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

Ken Y-N

I didn't say it should do anything different, I just commented on the apparent lack of differentiation in the display.

werdsmith
Silver badge

You are right. Most car makers offer the same automated braking.

My ordinary Nissan has "Forward Emergency Braking" and it when somebody stepped into the road ahead of me, I went to brake but the brakes were already applied. The car stopped in good time and the pedestrian had stopped and stepped back.

Very impressive, but not news.

Boothy
Silver badge

Quote: 'I didn't say it should do anything different, I just commented on the apparent lack of differentiation in the display.'

Surly in an emergency situation, a speedy response and warning is the critical path?

Spending CPU cycles on deciding if it's a car/lamppost/meat-bag before warning the driver is just going to be wasting time, literally.

Perhaps they should just change the warning to something more generic?

John Brown (no body)
Silver badge

"Very impressive, but not news."

Good news rarely is. I wonder how many people out there actually realise that so many cars do have these sorts of safety features? All we ever hear about are when "Things Go Bad"tm

Oengus
Silver badge

Did its job

The car and its software did its job. No news here. If the software is reliable it should protect the pedestrians and occupants 100% of the time. It is when it doesn't do its job that the software becomes newsworthy.

Filippo

Re: Did its job

No it doesn't. It only has to do, statistically, a better job than a human. Which is nowhere close to 100%.

Nolveys
Silver badge

Meanwhile, at Microsoft...

"So, I can't help but notice that the test car is driving over the pedestrian dummy, switching into reverse, backing over it and then driving forward over it again and again and again. How long until this bug gets fixed?"

"What do you mean by 'bug'? Management told us to make it work this way, they say it makes for a better user experience. For version 10 we're going to make it so that one pair of tires always goes over the genitals."

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Meanwhile, at Microsoft...

"For version 10 we're going to make it so that one pair of tires always goes over the genitals."

It'll also send us telemetry about the incident, although we promise we won't use that for anything at all, ever.

JeffyPoooh
Silver badge
Pint

Dark pedestrian on a dark and stormy night...

Just not white trucks on a bright and sunny day.

JeffyPoooh
Silver badge
Pint

"Saving" lives...

Car hitting pedestrian in a downtown area, where the car is presumably travelling roughly in accordance with city speed limits, perhaps 30 or 35 mph (about 50-60 kph) maximum, is (these days) fatal to the pedestrian significantly less than 50% of the time.

Based just on my recollection of local news reports, the fatality rate is not even 10%.

Claiming this as a "life saved" is almost certainly pure, unadulterated BS.

Give them credit for perhaps 0.05 (?) of a life saved.

fnj

Re: "Saving" lives...

@JeffyPoooh:

Car hitting pedestrian in a downtown area, where the car is presumably travelling roughly in accordance with city speed limits, perhaps 30 or 35 mph (about 50-60 kph) maximum, is (these days) fatal to the pedestrian significantly less than 50% of the time.

Are you serious? First of all, on a city street with cars parked all along both sides, with doors that could suddenly be flung open, and the sidewalks mobbed with people who could dart out from between them, 99% of the time I'm driving at 10-20, regardless of what the posted or general speed limit is. That speed limit is an absolute maximum for perfect conditions. Anyway, I've NEVER seen a city street posted at 35. More usually, the are posted 25 or 30.

Now then. You think being clobbered by a one ton metal object hurtling at a speed of 15 meters per second is survivable? I think you're badly confused. Maybe if the driver is going 30, sees someone dart out in front of him, and manages to brake to maybe 15 before hitting him, MAYBE then he won't be too seriously hurt. At 30, he is going to be severely injured, if not killed. At 35, it is going to be flat-out fatal well over half the time.

PatientOne

Re: "Saving" lives...

"That speed limit is an absolute maximum for perfect conditions"

The speed limit is the maximum safe speed under NORMAL conditions. There is absolutely no point in designing a road for perfect conditions as you'd be wasting time and effort (conditions may be near perfect on occasion, but never actually 'prefect'). The speed limit is also not an absolute maximum, but the legal maximum. Due to how roads are designed, they can handle faster moving traffic, such as police cars and other emergency vehicles, the drivers of which have undertaken specific training to allow for the higher speeds they will travel at, and the vehicles are (normally) modified to cope.

There: Fixed that bit for you :p

Anonymous Coward
FAIL

Re: "Saving" lives...

"Now then. You think being clobbered by a one ton metal object hurtling at a speed of 15 meters per second is survivable? "

"It says that the latest research shows that the probability of death is now 7% at 30mph and 31% at 40mph"

http://www.roadsafetygb.org.uk/news/1191.html

Facts...who needs them.

JeffyPoooh
Silver badge
Pint

Re: "Saving" lives...

@Lost all faith... "... probability of death is now 7% at 30mph..."

Crikey. I *guessed* about 5% ("...perhaps 0.05 (?) of a life..."), and you confirmed 7% at the stereotypical city speed limit of 30mph (50kmh). Goes up quickly with speed, but still not 'a life' even at 40 mph, which is at the high end of the usual city speed limits.

Thank you so much.

