nav search
Data Centre Software Security DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes
BOFH
Lectures

back to article
Tesla's Model S autonomous mode may have saved a life

FF22

PR stunt

And how many times does such a "save" happen by human drivers? A million times a day? Will those be news from now on, too? And is Autopilot an exception feat, because it did now once what human drivers do million times a day?

chekri

Re: PR stunt

I think the point is that this saved a life by acting when the human failed to do so. So yes humans avoid not crashing into shit almost every second that they drive, the point is that when they don't pay attention there is an extra line of defence.

bazza Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

I think the point is that this saved a life by acting when the human failed to do so.

Then by definition the driver was driving too fast for the conditions. I don't know about the US, but in the UK that's an offence and could be costly. Admitting as such in public would be asking for the police to start a prosecution, backed up by the very data that Tesla are collecting and publicising.

Data collection may be great for Tesla and data nerds, but it can also be used against drivers put up in front of a Judge on a charge.

Teslas are virtually silent when moving. A friend who has one has had to get used to pedestrians and cyclists not hearing him. Everyone is so used to hearing cars and lorries that a lot of people don't look before they walk. Pedestrians don't hear bicycles either, and they get hit by bicycle all the time... Perhaps in this case the pedestrian simply didn't hear the Tesla coming.

Chairo
Big Brother

Re: PR stunt

it can also be used against drivers put up in front of a Judge on a charge

not only "can". It seems, in May a driver in Germany was convinced for manslaughter and sent to the cooler for 33 months, based on data that BMW provided to the court, according to this story. (sorry, in German).

Gene Cash Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

> driver was driving too fast for the conditions

Uh huh. Right. I'll put that in the same category of stupid statements as "I could have stopped faster than the ABS in the rain when the car pulled out in front of me and broke down, and not locked the brakes up. Really."

MrDamage

Re: PR stunt

All over the world, the rules of the road specify that you must drive in accordance with the conditions of the road.

If glare from oncoming headlights was blinding, then legally you must slow down to the point where your visual acuity matches that of your response time, and braking distance of your vehicle. Failure to do so means you are liable for any injury, damage or death caused by your negligence.

Disagree as much as you want, but expect to spend a fortune on legal fees trying to fight it in court should you be the one responsible in that situation.

Steve Todd
FAIL

Re: PR stunt

Someone stepping out in front of you, at night, dressed in dark clothes and not at a crossing point counts as "too fast for the conditions" now does it? The glare was only a distraction here, not what would have been the major cause of the accident (stupidity on the part of the pedestrian).

The car was physically able to stop inside of the required distance. The driver failed to spot the issue partially because of distractions, but mainly because the pedestrian seems to have gone out of their way to make themselves hard to spot.

fruitoftheloon
WTF?

@Bazza: Re: PR stunt

Bazza,

what are you on matey?

Are you seriously suggesting that all drivers should drive REALLY SLOWLY lest some suicide-wishing pedestrian amble out into their path?

Ooi here (rural, middle of Devon), it is not unusual for dick head cyclists (dressed in black, no lights on) to ride down the middle of their lane, on a not terribly wide B road, so should my wife and I always drive at 20mph just in case one of these idiots is just in front of us around a blind bend?

Also in case anyone thinks I am an anti-cyclist nut job, until 8 years ago I used to regularly cycle through the middle of London, funnily enough I never had problems with drivers, but tourists who look the wrong way then step out in front of you....

I did stop in time (just) my front wheel was between his legs, the look of shock on his face was something to behold.

Cheers,

Jay

Putters

Re: @Bazza: PR stunt

Err. Blind bend? Rural road ? Yes you should be going round it at 20mph if that is the speed you need to be going to stop when you come round the blind bend on a rural road and see a stupid cyclist in black with no lights in the middle of the lane.

Simply because it's the same speed you need to be going to stop when you come round the same bend and find a sensible cyclist laying in the road because a front spoke has just given and stopped the front wheel dead (yep - been there, done that, it hurts !). Or a damn great piece of farm machinery coming the other way scraping both hedgerows (been there, done that, learned to drive in rural Norfolk, there damn great combine harvesters come down the road scraping both hedgerows !).

