Tesla’s Data Collection May Assist Automaker In Legal Cases

JUL 31 2016 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 17

Scene Of May 7th Tesla Model S Fatality (via ABC News/Bobby Vankavelaar)

Scene Of May 7th Tesla Model S Fatality (via ABC News/Bobby Vankavelaar)

Autopilot Saves Model S From Collision

Autopilot Saves Model S From Collision

A couple of weeks ago, we recapped some lawyers adding their opinions on Tesla’s recent Autopilot crashes. This statement from automotive lawyer, Tab Turner, seems up the typical responses rather well:

“There’s a concept in the legal profession called an attractive nuisance. These devices are much that way right now. They’re all trying to sell them as a wave of the future, but putting in fine print, ‘Don’t do anything but monitor it.’ It’s a dangerous concept. Warnings alone are never the answer to a design problem.”

More recently, Reuters posted on how Tesla’s data collection software (“black box”) could actually assist the automaker in defending itself against legal claims. Reuters stated:

“The large volume of data Tesla Motors Inc collects from its cars on the road has armed it with information to publicly counter, and possibly legally defend, claims about the safety of its Autopilot driving-assist software, according to lawyers familiar with such cases.”

“Should Tesla be called on to defend the technology in court, lawyers said information collected by the electronic car maker could be central in judging liability.”

Reuters reached out to Don Slavik, an automotive product liability attorney, for comment on “black boxes” (aka EDRs). He stated:

“I’ve had EDRs that have helped me in a case, and EDRs that have basically told me, don’t take that case.”

So, the data collected by Tesla vehicles would likely immediately convince Tesla whether or not it should defend itself if a lawsuit case arises. However, as of right now, no such cases are pending against Tesla, according to Reuters.

Reuters adds that Tesla vehicle manuals clearly states that the automaker “reserves the right to use collected data for its defense in a lawsuit.”

Source: Reuters

Categories: Tesla

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17 Comments on "Tesla’s Data Collection May Assist Automaker In Legal Cases"

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Basically, the data is like a mobile red light camera, in that it tracks if you are breaking the (Autopilot Use) Law! I think it needs to be upgraded, though, with Dash Can capacity, that records that the driver failed to look ahead at obvious obstacles to avoid them, and a Foot Cam, as well – to see where your feet are, for cases blaming that the car failed to break, (when you actually stomped the go pedal!), and also a Camera that faces the diver, showing hands on, or off, the steering wheel in a visual, time coded record, to lay it out clear in concert with the other sensor data. If there was also a Video Record of the indications on the dash display, along with audio recordings, the arguments of – there was ‘No Warnings’, could be put to rest, using such Audio Visual records to back up the other data logs! If a driver could review these visual and audio recordings, by either observing them on the large screen when the car was in park, or by download to a phone or tablet, they could then see what they faced if they had an inkling of… Read more »
the first challenge is in establishing the validity of the records. for example, if you get a speeding ticket based on a speed gun reading, it is possible to get the ticket tossed if you can establish that the calibration of the speed gun had not been independently verified. once the integrity of the data is verified, tesla would have to establish that the autopilot feature had nothing to do with the accident. that would mean that they would have to establish that not only was the autopilot feature not engaged, but the non-engagement was the result of an act by the driver to disengage the feature (as opposed to the autopilot feature being automatically disengaged). tesla’s defense strategy is apparently to allege that the brakes are the cause of the accident. this seems like a dubious defense strategy. it seems like it would be difficult, if not impossible, to establish that the autopilot feature was not engaged because the car continued to operate under control of the feature until it crashed into a pole. i would think that tesla’s best defense would be to get the case tried in california and heard before a paid-off (by tesla) judge. but… Read more »

“it seems like it would be difficult, if not impossible, to establish that the autopilot feature was not engaged because the car continued to operate under control of the feature until it crashed into a pole.”
If you are talking about accident involving the crash into the truck trailer, then this is not true.

The NTSB preliminary report said the high voltage battery was disconnected immediately after impact with the trailer. That means autopilot must have been disabled already after initial impact. Even without that information, it would be unlikely autopilot was engaged anyways given the impact with the trailer would have killed the camera feed (and autopilot doesn’t work without the camera). The main reason why the car didn’t stop was because the initial impact wasn’t that severe energy-wise and the car coasted.

The car was largely intact (other than the roof) so they probably was able to recover all the data manually (the antenna obviously was destroyed, so Tesla couldn’t have done it remotely).

