Tesla Model S Driver Blames Autopilot “Failure” For Crash – Tesla Disputes Claim

2 years ago by Eric Loveday 104

Image Credit: Arianna Simpson via Ars Technica

Image Credit: Arianna Simpson via Ars Technica

Tesla Autopilot

Tesla Autopilot

Since releasing Autopilot, Tesla has reminded drivers that they must remain alert and at-the-ready at all times. Autopilot does not imply that the driver can rely on the car to do all the work, yet some Tesla owners like to think that the system is flawless and that it will prevent all wrecks.

Arriana Simpson found out the hard way that Autopilot just doesn’t work that way (well, actually she found out that Autopilot doesn’t work at all if you accidentally disengage the system).

Her story, as told by Ars Technica, goes like this:

“On April 26, Simpson was driving north from Los Angeles on I-5, cruising in autopilot mode. “All of a sudden the car ahead of me came to a halt. There was a decent amount of space so I figured that the car was going to brake as it is supposed to and didn’t brake immediately. When it became apparent that the car was not slowing down at all, I slammed on the brakes but was probably still going 40 when I collided with the other car.”

Autopilot Demo

Autopilot Demo

Tesla says that is not what happened, and once it again it has the vehicle logs to prove it. Tesla says this is how it all went down (via Ars Technica):

“…Tesla says that the vehicle logs show that its adaptive cruise control system is not to blame. Data points to Simpson hitting the brake pedal and deactivating autopilot and traffic aware cruise control, returning the car to manual control instantly. (This has been industry-wide practice for cruise control systems for many years.) Simpson’s use of the brake also apparently disengaged the automatic emergency braking system, something that’s been standard across Tesla’s range since it rolled out firmware version 6.2 last year.”

So, Simpson deactivated the system that would’ve likely would have prevented the wreck, and yet still wants to blame the crash on Tesla it seems.

Tesla released this statement on the matter:

“Safety is the top priority at Tesla, and we engineer and build our cars with this foremost in mind. We also ask our customers to exercise safe behavior when using our vehicles. Since the release of Autopilot, we’ve continuously educated customers on the use of the feature, reminding them that they’re responsible for remaining alert and present when using Autopilot and must be prepared to take control at all times.”

“Tesla Autopilot is designed to provide a hands-on experience to give drivers more confidence behind the wheel, increase their safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable. Autopilot is by far the most advanced such system on the road, but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle and does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility.”

Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured in this incident.

Source: Ars Technica

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104 responses to "Tesla Model S Driver Blames Autopilot “Failure” For Crash – Tesla Disputes Claim"

  1. 2013VOLT says:

    “Simpson’s use of the brake also apparently disengaged the automatic emergency braking system”

    That may be the dumbest software decision I have ever seen. Why would collision prevention be turned off simply by pressing the brake pedal. In order for this system to be turned off it should require deliberate intervention by the user. This is how other automakers design their systems. I keep seeing these half baked ideas that Tesla just throws out to the consumers instead of doing proper testing in house. This will eventually cost them.

    1. SparkEV says:

      Hitting the brakes when under auto control is a deliberate way to tell the car that situation has come up that require manual intervention and that automatic is not working. There’s nothing wrong with this approach.

      What is wrong is if there’s isn’t an obvious way to let the driver know that auto is no longer active. I don’t know how obvious Tesla’s warning mechanism is, but it should be really annoying warning when auto is off until user deliberately turn off the warning.

      When simple cruise control is off, the user is instantly and annoyingly aware that it is off. Annoying feedback warning should also apply to adaptive cruise control.

      1. mo says:

        It seems there is a Catch22 here. If the AP/TACC was going to fail and hit the car, we will never know. Let’s say the driver sees it failing and waits till the last second, decides the auto brake is not going to work and slams the brake but it is not in time. Then Tesla will say the driver deactivated the system. So either way Tesla wins. What we need to know is the time from when she applied the brake till impact. If it was milliseconds then it would seem the accident avoiding system failed.

        1. ClarksonCote says:

          Yes, and if these systems require so much intervention, perhaps Tesla should rename them from “Autopilot” to “Not autopilot” or “Nautopilot”

          I find it discouraging that Tesla is seemingly given a free pass on all these instances. This story paints Tesla too innocently, making it sound like the article lacks objectivity.

        2. Samwise says:

          You really think the logs are that simplistic…
          Pretty sure they can tell you down to the 100th of a second or better when the autopilot was disengaged, they can certainly tell you how fast the car was going and how long afterwards the crash occurred, in fact they can probably tell you how far away the other vehicle was when it happened as well as even with autopilot disengaged all the sensors are probably still active.
          Pretty sure Tesla wouldn’t bother denying it unless their proof can stand up to a fair amount of scrutiny.

          1. mo says:

            I agree, but I would like for Tesla to simply release the time of braking, speed of car and time until impact. If it took say 5secs from braking to impact, it’s an open and shut case, people would stop talking about this incident.