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: PR stunt

Yep. Total fabrication by someone in their PR department.

It reminds me of when the double glazing saleman comes to your house and shows you a letter from "a retired police officer" saying how "brand z" windows prevented a thief from gaining access to the house.

Filippo

Re: FF22

By that logic, accusing Autopilot of being unreliable because of a few accidents and one fatality is just a PR stunt, because human drivers cause accidents by the tens of thousands and fatalities by the thousands every day.

Filippo

Re: PR stunt

Yeah, the human maybe was driving too fast. That only serves to further prove the point that the autonomous system saved someone in conditions where the human wasn't able to. Whether this was because the human was breaking a rule, or because he was genuinely unlucky, is irrelevant. Attribution of responsibility does not change what happened.

passportholder

Re: @Bazza: PR stunt

" so should my wife and I always drive at 20mph just in case one of these idiots is just in front of us around a blind bend?"

Wow :O

petboy

Re: @Bazza: PR stunt

Are you guys arguing over "driving too fast" forgetting that in the USA it is an offence for the pedestrian to jaywalk? So there is no expectation on the part of drivers that people will simply walk off the pavement in front of them, nor any legal requirement to consider it.

Khaptain Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

"That only serves to further prove the point that the autonomous system saved someone in conditions where the human wasn't able to."

In that case it won't be long before none of us are allowed to drive by ourselves because statistically we can't do any better than the autonomous systems ?

* Autonomous system are excellent at dealing with known situations and prepared scenarios. Hence quick braking when imminent impact is true

* Human Beings are for more capable at dealing with the unknown and unprepared situations which are far more prevalent on our roads today.. Example : It is less dangerous to simply hit a roe deer and keep control of the vehicle that it is too suddenly brake hard and lose control of the vehicle. These are dynamic decision making moments which require a lot more than a few I2C components.

Alan Brown Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

"If glare from oncoming headlights was blinding, then legally you must slow down to the point where your visual acuity matches that of your response time, and braking distance of your vehicle. "

And meantime whilst you're slowing down there's a window for a black cow to wander onto the road in front of you.

Not theoretical. A couple of friends died this way.

Dr. Mouse Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

Then by definition the driver was driving too fast for the conditions.

I don't remember seeing what speed they were travelling at, but your statement is not always correct.

I once hit a dog with my car. I was doing less than the speed limit at the time, a sensible speed for that road, noticed something speeding down a driveway out of the corner of my eye and hit the brakes. The dog shot out into the road, and the car hit and killed it. Was I driving too fast for the conditions? No, I was driving sensibly, but a highly unexpected event occurred and there was not enough time for me to avoid it.

Unexpected situations happen all the time when driving. No matter how careful you are, you cannot avoid every one of them. The best you can do is drive sensibly (baring in mind that driving too slowly can also be dangerous), and take the best avoiding action possible when something unexpected happens.

In this case, an idiot stepped out into the road unexpectedly. Even at 20mph, this can happen, and the results can be serious. The driver noticed, and would have taken avoiding action had the car not reacted quicker. That avoiding action may or may not have prevented an accident, but the car's automated reaction did.

If driver aids help a driver to avoid an accident, they are a Good Thing.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: PR stunt

@BAZZA

As someone who lives near New York Ave., I can say that D.C. pedestrians will cross any part of a road (not just crosswalks), at any time, regardless of traffic. Some might be wandering around drunk and/or high. Most of the time this does not result in an accident (you get good at jaywalking), but mistakes happen. People will cross the road and narrowly miss getting hit by cars, as if they are playing a real life game of Frogger. To say that the driver was going too fast is a premature guess.

Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

Good thing it was a pedestrian. What if it had been a dog that the 'autopilot' had misidentified as another vehicle and slammed on the brakes, resulting it being rear-ended by a too-close car behind causing injuries to all concerned? In those circumstances the right thing to do would be to hit the dog, then stop & sort out the mess. In this case the driver clearly wasn't driving within his abilities given the conditions. He was just lucky that his gadget didn't make the situation worse.

