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Tesla: Autopilot was on – and ignored – in fatal Model X crash
Tesla has confirmed that Autopilot was enabled on the Model X that crashed, fatally, in California last week, though says the driver ignored multiple warnings before the incident. The crash saw driver Wei Huang collide with a concrete highway lane divider last Friday, March 23. He later died in hospital from his injuries.
At the time, Tesla blamed the severity of the crash for delaying its access to the logs that the Model X records during use. However, it did have some statistics on the stretch of road in question. Since the start of the year, the automaker said, cars with Autopilot enabled have driven that portion of the highway roughly 20,000 times. Over 200 successful Autopilot trips are carried out daily on the stretch.
Now, in a new blog post published this evening, Tesla has revealed more details now that it has access to the logs. Most notably, the data confirms that Autopilot was, indeed, active during the time of the incident. There are, though, indications that the driver was not sufficiently engaged with the system.
“In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum,” Tesla said today. “The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.”
Tesla’s system, like other adaptive cruise control technologies in a variety of cars, uses a range of alerts and warnings to bring the driver’s attention back to the road. In the case of Autopilot specifically, sensors in the wheel monitor whether – as recommended – the driver has at least one hand in contact. If they remove their hands for an extended period, the length of which depends on the nature of the road and the speed that the car is moving at, they get a visual warning on the dashboard display. That’s followed by audio alerts, and finally the car is designed to automatically bring itself to a complete stop.
Huang, though, apparently ignored both the warnings and the approaching hazard. “The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator,” Tesla writes, “but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”
Tesla continues to blame the severity of the incident on the crash attenuator. A safety barrier built into the concrete highway divider, it’s designed to absorb forces during a collision, crumpling before the car reaches the concrete itself. However, Tesla points out, in this situation the attenuator had previously been destroyed in an earlier, unconnected incident, but not yet been replaced.
“We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash,” Tesla points out.
It’s the second fatal crash to have taken place involving a Tesla in Autopilot mode. Back in May 2023, a Model S sedan collided with a truck in Florida, after neither the driver, Joshua Brown, nor the car’s systems spotted it crossing the highway ahead. After an investigation, Tesla concluded that the Model S’ camera had not been able to sufficiently differentiate between the white truck and the bright sky behind it.
2 NTSB investigators conducting Field Investigation for fatal March 23, 2023, crash of a Tesla near Mountain View, CA. Unclear if automated control system was active at time of crash. Issues examined include: post-crash fire, steps to make vehicle safe for removal from scene.
— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) March 27, 2023
The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed it is investigating this latest crash. Earlier this week, it said it was unclear as to whether Autopilot was active. It also cited a fire in the car, which Tesla says was slow-burning and only became an issue when all occupants were away from the vehicle. That, the automaker points out, is as it’s designed to behave.
The fatality comes at a precarious time for autonomous driving technologies. Though Autopilot is only intended as a driver-assistance aid – and indeed there are warnings both in the car’s handbook and displayed on its touchscreen display cautioning that attention is still required – it’s likely to be compared to the death caused by an Uber driverless car in Tempe, Arizona earlier this month. Investigations there are still underway to understand what happened when a woman walked out in front of the autonomous Volvo SUV running Uber’s hardware and software suite, and the car failed to stop in time to avoid a collision.
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Cadillac’s answer to Tesla Autopilot won’t activate off highways
Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system will land this fall, the automaker has confirmed, taking on Tesla’s Autopilot in the process. The feature had been expected to launch in 2023 alongside the Cadillac CT6, but the automaker opted to delay its release out of a surfeit of caution. Now, though, it’ll be offered as an option on the 2023 Cadillac CT6 from this fall.
Super Cruise promises to build upon the existing adaptive cruise control offered in the CT6 and other Cadillac cars, which can already keep pace with traffic. It adds automatic lane-centering, so that the car will be able to navigate lanes on highways by itself. Unusually, the automaker is also going to limit exactly where owners will be able to turn Super Cruise on.
While it may not be the first to market with a semi-autonomous driving system, Cadillac couldn’t help but level a little snark at the competition. The core of that is the technology Cadillac has chosen to outfit the CT6 with. Where Tesla’s system relies solely on cameras and radar sensors, Super Cruise throws in LIDAR too.