      2. Jack Andeson says:

        In the P90D I drove today; when you step on the brake the adaptive cruise control and lane guidance are released. The two large icons on the dash change from Blue to Gray and chimes sound. And, of course, after driving GM cars for thirty years I EXPECT that cruise control will release when I step on the brake pedal!

      3. John in AA says:

        Yeah, Tesla has pretty much followed industry standard practice that any driver pedal input means “I’m in charge here”. Perhaps the issue is that with the increased degree of automation, drivers are more likely to be mentally ceding control to the car and thus willing (as this driver apparently was) to trust the car to do the right thing.

        There’s clearly a lot of work left to do with the UI. The trick is to reliably discern the difference between “I’m in charge here” and “I grazed the pedal”. The fact that this is the first such reported incident is encouraging though, since it suggests most drivers are not as trusting of the automation as this one was.

        To the commenters saying stuff to the effect of “it has to be fail-safe” I don’t think that’ll come until the car can be Level 4 Autonomous. Anything short of that, and the automatic systems might, by definition, be applying the brakes improperly and there has to be a way for the driver to override.

        1. John in AA says:

          The Tesla 6.2 release notes say “Automatic Emergency Braking will stop applying the brakes when you press the accelerator pedal, press the brake pedal, or sharply turn the steering wheel.”) It occurs to me that they could change it up by disengaging AEB on brake pedal input only if the brake pedal is pressed at least as hard as AEB thinks it needs to be to avert an accident, so a light touch wouldn’t be sufficient. Acceleration or sharp wheel input would still disengage it.

          I’m accustomed to lightly tapping the accelerator to override TACC’s tendency to slow down too cautiously for a turning car ahead of me, so I think accelerate-to-override is already in the set of reflexes.

    2. stimpacker says:

      If you are already braking, then you are in control. If my software takes over and tries to engage brakes, throttle or steering, that’s even more dangerous. This is to avoid conflicting command inputs.

      Software engineering 101

      1. Four Electrics says:

        I disagree. Anti-lock brake systems don’t disengage if a user starts to manually pump the brakes; emergency stop systems should not, either. Some things should not be left to the user.

      2. 2013VOLT says:

        Yes, but automatic collision prevention should be completely separate from autopilot. It is on every other vehicle from every other manufacturer. In fact, this system is deemed so critical a vehicle must be equipped with it in order the receive a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS.

        1. franky_b says:

          You are mixing collision avoidance and Auto-pilot, these are different features. When you have collision avoidance, it’s ON, no matter the situation unless the car allows you to turn it off. My BMW i3 has both ACC and collision avoidance. If ACC is disengaged from pressing the breaks, collision avoidance remains ON.

          I must do a specific actions to turn off collision avoidance and I remainded the impact of doing so. I would guess Tesla did a similar implementation, right?

          1. Four Electrics says:

            No.

            “Automatic Emergency Braking will stop applying the brakes when you press the accelerator pedal, press the brake pedal, or sharply turn the steering wheel.”

            1. Samwise says:

              Pretty certain you DO want to disable automatic emergency braking systems when the driver yanks hard on the steering wheel…
              The consequences of not doing so could be pretty darn catastrophic at any kind of decent velocity!
              That said I suspect it’s more a case of lost in translation, the system wouldn’t be disabled (it probably never is unless manually turned off), it just wouldn’t be doing anything as a response to the situaton that could likely make the situation worse.

          2. Trey M says:

            Four Electrics is correct. On my 550i, the system does have to be DEACTIVATED through the system, but when the system is ACTIVE, it will still release the emergency braking when I step on the brake pedal manually. You are in fact telling the car “I am now in control”.

            1. sven says:

              But if the driver and the car’s sensors see the need to slam on the brakes at approximately the same time, then the driver stepping on the brake would deactivate the automatic emergency brake. All things being equal, the automatic emergency brake would bring the car to a stop quicker (or slow the car down more at impact) since it is computer programmed to provide maximum braking force immediately. Most human drivers in panic stop situations don’t apply maximum braking force immediately. Unless you practice emergency braking, most drivers underestimate just how hard, fast, and far down you have to press the brake pedal to get maximum braking force.

              1. SparkFiatOwner-M3reserved says:

                Collision Avoidance should be failsafe –including stupid human tricks.

                Even if I’m holding the brake down ‘in control’ doesn’t mean making the right decision on braking to avoid the collision — apply more brake idiot — and car should have enough decision capacity to brake HARDER to avoid head on collision. — self preservation.

                This isn’t an overhang or something else– it’s a head on. Just because i have a foot on the brake again isn’t enough to disengage COLLISION avoidance.

              2. Will Davis says:

                aren’t emergency stops part of the American driving test?

                1. John in AA says:

                  I see, a comedian.