Craig 2

Re: PR stunt

"Then by definition the driver was driving too fast for the conditions."

Someone steps out in front of you and it's automatically the driver's fault? I'm not saying he wasn't driving too fast but you don't know that...

"can also be used against drivers"

Or prove their innocence if the other party makes a false claim. If data DOES proves the driver was at fault then good - bad drivers should be penalized. An independent witness (the car) is probably more reliable than two parties with personal interests influencing their testimony.

"Teslas are virtually silent when moving"

So are most modern cars when moving slowly (ie. <20mph) Tyre noise is the predominant indicator when moving at speed, not the engine.

"had to get used to pedestrians and cyclists not hearing him"

I would hope he drives with due care to other road users irrespective of their hearing capabilities. Deaf people are pedestrians, drivers and cyclists too.

Toltec

Re: PR stunt

"In this case, an idiot stepped out into the road unexpectedly. Even at 20mph, this can happen, and the results can be serious."

There are two fundamental approaches to setting speed of travel, at the higher end you need to be able to stop or steer around hazards, i.e. avoid collisions entirely. At the lower end in hazard dense unpredictable environments you set a speed to mitigate the damage done by a collision.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: PR stunt

"Example : It is less dangerous to simply hit a roe deer and keep control of the vehicle that it is too suddenly brake hard and lose control of the vehicle."

Not sure about you, but I haven't lost control under hard breaking for about 15 years, maybe it's because I've actually learnt how to drive properly, heck I could put a car sideways and still control it. People really should get themselves on race or skid training, not only is it good fun, but you learn way more than you ever will on the road.

For most people there is ABS and ESC,

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: PR stunt

Quote: "so should my wife and I always drive at 20mph just in case one of these idiots is just in front of us around a blind bend?".

Yes, absolutely YES!

You should always, ALWAYS be able to stop safely and under control, within the distance you can see ahead of you, irrespective of all other considerations.

If you cannot stop within your visible distance, then by definition you are driving too fast, a danger to other road users, and yourself, and not only could, but should, be prosecuted for dangerous driving,

I was always taught to imaging a truck had lost it's load of concrete, bricks, iron girders while going round a corner ahead of you (which does happen), or that a tractor or heavy vehicle had broken down. Now imagine going round that corner at speed, your not going to come out of that well if you can't stop at a moments notice. Even being able to manoeuvre round isn't a valid excuse, as someone might be coming the other way, or the lost load might be over the entire width of the road.

bazza Silver badge

Re: @Bazza: PR stunt

@Jay,

Ooi here (rural, middle of Devon), it is not unusual for dick head cyclists (dressed in black, no lights on) to ride down the middle of their lane, on a not terribly wide B road, so should my wife and I always drive at 20mph just in case one of these idiots is just in front of us around a blind bend?

It's up to you. If your willing to drive round a blind bend at 60mph and run into whatever happens to be there, you'll be hoping it's something soft and not a tractor. That'd be a bad day, mostly for you. All the crumple zones in the world won't help you if it's got its bale forks on the front.

Tip: us cyclists aren't soft at 60mph, and we're at a handy windscreen height and come with sharp bits of metal attached. Want one squashing the airbag back into your face as they come through the windscreen of your low slung Tesla/whatever? Drive carefully.

ravenviz Silver badge
Boffin

Re: @Bazza: PR stunt

Bend or brow, you must be going slowly enough to stop at the "vanishing point" of the road.

W4YBO

...the point is that when they don't pay attention there is an extra line of defence.

Stuff I've witnessed in the past couple of weeks...

7000 lb SUV less than 10 feet from the rear bumper of a 2000 lb compact at 70 mph.

Left turn from the right lane of a busy six lane highway.

Drivers doing anything/everything other than actually driving.

Cellphone. Q.E.D.

I really look forward to robocars, cause y'all can't drive! (Yes, me included. Obviously, I'm paying too much attention to other's driving.)

Dan Wilkie

Re: PR stunt

I barely scraped my motorcycle theory test because on the hazard perception part, I saw too many hazards I thought I had to react to (kids playing near the road who could run out, someone in the distance with a football etc).

