Friday, July 15, 2016

Consumer Reports calls on Tesla to disable, rename autopilot feature.

The Washington Post (7/14, Bogage, 9.18M) reports that on Thursday, Consumer Reports called for “Tesla to disable its semiautonomous autopilot mode in the wake of a May crash fatality in which autopilot failed to alert a driver of an oncoming vehicle.” Consumer Reports wrote in a blog post, “While the exact cause of the fatal accident is not yet known, the incident has caused safety advocates, including Consumer Reports, to question whether the name Autopilot, as well as the marketing hype of its roll-out, promoted a dangerously premature assumption that the Model S was capable of truly driving on its own.” According to the Washington Post, the magazine “asked Tesla to disable autopilot’s ‘autosteer’ system, issue new guidance to drivers about the system’s use, discontinue beta releases of semiautonomous technology and rename the autopilot feature.”
        Bloomberg News (7/14, Hull, 2.07M) reports that the article called Tesla’s Autopilot “Too Much Autonomy Too Soon.” Vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports Laura MacCleery said, “By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security.” The article continues, “In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer. But today, we’re deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology. ‘Autopilot’ can’t actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time. Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver’s hands are on the wheel.” MacCleery appears on CNBC’s Power Lunch (7/14, 282K) to discuss the story further.
        The Los Angeles Times (7/14, Peltz, 4.09M) reports that Tesla “has emphasized that Autopilot is still in a beta phase of introduction and has limitations” and has warned drivers “to stay alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel because the technology does not provide fully autonomous driving.” However, Consumer Reports says that “these two messages – your vehicle can drive itself but you may need to take over the controls at a moment’s notice – create potential for driver confusion.” The magazine added, “It also increases the possibility that drivers using Autopilot may not be engaged enough to react quickly to emergency situations.”
        Business Insider (7/14, 3.06M) reports that the consumer magazine also called on Tesla to “test all safety-critical systems fully before public deployment; no more beta releases.”
        Reuters (7/14, Shepardson), MLive (MI) (7/14, Muller, 762K), and Manufacturing (7/14, Szal, 5K) also report on the story.
        Tesla, Musk decline to disable or rename system. The AP (7/14, Krisher, Durbin) reports that “a Tesla spokeswoman said the company has no plans to change the name, and that data it collects show drivers who use Autopilot are safer than those who don’t.”

        USA Today (7/14, Bomey, 6.31M) mentions that Tesla’s comments come after the NHTSA and the NTSB announced investigations of a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S while in Autopilot mode. The article adds that “Tesla CEO Elon Musk has refused to disable the system, which could be done through an over-the-air software update, and has instead repeatedly defended it and said it’s safer than human driving.” In a statement released Thursday, the company said, “Tesla is constantly introducing enhancements proven over millions of miles of internal testing to ensure that drivers supported by Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance.” 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

NHTSA requests data on Tesla’s autopilot technology.