    3. evcarnut says:

      I wonder if they can make a simplistic system for for people that want to drive their own car …, with only the automatic cruise control for hiway use …& reduce the building costs ., less expensive will sell more cars ,,Not all of us want all these options that we feel we do not need…But that Cruise control should have NOT failed…PERIOD!!!

      1. franky_b says:

        She wasn’t in Cruise Control mode anymore (based on the logs, unless the logs lies). But collision avoidance should have warned her.

      2. TomArt says:

        If you do not buy the autopilot package, then you get exactly what you are asking for – just adaptive cruise control, and passive warning systems (because the autopilot hardware is standard in all vehicles).

    4. evcarnuts says:

      The emergency braking system should Be ON at all times, Whether activated or NOT!…

      1. Fabian says:

        Agreed..

      2. jelloslug says:

        Like when it is snowing and there is a build on the sensors?

      3. Samwise says:

        Disabled is a poor choice of words and probably chosen to make sure stupid understand the implications of their own actions.
        Pretty darn sure it is on ALL THE TIME unless manually disabled.
        It’s just deciding not to respond to the current situation as it thinks (rightly or wrongly) that it’s intervention could make the situation work.
        Pretty sure very shortly after releasing the brakes the car would still apply automatic braking if required (if it didn’t that would be something worth complaining about).

    5. TomArt says:

      That was my reaction, as well…nothing so routine as touching the brake pedal should deactivate emergency braking, I should think…

      1. Trey M says:

        That is until someone has an accident CAUSED by the emergency braking action. They will then sue the auto manufacturer saying that they did not want the braking to be happening at that moment. That is why when you step on the bake pedal, you are telling the car that you are now in control (be it a good or bad thing).

    6. ModernMarvelFan says:

      And she did it because “When it became apparent that the car was not slowing down at all, I slammed on the brakes ”

      So, can the Tesla system even stop the car if the driver perceiving the car was going too fast/too close already without the system engaging?

  2. jimstack007 says:

    Sounds like the loose nut behind the wheel needs adjusting. Auto Pilot can only help YOU still have to be aware and either stop or avoid the crash.

    1. evcarnut says:

      I admit , She should have been more diligent…but that simple function should NEVER have Failed !!

      1. Woody Miraglia says:

        My goodness, evcarnuts. You need to learn to read before you should be allowed to post.

  3. Josh says:

    “Autopilot does not imply that the driver can rely on the car to do all the work”

    In this case letting the car do all the work would have been the safer option. The transition is beginning…

    1. pjwood1 says:

      Tesla: “but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle”, even if the one word they want the system know as is “AutoPilot”.

      I see manufacturers, and software engineers, blaming people for their instincts, long into the future. They are/were your customers.

      1. TedFredrick says:

        The system should be fail safe. If it isn’t it is useless

        1. EVGuy says:

          Do you realize how much money is spent in engineering development to anticipate what the dumbest people will do? Billions and billions. Our legal system ensures this.
          Darwin was right, mother nature knows how to weed out the ones not meant to proliferate. We as a species have evolved to the point where we interfere with this process.
          That is unfortunate.

          1. TedFredrick says:

            When I worked at Walt Disney Imagineering as an Engineer we made everything fail safe. I think I understand but am not sure the Tesla Engineers do.

            1. Josh says:

              That is much easier to do when the product is on rails.

            2. EVGuy says:

              And no one has ever been killed on a Disney ride before??? Is this what I’m to take from your reply? If you contend that is the case then let me clue you in on a few fatal incidents –
              Transportation system 2010 Death recorded
              Monorail system 2009 Death recorded
              Spaceship Earth 1999 Serious injury
              Beauty and the beast float – Death recorded
              Yes I looked these up on the internet, anyone could. My point? You said you were a former imagineer and that you designed rides to be as safe as possible, fail safe. My point. There is no such thing when humans are involved.

  4. Four Electrics says:

    In driver’s ed. one is taught to “cover the brake” in anticipation of needing to use it. Millions of drivers do this. It would be unfortunate if touching the brake pedal, perhaps even unconsciously, caused Tesla’s systems to disengage.

    1. TedFredrick says:

      My son has a Model X and he let me drive it to work and I loved the autopilot. The one thing I noticed is that if I accidentally touched the brake it would turn off and create an unsafe condition. It should require more than a brush on the pedal to turn off.

      1. jelloslug says:

        If you touch the brakes the auto cruise turns off. That is the way every car with every type of cruise control has always worked.

  5. Dan Small says:

    I think we will hear of more accidents like this. The user is accurate in saying the Autopilot caused the crash. If the car was not so equipped the driver would have been in sole control and would have avoided the accident. This blended interface between the user and the computer requires more training, for not only the owner of the vehicle but also whomever the owner hands the keys to. Tesla may be found partially responsible legally because it could be postulated that written warnings are not the equivalent of proper training to operate their safety systems.

  6. franky_b says:

    There is something odd in this story, if the auto-pilot is disengage, that also means she had to press the accelerator to move forward? If so, then she is 100% responsible, but if Tesla disengage Auto-pilot and keep the cruise-control “ON”, then this is wrong.