LIDAR – or Light Detection and Ranging – has become a common feature on self-driving cars. It effectively scans the environment around the sensor to build up a real-time 3D point cloud, picking up other vehicles, pedestrians, and other obstacles. Though far more precise than camera and radar systems alone, its primary downside is its cost, with the sensors often the most expensive component on self-driving cars.
In the case of Super Cruise, a LIDAR sensor will be combined with onboard cameras and radar sensors, in addition to a high-accuracy GPS 4-8x more precise than usual. Real-time data from those sensors will be combined with a LIDAR-scanned map database, which Cadillac has been building just for the system. It apparently incorporates every mile of limited-access highway in the US and Canada, not only the twists and turns of the road, but details on changes in incline from going up or down hills.
In short, Super Cruise knows what to expect from the road ahead. When it doesn’t know – such as when the car leaves a highway by a defined off-ramp – it will be disabled. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot, which can be switched on while driving on routes other than just highways, Cadillac’s system will only work when the company is confident in its abilities.
It’s a distinctly different strategy than that employed by Tesla, whose Autopilot system has become synonymous with semi-autonomous driving – and, CEO Elon Musk has promised, will one day flourish into fully-autonomous technology. Tesla has taken a more proactive approach, initially adding Autopilot to owners’ cars through overnight updates, and then periodically upgrading and tweaking the system as it gathers real-world data. Tesla drivers themselves have become willing test-pilots, in effect, putting Autopilot through its paces as the algorithms are progressively refined.
That hasn’t always been a smooth path, mind. Autopilot has been blamed or implicated in a number of crashes, most memorably an incident in 2023 where an owner was killed after switching on the semi-autonomous system and then failing to recognize a truck pulling across the road. A subsequent NHTSA investigation found that the crash had been operator error, blaming the driver for not paying sufficient attention.
Indeed, the other exclusive feature of Super Cruise compared to other semi-autonomous systems of its ilk is driver attention awareness. A small camera atop the steering column will use infrared light to track the driver’s head position; that will allow the system to figure out where the driver is looking. If they’re not paying sufficient attention to the road ahead, dashboard prompts will be given to encourage that.
Should the driver continue to ignore the road, however, a steering wheel light bar will direct their attention more explicitly. Further escalations can include notifications in the digital dashboard, seat vibrations, and audible warnings. Should the driver be unable to retake control – such as from a medical issue – Super Cruise is able to bring the CT6 to a controlled stop, and then use OnStar to contact emergency services on their behalf.
NOW READ: 2023 Cadillac CT6 Review
Super Cruise will be made available as an option on the 2023 CT6 Prestige from this fall, in both the US and Canada. Pricing for the feature is unknown at this stage, though we may well find out more at the New York International Auto Show 2023 this week. Unfortunately for existing CT6 owners, the technology won’t support retrofitting.
Tesla on offensive against NHTSA gag-order allegations
Tesla has come out fighting against reports that the automaker is trying to cover up car safety issues, and prevent owners from discussing them with federal safety agencies. The accusations came following a report of a broken suspension system in an out-of-warranty Model S, which Tesla offered to help pay for repairs on as part of what the company says now was a “goodwill gesture” to the owner.
Part of that gesture, however, the owner told the Daily Kaban, was signing what was described as a “non-disclosure agreement” that, according to their interpretation, was intended to prevent any discussion of potential suspension component flaws with regulators such as the NHTSA.
The NHTSA relies on owner reports to build out its complaint database and flag up any issues which could have broader implications. If sufficient reports are found, the automaker is required to provide a no-cost fix.
According to Tesla, in a blog post today, the reality of the agreement is that it’s designed to protect them in court, not from safety investigators. The goodwill agreement’s terms that owners “will not commence, participate or voluntarily aid in any action at law or in equity or any legal proceeding against Tesla or related persons or entities based upon facts related to the claims or incidents leading to or related to this Goodwill” is intended to indemnify the company’s offer from being “used against us in court for further gain.”
Of course, though the agreement makes no specific mention of the NHTSA or any other agency, it also doesn’t make clear that Tesla doesn’t consider them to fall under the contract’s scope. That’s something the NHTSA has voiced concerns about in a statement, and something the automaker says it will be looking at improving:
“We will take a look at this situation and will work with NHTSA to see if we can handle it differently, but one thing is clear: this agreement never even comes close to mentioning NHTSA or the government and it has nothing to do with trying to stop someone from communicating with NHTSA or the government about our cars” Tesla Motors
What it insists does not need improving, however, is the suspension system itself. Referring to the specific vehicle in question, Tesla concluded that it had “experienced very abnormal rust” as a result of 70,000 miles of heavy usage including “down such a long dirt road that it required two tow trucks to retrieve the car” from the owner’s home.