The New York Times (7/12, Vlasic, Boudette, Subscription Publication, 14.18M) reports on the front page of its business section that Federal officials are stepping up “their investigation of the fatal crash of a driver operating a Tesla car with its Autopilot system engaged.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “on Tuesday released a detailed set of questions for the carmaker about its automated driving system, particularly the emergency braking function.” The nine-page letter the agency sent Tesla indicated that the NHTSA “was investigating whether there are defects in the various crash-prevention systems related to Autopilot.” The article mentions that the NTSB, “which more typically investigates airline accidents,” is also investigating the crash.
        Business Insider (7/12, Debord, 3.06M) specifies that the “NHTSA has asked Tesla to provide extensive information on the crashed Tesla’s Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems, as well as the Autosteer function that enables a Tesla vehicle in Autopilot mode to navigate a roadway.”
        The AP (7/12, Krisher) reports that the NHTSA is seeking to determine why the Autopilot technology “failed to detect a tractor-trailer that crossed in front of a Model S sedan May 7 in Williston, Florida.” The investigators are “zeroing in on the limitations of the system and how it reacts when obstacles cross its path.” The majority of the inquiry focuses “on how the system works at intersections with crossing traffic, but it also asks Tesla to describe how the system detects ‘compromised or degraded’ signals from cameras and other sensors and how such problems are communicated to drivers.” The NHTSA “also asked Tesla for its reconstruction of the Brown crash, and for details of all known crashes, consumer complaints and lawsuits filed or settled because the Autopilot system didn’t brake as expected,” and “said Tesla must comply with its request by Aug. 26 or face penalties of up to $21,000 per day, to a maximum of $105 million.”
        Writing an analysis for Seeking Alpha (7/12, 660K), Paulo Santos writes that the “NHTSA’s probe into autopilot performance has widened,” and is “asking not just information on this particular fatal autopilot accident, but also on other accidents where autopilot might have been involved.” Santos says that now the “NHTSA is trying to get a better grip on autopilot performance in general.”
        Bloomberg News (7/12, Shields, 2.07M) reports the NHTSA “says it hasn’t made a determination about whether the vehicles are defective and described the information request as a “standard step” in the preliminary evaluation of Tesla’s automated driving system.”
        USA Today (7/12, Bomey, 6.31M) reports that “the safety of Tesla Motors’ partially self-driving car technology is the subject of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation after a crash that killed a driver in Florida who had activated the system in his vehicle.” According to the article, “the NTSB has sent a team of investigators to open an investigation into the crash.” USA Today says that the “NTSB’s investigation is particularly notable because the organization’s car-crash probes typically center on emerging technologies.” NTSB Spokesman Christopher O’Neil said in an email, “the NTSB investigation will be looking more comprehensively at whether the crash reveals systemic issues that might inform the future development of driverless cars and the investigation of crashes involving autonomous vehicles.”
        MLive (MI) (7/12, 762K) reports that the NTSB’s investigation has been launched alongside investigations by the NHTSA and the SEC. While the NTSB’s investigation will focus on the broad issue of semi-autonomous driving systems in the US, the NHTSA will look specifically at Tesla’s crash-avoidance system and the SEC will investigate whether Tesla failed to disclose information to investors.
        Manufacturing (7/12, Szal, 5K) also reports on the story.
        Business Insider: Tesla should be most concerned with NTSB investigation. In an analysis, Business Insider (7/12, DeBord, 3.06M) says that “the real problem for Tesla is that the Florida accident is also being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).” BI says that “it’s entirely possible that the NTSB will recommend that self-driving technologies be far more rigorously tested and regulated, placing Tesla in the position of having to disable Autopilot features or withdraw the system.” The analysis concludes that “a damaging NTSB report could undermine Tesla’s dominant narrative: that it’s the car maker of the future.” which is why the NTSB investigation is the one “that Elon Musk should be most concerned about.”
        Tesla has no plans to disable autopilot feature. The Wall Street Journal (7/12, Ramsey, Spector, Bach, Subscription Publication, 6.27M) reports that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says the company has no plans to disable the Autopilot feature in its cars in the wake of a fatal in May involving the Model S. Instead, Musk said the company is planning to heighten efforts to educate customers on how the system works and how to properly use it.
        CNBC (7/12, Ferris, 2.45M) reports that Tesla Motors “sees Autopilot as a ‘lifesaving technology’ according to Dow Jones, and said it will ‘redouble its efforts to educate customers.’”

        Reuters (7/12, Sadam) reports that Tesla “is planning an explanatory blog post to educate customers.” Musk said in an interview, “A lot of people don’t understand what it is and how you turn it on.” 

Nissan Leaf, Sentra recalled over airbags.

Edmunds (7/13, Lienert, 354K) reports that Nissan North America is recalling 4,355 2016 Nissan Leaf and Sentra cars over an airbag problem. “The wiring harness connector may disconnect from the dual-stage passenger airbag,” the NHTSA said in its recall summary. “If the wiring harness disconnects, the passenger airbag may not deploy during a crash, increasing the risk of injury.” Automotive Fleet (7/13, 62K) adds that the recall covers vehicles manufactured between February and March of this year. Dealerships will inspect the wiring harness and repair if necessary at no cost. Additional coverage is available from Cars (7/13, 876K) and Leftlane News (7/13, 1K). 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Third Tesla accident blamed on autopilot. USA Today (7/11, Gardner, Bomey, 6.31M) reports that “for the third time in two weeks, a Tesla electric vehicle has crashed with the driver telling authorities that the car’s Autopilot self-driving system was engaged at the time.” Tesla “said that it is looking into the crash and could not confirm whether Autopilot was a factor.” According to the Montana Highway Patrol, the driver “said he activated the car’s Autopilot driver assist system at the beginning of the trip.”
        Digital Trends (7/11, Glon, 354K) reports that the “Tesla owner is blaming” the accident “on the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot technology.” A message posted on the Tesla Motors Club forum “explains that his friend was traveling in a Model X at about 60 mph in a 55-mph zone with Autopilot turned on when the crossover veered off the road and hit a wooden guardrail.” The article mentions that the NHTSA has not yet commented on this crash as it is already investigating two other accidents involving Tesla cars.

        CNET News (7/11, Musil, 609K) reports that the autopilot feature “failed to detect an obstacle in the road.” Tesla has yet to comment on the accident. Also reporting on the story are Motor Trend (7/11, Pleskot, 7.17M), BGR (7/11, Epstein, 223K), the Detroit Free Press (7/11, Gardner, 1.02M), Road and Track (7/11, Silvestro, 3.55M), Fusion (7/11, 413K), Jalopnik (7/11, 633K), AutoGuide (7/11, 34K), Autoevolution (7/11, 5K), Hot Hardware (7/11, 1K), and Gas 2.0 (7/11, 3K). 

Friday, July 8, 2016

NHTSA probing Tesla’s autopilot mode after two crashes.