    On my i3, if the ACC is disengage, the Cruise-Control is completely disengage, there isn’t any middle point, it’s ON or it’s OFF.

    That being said, collision avoidance remains ON at all time. In this situation, with my i3, I would have been warned (visual warning, then visual + sound, and finally auto-break). Doesn’t the Tesla have this?

    1. sven says:

      No. With a Tesla, tapping the brakes disables the Automatic Emergency braking. This is explicitly stated in the firmware v6.2 release notes.

      “MODEL S SOFTWARE RELEASE NOTES v6.2”

      Automatic Emergency Braking
      “Automatic Emergency Braking —a new Collision Avoidance Assist feature— is designed to automatically engage the brakes to reduce the impact of an unavoidable frontal collision.”

      “Automatic Emergency Braking will stop applying the brakes when you press the accelerator pedal, press the brake pedal, or sharply turn the steering wheel.”

      https://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/tesla_model_s_software_6_2_europe.pdf

      1. franky_b says:

        Then it is just stupid…

        If the car detect an emergency situation, a little tap doesn’t get you out of the emergency.

        To be clear, yes my BMW i3 does disengage auto-breaking if I’m breaking. But if I release the break and my car get in the same critical situation it re-engage.

        The warning goes reverse(Sounds+Visual, Visual only), if I break and I’m still not decelarating fast enough I still get the visual and sound warning until I get to a safe distance/speed.

        Collision Avoidance is ALWAYS ON, auto-breaking will disengage, but not the rest.

        1. David Cary says:

          It is the same as the i3. Lots of people without Tesla’s who think they understand it are pointing fingers.

    2. Blastphemy says:

      You are 100% correct, @franky_b. When I have AutoPilot on in my Tesla (which means Traffic-Aware Cruise Control is also on) and I touch the brake, AutoSteer and Cruise Control STOP. But collision avoidance is only off WHILE my foot is on the brake – once I take my foot off the brake, the collision avoidance turns back on immediately.

      Also, the moment AutoPilot is disengaged, the car’s heavy regen kicks in, slowing the car. So how this driver managed to disable AutoPilot by pressing the brake, yet continued to accelerate enough to cause an accident is quite confusing. I have to wonder if this IS the fault of Tesla’s tech, because there’s absolutely no way her car could be maintaining speed or accelerating if AutoPilot and Cruise Control were off and her foot wasn’t on the accelerator.

  7. sven says:

    Tesla said:
    “Data points to Simpson hitting the brake pedal and deactivating autopilot and traffic aware cruise control, returning the car to manual control instantly.”

    Tesla conveniently left out exactly when Simpson hit the brake pedal and deactivated autopilot. Was it one minute before impact or one second before impact?

    In last week’s Utah Summons accident with the trailer, Tesla gave a second-by-second account of what the driver did according to the car’s logs. In the above Autopilot braking accident, Tesla just gave a vague summary of what happened, devoid of the second-by-second detail that the car’s logs provide. A Tesla cynic may be thinking: what’s Tesla trying to hide?

    1. kdawg says:

      That’s what I don’t understand. If the driver is braking, then i would assume their brake commands would supersede the collision avoidance commands. However, was she just feathering the brake pad while still traveling at a high rate of speed towards the other car? Or was it just a tap of the brake and that turns off collision avoidance for some predefined amount of time, say 5 seconds?

      1. pjwood1 says:

        Everybody knows women can’t judge distance. Doh!!

        But seriously, the window is pretty conservative with AP. Even at a tracking of “1” car length, it stays 2-3 behind at speed. AP also slows more aggressively, the more speed differential it calculates. But you wouldn’t judge what it should be doing as easily, if you don’t yourself have a sense of how rapidly you are closing on the car in front. To this person, AP seems like more of a risk-taker that needs to be trusted to be used (and I think this is a challenge for Tesla).

        The above is the way I see this ordeal going down. She misjudged her closing speed, that it told her AP was not on, and the braking was in her hands. Once you tap the brakes, closing at 65 on a car doing ~20mph, you don’t have much more than a split second to finish your “manual” maneuver. That may not be enough time for a mental jury to come back and say “AP isn’t on!!”.

        1. kdawg says:

          Tesla said she hit her brakes which disabled autopilot. So she must have tapped them at some point to disable auto pilot. Then she she must have braked a 2nd time, overriding the collision avoidance braking, but she didn’t brake hard enough, soon enough.

          I’d love to see a timing chart.

    2. RexxSee says:

      If it was 1 minute before she forgot it was not still on autopilot and was doing something else than driving, and if it was 1 second before, SHE was supposed to be in control.

      For the Automatic Emergency braking I see you quote the instructions… but it makes little sense to disable it the first time you hit the brakes?!? It has to come back the second after or else it is disabled until you restart the car?!?