“no comment” commented: “…they would have to establish that not only was the autopilot feature not engaged, but the non-engagement was the result of an act by the driver to disengage the feature…” No, rather the opposite with current cases under consideration. What has been reported recently is at least two drivers who claimed to have been driving (or riding) with AutoSteer activated, but Tesla says the logs show it wasn’t. That is, according to Tesla, the driver should have been actively engaged with hands on the wheel, rather than depending on AutoSteer to steer the car. Furthermore, and again directly contrary to your apparent FUD attempt here, “no comment”, Tesla requires you to “opt in” when you want to use AutoSteer. In fact, according to what one person has said at least twice in comments on InsideEVs, a driver is required to opt-in every time they want to engage AutoSteer while driving. While I’m not a lawyer, common sense certainly suggests Tesla’s disclaimer/warning for use of AutoSteer would be a pretty powerful defense for Tesla against any liability claims. The disclaimer/warning reads, in part: “…you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle while enjoying the convenience of… Read more »

Is the shift key on your computer keyboard broken or something? Why would anyone be interested in listening to anything you have to say if you can’t even be bothered to use a capital letter at the beginning of each sentence?

Robert Weekley said: “I think it needs to be upgraded, though, with Dash Can capacity, that records that the driver failed to look ahead at obvious obstacles to avoid them, and a Foot Cam, as well – to see where your feet are, for cases blaming that the car failed to break, (when you actually stomped the go pedal!), and also a Camera that faces the diver, showing hands on, or off, the steering wheel in a visual, time coded record, to lay it out clear in concert with the other sensor data.” So, you’re saying that buyers of Tesla cars should be required to pay for systems whose main purpose will be to record their actions for possible future use against them in court. I dunno about anybody else, but I would resent the hell out of any auto maker which expected me to pay for that, and I would most likely take the car immediately after purchase to an aftermarket customizer, and have those cameras disabled or removed. It’s bad enough when we have “nanny state” laws and regulations which make everyday activities harder for no good reason. It would be even worse if manufacturers start making a… Read more »

The only defense in a frivolous law suits society where self responsibility is unthinkable. Progress cannot be stopped.

I’m sympathetic to Tesla and all auto makers, who have to face frivolous lawsuits, but what about the protection of the individuals and consumers? If Tesla wants to use the data in court, there should be a greater level of transparency about what and how it collected, me think. In the era of Diesel-gate, anything is possible.

I agree Dan. In matters where legal ramifications are possible, Automakers should definitely be transparent as to how data is collected and disseminated. They should also have the fact that they ARE gathering information, be known to owners, that the information gathered can be used in court and the owners be given the availability to opt out.

Dan, you are already protected by the Federal Driver Privacy Act of 2015: “(Sec. 34402) Declares that any data in an event data recorder required to be installed in a passenger motor vehicle (as provided for under DOT regulations concerning the collection, storage, and retrievability of onboard motor vehicle crash event data) is the property of the owner or lessee of the vehicle in which the recorder is installed, regardless of when the vehicle was manufactured. Prohibits a person, other than the owner or lessee of the motor vehicle, from accessing data recorded or transmitted by such a recorder unless: a court or other judicial or administrative authority authorizes the retrieval of such data subject to admissibility of evidence standards; an owner or lessee consents to such retrieval for any purpose, including vehicle diagnosis, service, or repair; the data is retrieved pursuant to certain authorized investigations or inspections of the National Transportation Safety Board or DOT; the data is retrieved to determine the appropriate emergency medical response to a motor vehicle crash; or the data is retrieved for traffic safety research, and the owner’s or lessee’s personally identifiable information and the vehicle identification number are not disclosed.” Roughly 20 other… Read more »

This kind of data is helpful to Tesla because their Autopilot defense consists of the following:

– Did you crash when Autopilot was enabled? Your fault, you should have taken control of the car when necessary.
– Did you take control of the car from Autopilot, then crash? Well, autopilot wasn’t engaged! Also your fault!

While yes, the driver is ultimately responsible for the car, this defense is poor for attractive nuisanse and negligent design lawsuits.

“Four Electrics” posted FUD:

“Did you take control of the car from Autopilot, then crash? Well, autopilot wasn’t engaged! Also your fault!”

Hey, good job of anti-Tesla FUD there. Insinuating that Tesla Autopilot is dangerous because a driver might not be able to take control back in a safe manner, is certainly an effective way to inspire Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, even when you have no real facts or data to back it up. Bravo!

You win the award for Best Mendacity.

It cuts both ways. For the same reason I don’t want Geico with me over my car port’s OBD II, I don’t like the idea of Tesla playing NSA, with my driving.

You better invest in a collection of classic cars then. Because 97+ percent of new cars sold in the United States come with EDR’s.

They have been working their way into cars for the last 20 years, since 1996.

You probably are driving a car with an EDR right now. Name off a year, make and model, and I can look it up for you.

My inner Grammar Nazi says:

“…lawyers ading in with their opinions on Tesla’s Autopilot crashes”

Hmmm, I think this was unintentionally more relevant than was intended! “Ad”-ing in… as in butting in to advertise their services… rather than “adding in”, which I think is what the writer intended. 😉

The Germans are going to put a black box in every car like in aircraft. That will put a stop to auto companies lying and falsifying autopilot data because they will no longer be required to testify against themselves in court.

Asking a car company to provide data that will incriminate themselves in court is like asking them to ram a roaring firebrand up their ass.

EDR’s are already in the vast majority of cars in the EU, just like the US/Canada Market.