The point is, any of those COULD theoretically have sprinted for the pavement and hurled themselves in front of me. But I don't need to react to it because the DVLA feels it's unlikely.

Equally my two minors many years ago for my car test were for hesitation which was essentially waiting too long at a pedestrian crossing as somebody was milling around near it.

If you're driving down the motorway, a car heading in the other direction COULD hit the central reservation, come over the top, and put you in a collision.

If you're driving down a road with no pavements and 8 foot high walls that's completely straight, somebody COULD leap over the wall straight in front of you.

The point i'm trying to make is you're supposed to temper it with common sense. You need to anticipate sensible risks, but not be completely paranoid about it. And bearing in mind how hard it is to see somebody in dark clothes in an unlit area, it would be unreasonable to drive/ride slowly enough that if there happens to be one in stealth mode, and they were to step out RIGHT in front of you, you would be able to stop. Because common sense is expected on the part of the pedestrian also.

Or do you just not drive round corners in case there's something coming the other way? Because you know, if they're doing 60, and you're doing 5 mph, then you're still not going to stop in time.

x 7 Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

"Then by definition the driver was driving too fast for the conditions."

not necessarily true. I was recently driving in a queue of traffic at around 10mph in rain at night in Blackpool town centre and only just avoided a black clothed idiot who walked out in front of me. I didn't see him until he was in the road, and missed him by inches.

Similarly recently my -ex hit a teenager at around 15mph, again in a queue. The casualty was one of a number of girls standing at the kerb edge who decided to play "chicken" at too close a range. Sometimes the casualty is the problem, not the driver

John Brown (no body) Silver badge
Coat

Re: PR stunt

"A friend who has one has had to get used to pedestrians and cyclists not hearing him. Everyone is so used to hearing cars and lorries that a lot of people don't look before they walk."

So, the pedestrians are not walking to the conditions then?

bazza Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

@James Brown (no body),

So, the pedestrians are not walking to the conditions then?

No they're not walking to the conditions: Green Cross Code. Nor are cyclists: Cycling Proficiency Test. Still the owner of the shiny new Tesla is highly motivated to not crash into other road users, careless or not.

A lot of people (mostly townies) seem to get stuck on hazards being caused only by those pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, farmers and drivers who are not following the rules. And of course to some extent they're right (though I've not once seen badly behaved horse rider).

However for drivers there's plenty of hazards not subject to the rules of the road to worry about. Trust me, wild life is far more prone to running out in front of you than any pedestrian. You don't want to hit a pheasant, fox or a badger, it'll cause a lot of damage. And you really, really don't want to hit a deer; one of those coming at your windscreen will really ruin your day, especially if it ends up inside. You especially don't want to hit a fallen tree - it's an easy way to be killed.

So even if every pedestrian and cyclist was the very model of the perfect road user, you'd still have to drive taking account of the unpredictable pheasants, foxes, badgers, deer and trees that will ruin your day anyway.

Wild Life and Self-Driving Cars

This is probably going to be a major problem for true self driving cars that require no passenger oversight. A deer jumping out in front of a speeding self driving car is a major health hazard to the car's occupants. The car manufacturer will have to take account of that in the software that will decide how quickly the car will drive itself down a country road. And a car is no more capable of seeing through hedges and undergrowth than a human driver.

So a self driving car almost certainly would drive itself far more slowly down that road than any human driver ever choose to. Reason: it'd be hard for a company like Tesla or Google to defend choosing a road speed of 60mph down a country lane if that has led to passengers being killed by a deer. No passenger oversight means the manufacturer is liable. They won't take the risk, whereas actual human drivers routinely do.

But if a self driving car ends up driving itself timidly down that road, it's going to be a very frustrating experience for the passengers. It's bad enough getting stuck behind the slowest car in the world when you're driving home from work, etc. Think how frustrating it'll be if the car has a mind of its own and refuses to put its foot down despite there being an empty road in front of it, just in case there is a deer lurking in the shadows.

Alumoi

Re: PR stunt

So, we must have all vehicles equipped with some kind of noise makers in order for the IDIOTS who don't care for the lives to keep reproducing?