  8. You’ll see a steady parade of these stories. There’s a fundamental problem with this kind of semi-autonomous system called complacency. The driver goes into a mental state of non-responsiveness and is not in a position to skillfully reassert control when needed on short notice.

    It’s very well understood in aviation, where autopilot has been used for decades.

    1. mxs says:

      Shocking, right?

      The government will realize at some point that the loophole needs to be closed up. If you regulate presence of mirrors, you need to hold companies up to much higher standards as far as Auto-anything gizmo goes.

      Yet people still believe that Tesla’s system is somehow superior to anything else other manufacturer’s already have, but are just not willing to release it to production.

  9. Tim says:

    This story has been so misreported, and it leaves readers confusing two different things.

    Cars can have two separate features. One is adjustable cruise control (ACC). The other is emergency braking. Tapping the brake has, in my experience, always disabled ACC. However, emergency braking is not disabled ever except through explicit settings in the car.

    It surprises me that Tesla’s system would not be configured to try to stop the car if it detects an imminent collision. That’s definitely not how that feature in both my ELR and EX35 works. However, I have read that the Model S manual explicitly says emergency braking will not attempt to stop the car but only reduce the impact.

    1. franky_b says:

      Agreed, same behavior with BMW i3

      1. sven says:

        Tim said:
        “Tapping the brake has, in my experience, always disabled ACC. However, emergency braking is not disabled ever except through explicit settings in the car.”

        Not on the Tesla. Tapping the brakes does disable the Automatic Emergency braking. See my comment below or click on this link for the firmware release notes.

        https://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/tesla_model_s_software_6_2_europe.pdf

        1. sven says:

          To further clarify, stepping on the brake also deactivates autopilot and traffic aware cruise control according to Tesla’s statement in the news story above.

        2. franky_b says:

          Then it is just stupid…

          If the car detect an emergency situation, a little tap doesn’t get you out of the emergency.

          To be clear, yes my BMW i3 does disengage auto-breaking if I’m breaking. But if I release the break and my car get in the same critical situation it re-engage.

          The warning goes reverse(Sounds+Visual, Visual only), if I break and I’m still not decelarating fast enough I still get the visual and sound warning until I get to a safe distance/speed.

          Collision Avoidance is ALWAYS ON, auto-breaking will disengage, but not the rest.

    2. evcarnuts says:

      Tesla has Failed!

    3. pjwood1 says:

      Since the Volt, I still occasionally get Chevy surveys. One of the latest was seeking responses to a tutorial on auto-braking. It depicted a collision prevention system remaining active, even if your foot was lightly on the brake.

      The interesting part is that I think their aim wasn’t to promote the feature, so much as to see if the tutorial made the viewer over-confident in the ability of the system.

  10. sven says:

    Tesla said:
    “. . . something that’s been standard across Tesla’s range since it rolled out firmware version 6.2 last year.”

    Below is the relevant section of the release notes for firmware version 6.2.

    MODEL S SOFTWARE RELEASE NOTES v6.2

    Driver Assistance Features
    The new Driver Assistance features in this release are important additions to the Model S active safety system, designed to intelligently anticipate and react to potentially dangerous situations.

    Automatic Emergency Braking
    Automatic Emergency Braking —a new Collision Avoidance Assist feature— is designed to automatically engage the brakes to reduce the impact of an unavoidable frontal collision.

    Automatic Emergency Braking will stop applying the brakes when you press the accelerator pedal, press the brake pedal, or sharply turn the steering wheel.

    Automatic Emergency Braking is enabled by default. You can temporarily disable this feature via the AUTOMATIC EMERGENCY BRAKING setting in Controls > Settings > Driver Assistance > COLLISION AVOIDANCE ASSIST. Automatic Emergency Braking will re-enable when you next drive.

    Note: Automatic Emergency Braking operates when you are driving at speeds between 5 mph (8 km/h) and 85 mph (140km/h).

    https://www.teslamotors.com/sites/default/files/tesla_model_s_software_6_2_europe.pdf

    1. Ivan says:

      Thanks, that’s a very useful bit of information. I’m still not clear on the best course of action in such situations, to manually slam on the brakes or not. It seems that people wait at least some time to see if the car will slow itself – valuable braking seconds.

    2. Stan says:

      As others have noted, all automatic emergency braking systems disengage if there is driver interaction.

  11. Breezy says:

    Somehow, people are getting the impression that Autopilot is more capable than it actually is. It’s not self-driving; it’s driver assistance, essentially adaptive cruise control and lane centering assist with blind spot monitoring.

    How are people getting this false impression? From Tesla or from the media?

    1. Tech01x says:

      This isn’t autopilot. The driver disengaged autopilot.

      1. Breezy says:

        But she thought Autopilot was still active, obviously, and that it would intervene to stop the car. This is exactly the problem. She thought the system was still “driving the car” for her, when in fact it was never driving the car. She is the driver.