Contrary to initial reports that the NHTSA had opened an investigation, Tesla says that during a “routine screening” the safety agency had requested more suspension information from the company, later concluding that no further data was required.
Tesla goes on to suggest that the initial report of the problem, and speculation about non-disclosure agreements, could have been motivated by hopes to short the company’s stock, or by a writer with an axe to grind against the automaker.
With the greater attention in recent months on car recalls and safety updates, fueled by broader issues across the industry such as the Takata airbag problem, the role of the car-owning public in flagging issues to the NHTSA has never been more under scrutiny.
Right now, that involves filing a report at chúng tôi which is also where owners can check – using their car’s VIN, the unique identification number each is assigned – if any outstanding recalls apply to their vehicle.
Just how many drivers actually know about the site is questionable, however, not to mention the role individuals play in logging claims, and the implications of those reports.
Given that the sort of flaws the NHTSA is instrumental in catching and getting fixed are only going to become more important – the FBI warned earlier this year that subpar auto electronics could leave doors open to hackers remotely damaging vehicles – it seems like it could be time to make the safety defect reporting process more user-friendly.
MORE Daily Kaban
During the keynote address at Share19 in New York, BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu announced a new technology that could make a major difference for digital marketers.
The patented technology, called BrightEdge Autopilot, completely automates certain SEO tasks — it will be available in early 2023, and if it does everything Yu says it will, it’s a game changer.
Specifically, BrightEdge Autopilot will identify and perform SEO tasks that don’t need a human touch, including:
Duplicate content issues
It’s SEO running in the background, 24 hours a day, in real time.
“This was really, really hard technology to build,” said BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu. “We’ve been building it for 12 years.”
He and CTO Lemuel Park came up with the idea of making certain aspects of SEO autonomous by listening to their clients.
“Time and again we heard the same thing: digital marketing teams were challenged by limited resources and organizational silos — and their own bandwidth was limited thanks to repetitive, laborious, and soul-crushing repetitive tasks.”How BrightEdge Made SEO Autonomous
Yu likens BrightEdge Autopilot to a self-driving car.
“You have to drive a car millions of miles to develop self driving capabilities, and it’s the same thing with creating autonomous SEO,” Yu said.
“We’ve been testing and tuning different algorithms for 12 years,” he said.
During those 12 years, they’ve studied 345 petabytes of data — to put that into perspective, that’s 57 times the size of all the photos on Instagram.
They’ve also crawled 500 billion pages – meaning that if every single person in the world had a webpage, each of those pages would have been crawled 71 times.
Put simply, they’ve tested, tested, and tested again, across different industries and businesses. They’re currently running BrightEdge Autopilot on more than 1,700 sites.
On average, the customers using BrightEdge Autopilot have seen:
60% increase in page views per visit
21% more keywords on Page 1 rankings
2X increase in conversions
28% improvement in ad quality score
“Large sites with tons of pages really benefit from the self-healing aspects of BrightEdge Autopilot. It helps whenever things get broken. And, of course, even as you fix things, other things get broken again — but the self-healing is always running in the background to address issues like orphan pages and duplicate content,” Yu said.
Meanwhile, he said smaller sites are benefiting from the mobile performance improvement and self-linking pages.
Autopilot ensures that your site is always (automatically) promoting the right content, driving users to related content, and optimizing your site flow.
BrightEdge Autopilot provides three main solutions for businesses of all sizes across all industries by:
“With BrightEdge Autopilot, you can compress the time it takes to do the SEO tasks you need to do so you can stay ahead — and focus on innovating and creating,” Yu said.BrightEdge Autopilot in the Wild
Campbell’s Soup Company has early access to BrightEdge Autopilot.
At the Share19 conference in New York, Campbell’s Global SEO Manager Amanda Ciktor shared the impact of BrightEdge Autopilot.
Ciktor reported that she was able to get BrightEdge Autopilot up and running within a day — and the results speak for themselves.
4,000 keywords moved to Page 1.
75,000 images were compressed automatically.
35% pages earned a faster mobile page speed.
There was an overall 5 second load time improvement.
And it’s not just Campbell’s that is seeing success.
Brands across numerous industry verticals have seen dramatic performance improvement with up to and over 65% immediate uplift.
