million miles of driving and this is the first accident in 130 million miles of Tesla's driving with Autopilot engaged. So the system is quite good. You can't fix stupid though. If people are intentionally using the system for something it was never designed to be then it should be no surprise when they do themselves in. I view this as 100% driver failure.
 

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