    2. Four Electrics says:

      They’re getting this impression because the feature is called “Autopilot” or at least has “auto” in its name. An aircraft’s autopilot is a lot more capable than Tesla’s Autopilot, capable of flying aircraft unassisted for hours at a time.

      You can’t call something “auto” and then, in the manual, claim that it requires manual monitoring.

      1. sven says:

        Perhaps the Auto in Tesla’s Autopilot stands for automobile (Automobile Pilot) and not for automatic (Automatic Pilot). 😉

  12. Ivan says:

    I have a bit of sympathy for Ms Simpson (of course we don’t know the full facts so it’s hard to judge). The basic function of auto-pilot is to follow the car in front, speeding up or breaking accordingly. I have no access to it myself so I wonder, how do you know when to intervene? Is there a breaking intensity which Tesla cannot handle on auto-pilot? I would be confused. From Tesla’s feedback it suggests that she would have been better off not touching the pedal “As soon as Simpson hit the brakes, she immediately disabled Autopilot and the Traffic Aware Cruise Control. It also overrode the automatic emergency braking system.”

    Disabling the Autopilot by breaking at least makes sense but why on Earth would the emergency breaking be turned off? I thought the purpose of emergency breaking is when the driver doesn’t manage to break in time, for whatever reason. There must be some sort of misunderstanding here as an emergency breaking system which is disabled by the driver’s breaking is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

    I have a genuine question for autopilot users – do you trust that the car will break if the car in front does? I’m in favour of a system which prevents collisions which means an emergency breaking system which works at all time – so it kicks in if the autopilot/driver don’t break hard enough in time.

    1. pjwood1 says:

      “I have a genuine question for autopilot users..”

      I trust any car with this crap might intentionally emergency brake during a turn, in wet conditions, to avoid a wafting hefty bag.

  13. shane says:

    Sorting out the “human-machine” interface is alot harder than it sounds. It’s easy to second guess either Tesla or the drivers decisions, but it is not normal to “actively supervise” a system that appears to be doing the job. (how many people actively check their oil pressure or water temperature when they drive – answer – almost noone) Aviation struggled, and sometime still struggles with “automated cockpits”. The whole point of an auto-pilot is to be able to turn your attention away from it.

  14. Bloggin says:

    Technology can only save someone from themselves to a point, before people have to take responsibility for their actions.

    If she would have let the system handle the breaking, there would have been on accident. But she inadequately took over by breaking(when there was no need), then changed her mind and expected autopilot to know what she was thinking.

    Any breaking by the driver keeps the auto breaking system from activating. So if she would have braked, which turned off the autopilot, then released the brake, in milliseconds, auto breaking would have kicked in. But lightly breaking turned off all auto breaking.

    Maybe Tesla can do more idiot-proofing, and have an ‘always on’ auto braking ‘option’ available. So even if the driver is braking, the car will apply max breaking to avoid running into anything….period.

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “When it became apparent that the car was not slowing down at all, I slammed on the brakes ”

      Doesn’t sound like the Tesla system was slowing down either….

  15. evcarnuts says:

    Tesla Used the wrong Part of the car to STOP with.. Instead of using the Brakes , It used the Front part of the car’s Body to make the emergency stop , it still performed the “STOP” function .. So It’s not the car’s Fault..

    1. pjwood1 says:

      Funny. And since it looks like Mrs. Simpson’s passenger airbag deployed, Tesla can add the incident to its thesis that Autopilot is safer than humans. Moral of the story, if AutoPilot ever does look like it is about to kill you, whatever you do don’t hit the brakes, or steer. You’ll be helping Elon prove his point 😉

      http://electrek.co/2016/04/24/tesla-autopilot-probability-accident/
      ““The probability of having an accident is 50% lower if you have Autopilot on. Even with our first version. So we can see basically what’s the average number of kilometers to an accident – accident defined by airbag deployment. Even with this early version, it’s almost twice as good as a person.”

  16. Anon says:

    Many people have enough trouble driving any regular old car, let alone one where a user felt the necessity to second guess what the vehicle was going to do, didn’t retain the instructions in the firmware notes, and chose poorly when experiencing a stressful driving situation.

    Brake pedal? What dat? Mode Switcher, is what it’s evolving into…

    As they say, adapt or die.

  17. TomArt says:

    Regardless, it is dangerous to release such technology without sufficient safeguards – so many of us humans TEXT while DRIVING – so many, in fact, that laws have to be passed to ban the practice…I repeat: we need told to pay attention to drive!!!

    Maybe I’ll welcome our robot overlords after all…probably safer…

    1. MDEV says:

      Never go into the airplane because for your information the level of today safety is because accidents happened and the improvements of facts they couldn’t foresee. The point of wait until a produc is perfect to released is ridiculous, even in Medicine some risk is taken until perfection is achieved.

  18. Trollnonymous says:

    More of this to come…….lol

  19. Pete says:

    Lol, superb autopilot Tesla!

    1. Anon says:

      It works fine, when you turn / leave it on…

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        Did it?