To the downvoters and ill-informed rebuttal-ists, I was right and you were wrong.

I'm not gloating, just making sure you hoist aboard the correct information and adjust your very badly programmed gut reactions.

JeffyPoooh
Silver badge
Pint

Re: "Saving" lives...

@fnj

I pay attention to our local news.There have been a spate of car pedestrian collisions. Hardly any have been fatal.

Local news matches the stats found by commenter 'Lost all faith...'.

Your gut reaction is simply ill-informed and factually incorrect.

Facts are that car pedestrians accidents at city speed limits are not fatal in the significant majority of cases. Not even close to 50%.

Don't bother trying to find some outlying false data to rebut. The internet can offer up proof of anything.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Yes but....but

Nice marketing ploy, but it does obscure the bigger picture:

A truly autonomous, safe and reliable road transport system (that includes private vehicles) will probably look more like this:

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

To reduce overall fossil-fuel consumption (and the other issues associated with single-ownership vehicles) we would be better off sharing Teslas, not buying more of them. The 3 billion people who will eventually want to purchase cars in places like Mumbai, Beijing and Africa are not going to help.

Believe me, I love the tech. Self driving cars are an extremely cool idea. However, I would prefer to focus on things that actually do reduce the cost of moving people around:

Better public transport

Simplified inexpensive, ride and car sharing.

Smarter city grids that don't make 20 mph horse rides a better or equally good performance option to rush hour traffic

More telecommuting, staggered work hours, more walkable and sustainable communities

From an engineering standpoint, I don't see how automated control and collision detection road systems can work much better than the Airbus. And the world's roads do not have centralized ATC systems, universal aircraft identification standards or stringent requirements for pilot training hours. There are many reasons why air travel is statistically safer than road travel.

So wouldn't it be better to design and implement the infrastructure needed for driver less cars first? Which would not be a trivial undertaking.

There is a slight whiff of hubris here on the part of Tesla. As accidents multiply and more guinea pigs die, widespread rejection of the whole concept is still possible.

Controlled environments have produced excellent results for driver-less or semi-autonomous cars. And yet, I am still not keen on sharing a dark, rain-slicked country road with them and other meatbag drivers, at least not with the current stage of evolution and existing road infrastructure.

Chris King
Silver badge

"I guess that the car thought the pedestrian was another car in front of us?”

So it sounds like the car slammed on the brakes, but thought there was a car in front ?

Right decision, possibly wrong reason - what if the car was programmed to respond differently if a pedestrian stepped out ? (i.e brake harder to avoid contact at all costs ?)

"We would have sustained no damage whatsoever by striking that animal"

IJD

Avoiding accidents is exactly the same issue as causing them -- there will be cases where an autonomous driver will save a life when a human driver wouldn't, and vice versa, and the cases will be different -- what matters is how often the two occur.

Humans have very good sensors and decision making when used properly, most human driver accidents -- around 94% according to the statistics -- happen when this isn't the case (tired, inattentive, distracted, texting, risk-taking, stupid decisions...).

Autonomous cars have less good sensors and less evolved algorithms so will make mistakes that good human drivers don't, but don't suffer from the problems listed above that cause most "accidents".

So autonomous cars will probably (at least initially) increase the 6% but decrease the 94% -- which means overall they're likely to avoid more accidents and cut the death/injury rate, regardless of whether there were some cases where a human could have done better.

Everyone keeps bringing up the exceptional cases (driving in a blizzard, Tesla under a truck) where a human could do better while ignoring the hugely bigger number (most accidents!) where an autonomous car would be better -- because everyone thinks they're an above-average driver (yes, really...) and that only other people cause accidents, it wouldn't have happened if *I* was driving ;-)

Queasy Rider

The exception that proves the rule

Remember when seatbelts became mandatory and people argued about cases where people had been saved by being flung clear from their crashed vehicles, not trapped by their seatbelts. I'll take my chances and belt up. And I'll do the same if I can ever afford an autonomous vehicle, letting it save me if it can.

ElsmarMarc

Re: The exception that proves the rule

"Remember when seatbelts became mandatory and people argued about cases where people had been saved by being flung clear from their crashed vehicles, not trapped by their seatbelts. I'll take my chances and belt up. And I'll do the same if I can ever afford an autonomous vehicle, letting it save me if it can."

And the same with airbags. GM was really against them (reason was cost, of course) and even described them as "small bombs". I'm also a pilot, though I haven't flown for a number of years. Ground proximity sensors and warnings, stall warning technology, and other technology saves lives, yet I know there are still pilots out there who complain about "fly by wire" because they have no "real" control (no mechanical linkages) to an aircraft's parts (such as flaps, rudder, engine throttle, etc., etc.). I'm with you - Give me all the IA help that I can afford. Once you pass another aircraft flying VFR going across your flight path (pedestrian walking into the road, so to speak) and miss it by maybe 20 feet, just by luck, you realise the value of radar and transponders (not to mention the ATC centers and their employees). These systems are young. They are the future.

JeffyPoooh
Silver badge
Pint

Re: The exception that proves the rule

Accident avoidance features while the human drives is a vastly better approach than uncertified, untrustworthy, frankly idiotic, over-hyped 'self driving cars' crashing into white trucks while the naive human gently slumbers.