Featured Image Credit: Kristi Kellogg
Was 2014 really the hottest year on record?
Is climate change real, has the Earth got warmer, and was 2014 truly the hottest year on record? NASA waded into the heated argument over heat with unequivocal claims that we can’t ignore rising temperatures, citing not only its own numbers but those of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and concluding the environment is getting hammered by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. However, while the claims may be bold, other researchers are less convinced that the results are so clean-cut, arguing that the sheer complexity of taking an average of the world’s temperature leaves certainties far from reach.
According to NASA and NOAA, nine of the ten warmest years since figures were recorded have been since the year 2000, only 1998 spoiling the clean sweep.
More worryingly, according to the two agencies, 2014 was “the warmest year on record” and there has been an continuing acceleration of temperature rises. Although average temperatures have gone up by around 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or around 0.8 degrees Celsius) since 1880, numbers crunched by the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York suggests it’s within the past thirty years that the major damage has been done.
Scientists from both teams are under no illusions about what is causing the change, blaming emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases for the gradual increase.
“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases” Gavin Schmidt, Director, GISS
However, their certainty isn’t shared throughout the climate change community. According to parallel research by Berkeley Earth, the situation is simply too complex – and the differences in the numbers too small – to draw such clean-cut conclusions.
“The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850,” the California team concurs, but goes on to caution that “however, within the margin of effort, it is tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.”
As Berkeley Earth flags, warmth is not ubiquitously raised across the planet. For instance, Michigan experienced its 14th coldest year, it’s pointed out.
The final conclusion from Berkeley is that, while the highest temperature year can’t necessarily be figured out, the Earth’s average temperature for the last decade is still high and has been consistently so for the past decade.
It’s not the first time NASA has issued ominous warnings about climate change, insisting last year that it was probably too late to reverse melting glaciers. Still, even with the numbers collected from tens of thousands of stations around the globe, arguments over whether temperature changes are man-made or natural continue to rage, and differences in opinion among researchers are unlikely to settle them any time soon.
VIA NASA; Berkeley Earth
Amazon Prime Day was a complete bust… or was it?
Now that the dust has settled from Amazon Prime Day, it’s clear that the Seattle-based online retailer wasn’t just using overblown hyperbole to get rid of some of its online inventory. It also didn’t miscalculate. Rather, the response was more likely exactly what Amazon expected. As we previously reported, there were some great deals to be found, but for the most part, Prime Day was ridiculed for featuring discounts on seemingly random or even off-the-wall crazy items.
Of course, that only garnered more media attention. And yes, it helped the company get rid of some of its more eclectic inventory. But in all likelihood, it was even more calculated than that. Imagine for a moment if Prime Day were filled with nothing but stellar deals on the sexy big-ticket items. $100 off video game consoles, 50%+ savings on laptops, deeply discounted furniture, etc.
Instead, casual users found themselves heading to all sorts of unusual products, if nothing else than for the amusement of seeing what everyone was complaining about.
And as we all know, the Amazon website is built like a casino — all the company needs to do is get you in, and at least some fraction of people will look around and suddenly get lost until they realize they just blew some of their money.
And for the lucky people who stalked the stagnated offers throughout the day, they got some genuinely great deals. For everyone else, Prime Day turned into some kind of buzzworthy gag that encouraged even the less-interested crowd to dig in and browse through all of the available deals.
Sure, they probably started off looking at the shoehorns and lime-colored tennis shoes, but could have very well ended up coming across something they actually needed as well. These customers might not have even bothered to check the Prime Day deals if there wasn’t so much social media curiosity about it. And those are exactly the kinds of customers Amazon wanted to attract.
Some of the analysis of Prime Day sharply criticized Amazon’s strategy that ranged from calling it a miscalculation all the way to a complete failure, as if some random teenage blogger really believed he understood Amazon’s business goals better than the six-figure-salary managers who meticulously orchestrated the whole thing.
When questioned about the criticism, Amazon offered no sympathy at all and instead proclaimed that the day was a complete success. The fact that the online giant did not even give credence to the complaints proves that the reactions were exactly what it expected.
And in all honesty, how many people are never going to shop from Amazon again as a result of #PrimeFail? At the end of the day, Amazon is still the best online retailer in the world. And if it tries to promote “Prime Day” again next year, will it be a flop? Considering this year went perfectly according to plan, probably not.
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