        “When it became apparent that the car was not slowing down at all, I slammed on the brakes ”

        Maybe the auto brake acts too late?

        The key is the amount of time between brake was pressed/system is disabled to crash… Was that time even possible to slow down the car, with or without the system? If it wasn’t possible, then the auto system already failed before the brake was pressed. If it was, then the owner was at fault…

        Why doesn’t Tesla just release those information. Speed of the car at the time the system is disabled, time between brake pressing and crash.

  20. MDEV says:

    Ok now I am worried, I am full aware that touching the break deactivate the autopilot or cruise control, that is fine however in the settings I turned on the accident avoidance system, so in case or distraction I may have a second safety feature looking up for me. Now if it gets deactivated what is the point of even having it. I need Tesla to clarify is the brake accident avoiding system will be on the whole time after I tuned ON.

  21. Brave Lil Toaster says:

    I don’t get it. Should the emergency braking system have stopped the car faster than stomping on the brakes manually, causing the ABS system to maintain maximum braking efficiency by preventing wheel lock?

    I fail to see how she made the problem worse with her actions. It seems like autopilot made the problem worse by not doing it first, very likely because it couldn’t actually detect the problem in the first place.

  22. Seth says:

    I can see the scenario above having taken place in the space of about 3 seconds total. That’s an awful short moment to make a split second decission.

    So you see the car ahead slowing, you (instictively) tap the brake, it then proceeds to slow quite a lot faster and you then somehow think the car will brake itself and you are just too late. It’s clear that this happened fast enough in packed traffic to not have enough human response time.

    As others have pointed out, dropping out of cruise control will immediately apply engine braking as you are not touching the gas pedal. So that rules out prolonged driving without either, as you would need to press the accelerator to maintain speed.

    I’d sum this up as a normal road accident and I don’t see any reason to involve Tesla in this.

  23. Mr. M says:

    Wow, what a wrong function behaviour. The system detects a critical situation the driver comfirms the criticality of the situation by braking (hard) and then the system decides not to do anything…

    Whaaat!?

    1. SparkFiatOwner-M3reserved says:

      +1 –doesn’t make sense. Emergency collision avoidance shouldn’t have an ‘off’ switch. If the sensors are calculating an impeding frontal collision, the easy logic is HIT the brakes. Downright easy technology and logic compared to autopilot.

      1. Mr. M says:

        I beg to differ, emergency braking systems should have a “off” switch for two reasons.

        1.) the system is poorly designed and you encountered a false reaction multiple times (permanent switch off usefull).

        2. false reaction happening, to avoid the car behind me to crash into me i switch it temporary off (by something like a kickdown).

        But the brake pedal being pressed is one of the worst switch off conditions.

  24. Foo says:

    I think Tesla could probably use a UI overhaul here. If people are easily getting confused over whether “auto-pilot” and other features are on or off, the UI should make it harder to mistake the status.

    For example, if auto-pilot is on, the entire dash display should take on a different hue (green or red) or something along those lines, so that is it *visually obvious* when auto-pilot is engaged. It should not just be tiny icon, or other slight change.

    Also, since the driver may not be looking at the dash at all times, there should probably also be a clear voice announcement when auto-pilot is engaged or disengaged. It should be simple, yet explicit: “Auto-pilot disengaged, driver in control”.

    Taking it further, even when auto-pilot and other features are disengaged, voice announcements for dangers that the car senses would be desirable. “Brake now, approaching obstruction”, kinda like how airplanes have collision avoidance warnings.

    1. kdawg says:

      They could have this guy pop out of the center console.

    2. sven says:

      Foo said:
      “For example, if auto-pilot is on, the entire dash display should take on a different hue (green or red) or something along those lines, so that is it *visually obvious* when auto-pilot is engaged. It should not just be tiny icon, or other slight change.”

      That might be more difficult in the Model 3 with it’s sole center stack screen.

      1. Kdawg says:

        How about mood lighting.

  25. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Looks like another SW update is coming…. LOL.

  26. ModernMarvelFan says:

    “All of a sudden the car ahead of me came to a halt. There was a decent amount of space so I figured that the car was going to brake as it is supposed to and didn’t brake immediately. When it became apparent that the car was not slowing down at all, I slammed on the brakes but was probably still going 40 when I collided with the other car.””

    Actually if you read this carefully. I don’t find Tesla or the owner’s statement contradicting. In fact, it matches.

    The owner thought the car would be stopping by itself. But it didn’t. She felt that she has to step in to stop but it was too late by the time she stepped on it. But by stepping on it, it disengaged any possibility of Tesla system to step in.

    So, the key question is how many seconds was there between the brake disengaged the auto braking and the crash. What was the speed of traveling when she stepped on it..

    Based on those numbers we can estimate whether the Tesla system was “ready to brake” or NOT before she stepped on the brakes.