Queasy Rider

Re: The exception that proves the rule

I suppose you're right. As a youth over 40 years ago I made a cross-continent trip. Was so bored that I set cruise and then played cards with my girlfriend, so I, for one, can't talk about anybody else texting, shaving, eating, putting on makeup, etc. I'd like to think that sort of foolishness is behind me but, the Tesla, and any similarly capable cars yet to hit the road sure make it easy and tempting to backslide into old evil ways.

Mutton Jeff

Just think...

Driver's now freed up to do important stuff like check for Pokemon ...

DougS
Silver badge

I doubt he was driving with autopilot engaged

It sounds like he was driving, not letting the car do the driving, but the car detected a pedestrian and applied the brakes. Tesla is hardly the only car that has such collision avoidance technology. That is NOT the same thing as leaving it up to the car to drive using Tesla's glorified cruise control they refer to as "autopilot".

Yugguy

Darwin

So an imbecile has been saved from death? And this is good?

jzl

Re: Darwin

Yes, this is good. Saving people from death is good. This is not morally ambiguous.

What kind of monster are you? Seriously, take a long hard look at yourself.

jzl

Wow

The crazies are out in force in the comments today.

Well done Tesla. A good result and a reason to keep developing the technology.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Manual override

What if you WANT to run over the pedestrian?

Seriously, robbers will take advantage of this feature if they know a car isn't a threat to them.

Boothy
Silver badge

Re: Manual override

I can just imagined, say 10 years from now when auto-braking and collision avoidance systems are likely to be common place, some miscreants deciding to have some fun kicking footballs across a busy motorway, or dropping cardboard boxes from a bridge, just to see what happens!

tfewster
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Manual override

I want forward sensors. But I want them to sound the horn. Which will a) tell the damn pedestrian to get out of the way and b) alert me to look up from my phone/book/nap and brake if needed

Vic

Re: Manual override

What if you WANT to run over the pedestrian?

VW has a fairly amusing advert about that...

Vic.

Jonathan

"I guess that the car thought the pedestrian was another car in front of us?”

Is supposition of the driver, not Tesla's explanation of what the car detected. They just confirmed the incident from the logs, not the reason why the car hit the brakes afaics.

"Machine does what it is supposed to" may not be news (but it is good publicity) but there seems to be almost a thought that "Car avoids hitting pedestrian" is a bad thing for it to have done in some of the previous comments.

Tim Jenkins

Great for divorce lawyers

Nice to know that Teslas log so well, and transmit back to the mothership for safekeeping. I'm looking forward to the first court case where it is demonstrated that

at time x, vehicle on route from location 'office' diverted via cashpoint (bank record below) at low speed through warehouse district y and continued with additional passenger (seat adjusted) to secluded area of carpark z (ANPR image attached). Vigorous motion detected for seven minutes (rear shock reset, aircon increased) while vehicle stationary, followed by ignition of heat source in cabin (particulate filter enabled). Passenger returned to location y (weight decrease noted), then vehicle returned to location 'home' via late-night florists (googled).

O brave new world

That has such (tech) in't...

Calum Morrison

Re: Great for divorce lawyers

Perhaps not quite in that detail, but the fact that the CEO can access such detailed logs of any owner, seemingly on a whim and so rapidly just for a bit of good PR was what I took from the story. Brave New World indeed.

DougS
Silver badge

Re: Great for divorce lawyers

Congressmen rarely get exercised about anything to the degree they are willing to leave behind their partisanship and work together on legislation, but one of the quickest ways to insure that is to make something a threat TO THEM.

If the manufacturer of a car has access to a history of where a congressman has been it potentially exposes mistresses or corruption, or even in the case of the squeaky clean guy (if any exist) it could expose a meeting with the opposition he would prefer his own party didn't know about. All you need is an employee with access who is partisan for the 'other' party, or one who is friends with a journalist / blogger looking to dig up dirt.

All it will take is some scandal where this information is "illegally" released (in quotes because there are no laws governing it today) similar to when the list of Bork's video rentals was made public and congress will quickly act once they realize it could be used against THEM.

Obviously this has nothing to do with Tesla, GM has been shipping cars that can report position back to home base for years with their OnStar product. They might have a 'privacy policy' on that information, but the question isn't whether they keep records of where cars have been, only how many people have access to those records. Tesla may be keeping more detailed records, since it can probably gauge your position by other means when you are out of contact with GPS which OnStar probably cannot, but this is merely a difference of degree.

Vic

Re: Great for divorce lawyers

Vigorous motion detected for seven minutes (rear shock reset, aircon increased) while vehicle stationary

Seven minutes?

Your sensors seem to have missed the arrival of the pizza delivery moped entirely...

Vic.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

All the PR Spin isn't going to bring dead people back to life

The U.S. Fed NHTSA have multiple investigations running concurrently into the Tesla model S vehicles with autonomous like operation that requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times. This is due to multiple deaths from drivers using the autonomous mode in the model S. While AV's have a lot of potential to help society, rushing the process for financial gain has proved deadly.

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