Thursday, September 05, 2019

Unsafe At That Speed

Highway driving is largely the "easy" problem for various level of automated driving. Except for one thing - the speed. The speed is especially (but not just) a problem for what they call Level 2 or Level 3 systems, which in theory kinda drive themselves in some situations but still need "attentive" drivers. At 65mph you travel 475 feet in 5 seconds. The cars "see" about twice this (assuming flat, straight) so that's 10 seconds. There's a very small window of time to realize a) your Tesla is about to drive into a fire truck and b) react even if you are hands-on-the-wheels looking straight ahead at all times. If the car can't handle these situations, it is unrealistic to put blame on the driver because even a perfect driver isn't going to fix it.

This happened at a slower speed, but it isn't much different, and if the car can't handle the situation at a slower speed it isn't going to at the faster one.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited both driver error and Tesla's Autopilot design as the probable causes of a January 2018 crash, in which a Model S slammed into a parked fire truck at about 31 mph. According to the report, the driver was distracted and did not see the fire truck. But NTSB says that Tesla's Autopilot was also at fault, as its design "permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task."

The driver reportedly had Autopilot engaged and was following closely behind a large SUV or truck. The lead vehicle changed lanes to move around a fire truck that was parked in the lane ahead. The Tesla driver claimed he was drinking coffee and eating a bagel and did not see the firetruck. When the lead vehicle changed lanes, the Model S accelerated. About .49 seconds before the crash, the vehicle detected a stationary object in the road and displayed a warning, but it was too late.