ABC News (7/7, Perlow, 4.15M) reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a preliminary investigation into Tesla’s automated system following the death of Joshua Brown, who was driving his Tesla Model S in autopilot mode when both the car and driver failed to notice a tractor-trailer crossing two lanes of traffic in an intersection, careening the Tesla underneath the trailer. Prior to the crash, Telsa CEO Elon Musk told Bloomberg, “We’re going to be quite clear with customers that the responsibility remains with the driver,” adding, “we’re not asserting that the car is capable of driving in the absence of driver oversight.” The company is calling Brown’s death a “tragic loss.”

        The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7/7, Moore, 533K) reports another investigation is underway for second crash involving Tesla’s autopilot mode. The accident occurred July 1 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when a man driving his Tesla Model X in self-driving mode rolled the SUV after crashing into barriers on both sides of the highway; both the driver and passenger survived the crash. This investigation comes on the heels of the May 7 Florida crash that killed Joshua Brown. “Over-reliance creates more risks in using this technology,” said David L. Strickland, a former NHTSA administrator who is leading the newly formed Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets. This group includes Google, Uber, Lyft, Ford, and Volvo, who are all pushing for favorable rules for the technology ahead of the NHTSA’s expected release of undated guidelines for self-driving cars. Mr. Strickland also said, “My member companies and every automaker that’s working on full self-driving technology is absolutely, positively working hard to ensure that when this technology is placed in the hands of consumers, that it is going to operate at the highest level of safety.” 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

NHTSA investigates second Tesla vehicle crash.

The Wall Street Journal (7/6, Spector, Ramsey, Subscription Publication, 6.27M) reports days after launching a formal probe of Tesla Motors’ Autopilot system linked to a fatality in Florida, the NHTSA is examining a second collision in Pennsylvania. Tesla said it doesn’t have evidence Autopilot was in use at the time of the crash, and the Tesla SUV driver declined to comment Tuesday.
        CNBC (7/6, 2.45M) reports that the second crash involved a Tesla Model X SUV that was “reportedly in autopilot mode when it rolled onto its roof on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.” The NHTSA said it is currently collecting information from Tesla, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the vehicle’s driver “to determine whether automated functions were in use at the time of the crash.” The article notes that initially, Tesla’s spokesperson said the company had “no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident,” but later, the statement was revised to say “no data at this point to indicate that Autopilot was engaged or not engaged.”
        Reuters (7/6) reports that according to Pennsylvania State Police, “the Model X struck a turnpike guard rail, then veered across several traffic lanes and into the median, where it landed on its roof in the middle of the roadway.” The driver and passenger in the car were uninjured.

        The Detroit Free Press (7/6, Gardner, 1.02M) reports that Tesla said in a statement, “We received an automated alert from this vehicle on July 1 indicating air bag deployment, but logs containing detailed information on the state of the vehicle controls at the time of the collision were never received.” Tesla added, “This is consistent with damage of the severity reported in the press, which can cause the antenna to fail.” 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Second accident occurs involving Tesla in autopilot mode.

The Detroit Free Press (7/5, Gardner, 1.02M) reports Michigan art gallery owner Albert Scaglione and his son-in-law, Tim Yanke, survived a Friday accident in which their 2016 Tesla Model X crashed into a guard rail and concrete median and rolled over while in Autopilot mode. The incident occurred just two days after the NHTSA announced it launched an investigation into a May collision involving a Model S in Autopilot that killed the passenger.
        The Huffington Post (7/5, Mclaughlin, 367K) reports Tesla credited the May collision to “extremely rare circumstances” where neither the vehicle sensors nor the passenger applied breaks.
        NHTSA continues to investigate fatal Tesla crash. USA Today (7/5, Woodyard, 6.31M) reports that the recent fatal crash of Tesla Model S driver has raised concerns about the need for stronger federal regulation on self-driving technology. President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Rosemary Shahan argued that the Model S “wasn’t ready to go out on the road.” Shahan added, “If you have a system called Autopilot that cannot distinguish between the side of a truck and the open sky, it’s not ready.” The article mentions that the NHTSA is developing guidelines on the development of self-driving cars. At the same time, the NHTSA is also “investigating whether Brown might have been distracted while his 2015 Tesla Model S was in Autopilot mode as a truck crossed his path.” NHTSA issued a statement last week that it “will examine the design and performance of the automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash.” Spokesman Bryan Thomas “declined to elaborate” further on the investigation on Tuesday.

        Tesla notified regulators about autopilot crash nine days after incident. Reuters (7/5, Sage, Lienert) reports Tesla Motors alerted regulators to a fatality in one of its Model S sedans in partial self-driving Autopilot mode nine days after it crashed in Florida, the company said on Tuesday. On Tuesday, CEO Elon Musk tweeted in response to an article by Fortune magazine about the timing of the disclosure that the May 7 fatality “wasn’t material” to Tesla. The company was obligated to disclose the fatality to regulators during its third quarter but notified them earlier, on May 16, as it was investigating. “Tesla then provided NHTSA with additional details about the accident over the following weeks as it worked to complete its investigation, which it ultimately concluded during the last week of May,” a Tesla spokeswoman said.