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

Re: PR stunt

"This is probably going to be a major problem for true self driving cars that require no passenger oversight. A deer jumping out in front of a speeding self driving car is a major health hazard to the car's occupants. The car manufacturer will have to take account of that in the software that will decide how quickly the car will drive itself down a country road. And a car is no more capable of seeing through hedges and undergrowth than a human driver."

At the extreme end of the solution envelope might be a wedge shaped car with no front windscreen. Wildlife will just slide up and over. If the passenger has no input into the "driving" of the car then they don't really need to see out either. ;-)

9Rune5

Re: PR stunt

" It is less dangerous to simply hit a roe deer and keep control of the vehicle that it is too suddenly brake hard and lose control of the vehicle."

Depends on what car you are driving.

In Sweden they have two "moose tests". One was used by Saab (and Volvo) to ensure that the A-pillars (and more importantly: the steel cable between the pillars) would take on the impact of moose (a collision likened with hitting a Mini with your windshield). Very few (including the germans) bother with this level of safety.

The other test concerns collision avoidance. I.e. not hit the moose at all, but steer clear.

It was this latter test that Mercedes' first A-model failed so miserably. After a bit of bad press, Mercedes decided to equip ESC/ESP as standard. That solved the problem of that badly designed car. Mercedes were reluctant at first and many Germans ridiculed the tests, but eventually safety concerns prevailed. (and people still buy German cars by the bucketful... I'll never understand why Saab failed as lesser brands prevailed)

Since then (mid-nineties), most cars come with ESC/ESP.

I did an evasive maneuver on the autobahn in my 2011 Saab 9-5 a few years ago. Speed 160-200 kph or thereabouts... Had to avoid hitting a guy who did a sudden lane change (turning signals? what turning signals?). The ESP did not even engage. With its stiff chassis my car did the job with no drama whatsoever. I think I heard a tire squeal, but that was it.

Then there was that time I passed a Volvo X90 in my then 13 year old Saab. Apparently that was not a popular move, so the guy started chasing me. Now... A Saab 9000 on a winter road is a formidable beast. It went reasonably well in the first corner... Then I gave a little more throttle, just so much that my rear would start with a subtle slip... Then the Volvo guy backed down, never to be seen again. The 9000 is a ridiculously easy car to drive in the snow, even though it lacks ESP.

LeeV

Re: PR stunt

"Teslas are virtually silent when moving. A friend who has one has had to get used to pedestrians and cyclists not hearing him. Everyone is so used to hearing cars and lorries that a lot of people don't look before they walk. Pedestrians don't hear bicycles either, and they get hit by bicycle all the time... Perhaps in this case the pedestrian simply didn't hear the Tesla coming."

I'm sorry, but that's utter bulsh!t.

Yes, all electric cars are silent when moving, but only up to about 2 miles an hours.

After that the gravel/grit on the road and tyres makes just as much noise as a 'regular' car.

Have you noticed how loud a modern petrol car is when it's idling these days? Almost silent.

I've had a Nissan Leaf for over two years, and I've 'nearly' run over the same amount of people that I 'nearly' ran over driving 'regular' cars for 30+ years - none. There are now more f@ckwits playing Pokemon walking to the road than ever, silent 'deadly killer' electric cars make no difference - these muppets wouldn't notice a 42' flatbed painted bright pink, with a mobile disco (including lasers & lights) on the back!

The same goes for cyclists - I ride 2000+ miles a year and I've not hit anyone. Just had to dodge muppets walking across roads paying more attention to Facebook than the traffic.

Vic

Re: PR stunt

A friend who has one has had to get used to pedestrians and cyclists not hearing him. Everyone is so used to hearing cars and lorries that a lot of people don't look before they walk.

I reckon there's a market for a sound system linked to the power controller - so the "silent" Tesla can be made to sound like a Daytona...

Vic.

sandholme

Re: PR stunt

No matter how slow you are going it is possible for someone to step out close enough so that you cannot avoid them. The only safe speed is stopped.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

And I'm protecting you all

from alien attacks. No, seriously! Raise your hand all of you who have been harassed by little green men.