    1. Marco says:

      If it happened that way, the auto-system would have engaged the brakes by itself right after the were hit by the driver manually? But then the result would have been even worse because the system would have engaged the brakes later than this lady has.
      Without such a system the driver would have hit the brakes in time and had not waited for any (non-existent) automatic system. This is a basic problem of these systems (not only with Tesla): As long as you don’t have a completely autonomous system it will be hard for a driver to decide when to take action or not at all.

      A few weeks ago there was a kind of celebration or something at a local car dealer and they were showing an emergency brake system. There was a human size rubber object standing in the way and you were supposed to accelerate to 20mph and just do nothing. The system was hitting the brakes rather hard in a rather short distance. I had a hard time to keep my foot from hitting the brake itself, it was always going to the brake pedal magically on its own… But: one time I corrected the path by steering a little more to the right just before the system would have engaged, which actually deactivated the whole system and I _had_ to hit the brakes on my own. If the assistant hadn’t told me to brake because I just deactivated the system, I wouldn’t have known.

      This system was only an emergency system you never would rely on but which might prevent a certain percentage of accidents. So usually you would just do the same like without such a system. But when I use an autonomous system which is meant to drive the car without intervention, I would find it hard to see when exactly it disengaged and when I myself have to take which action.

  27. DonC says:

    I don’t see that the Tesla system failed. All cruise controls work this way. But with regular cruise you know the car won’t slow down by itself and you know you’ll need to brake. Hence thinking the car will slow itself is a non-issue — it won’t.

    All ACC systems this way and yes it can be a problem. Takes a bit getting used to. Hopefully industry will come up with a better way to let you know whether a function is on or off.

    1. Tim says:

      ACC and Collision Avoidance are two different things. Disabling ACC at the press of the brake pedal is fine. Disabling a Collision Avoidance (automatic braking) should be considered entirely separate.

      I have two cars and both have ACC and Collision Avoidance. Neither of them behave like the Tesla. They will brake – and brake hard – if they detect a potential collision. Regardless of me pressing the brake or the accelerator pedals.

      1. John in AA says:

        Interesting — mind if I ask what the cars are? The designers must have a lot of confidence in the automation to be willing to override the driver. Also, have you experienced the behavior you describe (braking hard regardless of driver input) or are you simply confident that’s how it works based on the manual or other evidence? For obvious reasons, most drivers don’t deliberately test the last-ditch emergency features (I take it on faith that my car even has air bags much less that they work, for instance.) Thanks.

        (Just by the way, I checked and AEB is indeed documented as working that way. The Tesla 6.2 release notes say “Automatic Emergency Braking will stop applying the brakes when you press the accelerator pedal, press the brake pedal, or sharply turn the steering wheel.”)

  28. Blastphemy says:

    When I have AutoPilot on in my Tesla (which means Traffic-Aware Cruise Control is also on) and I touch the brake, AutoSteer and Cruise Control STOP. But collision avoidance is only off WHILE my foot is on the brake – once I take my foot off the brake, the collision avoidance turns back on immediately.

    Also, the moment AutoPilot is disengaged, the car’s heavy regen kicks in, slowing the car. So how this driver managed to disable AutoPilot by pressing the brake, yet continued to accelerate enough to cause an accident is quite confusing. I have to wonder if this IS the fault of Tesla’s tech, because there’s absolutely no way her car could be maintaining speed or accelerating if AutoPilot and Cruise Control were off and her foot wasn’t on the accelerator.

    If Tesla’s tech didn’t fail, then the driver had to have had her foot on the accelerator and is lying about AutoPilot causing the crash. Because with AutoPilot on and her foot not touching accelerator or brake, OR AutoPilot off and her foot not touching the accelerator or brake, there’s no way for the car to cause such a crash when everything is working properly.

    1. John in AA says:

      Yeah, I think you’re right. It used to be TACC would slam on the brakes really late when approaching a slower vehicle, but for months now it’s been much better about starting to match speeds as soon as it acquires a slower vehicle in front. So if TACC were on, the car should have already been slowing in the conditions the driver describes, and if TACC were off, as you say the car should also have been slowing because regen. Maybe not slowing enough to stop it in time (TACC uses friction brakes when it needs to of course), but the quote from the driver is “the car was not slowing down at all” which is not consistent with what would be expected under any circumstance other than having a foot on the accelerator.

      (Regen does get disabled when the battery is very cold or the pack is completely full, but this was in LA, so that’s not it.)

  29. Nix says:

    There is a lot whining about this car or that car does something different.

    Well, if you want a single standards that every car has to follow, there is already an answer to that..

    Title 49 of the United States Code, Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety, provides a mandate for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Regulations that manufacturers of motor vehicle and equipment items must conform and certify compliance.

    If you believe every car should operate exactly like your car, and that no other car maker should be allowed to innovate, go here and tell them they should mandate standards:

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/Contact

    Otherwise, RTFM for the car you are driving, and don’t ASSume every car will operate exactly the same as yours.