Let's not be silly, how can we prove that the driver would have hit the pedestrian for sure ? Just because the proud driver of a Tesla says he did not intend to brake ?

Captain DaFt

Re: And I'm protecting you all

"Raise your hand all of you who have been harassed by little green men."

The Ukraine have their hands raised... Now what?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: And I'm protecting you all

i always thought they were little red men, dressed in green.

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: And I'm protecting you all

just ask Clarkson - he hosted Have I Got News for You, and said that referring to the country as "the Ukraine" is racist (let's argue later about the distinction between racism and nationalism etc), but when the editors went through Top Gear and dubbed the "the" out, it sounded like they all had a terrible affliction. "We're here in t'Ukraine, driving t'cars" etc.

Khaptain Silver badge

A human not a car

I do not like this article because it makes it attempts to make an allusion that cars(mechanical devices) can "think"..

1 : Cars dont think, they are mechanical devices .

2 : That car was designed , built and programmed by a "human", therefore a "human" if anything saved a life..

3 : The captors in that car detected an obstacle, I very much doubt that the obstacle was recognized cognitively as being a "human being"* so the notion of saving a life is void..

4 : If that obstacle had been a madman shooting at the car, the car would have applied the same logic, see below, and the madman would have had even more time to continue to shoot....therefore potentially assisting in a death... The logic works both ways !

Therefore that statement should have read "Car detectors detected an object, applied further logic from it's algorithm, ie , "obstacle detection + distance + car speed = impact imminent" and applied the appropriate logic to induce deceleration".

We are definitely moving forward in the AI world but we are definitely not at the point that the article would like to make allusion..

Someone at El Reg must have just finished their copy of the Daily Mail before writing this article..

I much preferred the recent article about how a university managed to create an algorithm that was capable of determining of whether two previously unknown objects were the same or not. ( I'm damned if if I can find that article - it's only about a month old)

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward
Stop

Re: A human not a car

Issues with your observations.

If a madman steps into road in front of you, most humans will also apply the same logic and hit the brakes. The reason is, your most basic of instincts will take over. You will see an object in the road (it could just of easily be a bin liner blowing in the wind) and you will, without consciously thinking about it, try to avoid a collision.

It's only when the conscious mind takes over a few seconds later you assess the threat and realise you are in danger and would then do the best to avoid this new threat.

Khaptain Silver badge

Re: A human not a car

"It's only when the conscious mind takes over a few seconds later you assess the threat and realise you are in danger and would then do the best to avoid this new threat."

Exactly, and what would you do in that case, hit the pedal, run the gunman down or least try to escape whereas the logic of the car would not allow you to move as it still detects an obstacle.

But I digress most people would simply panic and probably get shot and that damned robotic car won't give a damn either way..

Dan 55 Silver badge
Trollface

As the man said in his email...

He was too busy playing "I spy... a siren" instead of paying attention to the road.

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

Re: As the man said in his email...

Don't be an idiot. As a driver, if you hear a siren, it's not just a "good thing" to assess where it's coming from in case you need to get out of the way, in many places it's a legal duty. Delaying the vehicle emitting the siren might well contribute to a death. It's the drivers responsibility to get out of the way in a safe manner as soon as practically possible. Too many people seem to think that the first response to hearing a siren is to brake or speed up.

Ken Y-N
Stop

Is that it? Automatic emergency braking is hardly unique to Tesla, and the most important thing this story tells me that Tesla's sensors are pretty basic as they appear to be unable to tell the difference between a car and a person.

If Mr Musk is so keen to claim this success, will he accept liability next time a Tesla runs someone over? Or will he channel Steve Jobs and tell people they're driving it wrong?

Putters

"Tesla's sensors are pretty basic as they appear to be unable to tell the difference between a car and a person"

And exactly how do you want the car to behave differently in each case ? Not stop for one fo them ???

lglethal Silver badge
Joke

Well...

Well if we can take it a step further and have it determine the difference between a person and a politician, I think we can all agree that not stopping for one of them would be perfectly acceptable?

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing