Volvo Engineer Calls Tesla Autopilot An “Unsupervised Wannabe”

2 years ago by Steven Loveday 72

Trent Victor

Professor Trent Victor, senior technical leader of crash avoidance at Volvo; Image Credit: The Australian

Trent Victor, senior technical leader of crash avoidance at Volvo, recently interviewed with the Verge about autonomous technology. He noted the differences between the levels of the current and future systems, and provided his opinions. Victor explained that Tesla Autopilot is an attempt to use semi-autonomous technology to seem fully autonomous. He said:

Tesla Model X With Semi-Autonomous Technology

Tesla Model X With Semi-Autonomous Technology

“It gives you the impression that it’s doing more than it is. [Tesla’s Autopilot] is more of an unsupervised wannabe.”

Tesla’s current Autopilot mode is considered Level 2. It is likely the most advanced of its kind currently on the road. The car will drive itself on the highway with no intervention from the user. Some auto experts, like Ford CEO Mark Fields, believe that current Tesla vehicles are actually Level 3 autonomous.

Level 2 technology is set to control 2 functions, and means that the driver can take hands off the steering wheel and foot off the gas. But, the user is expected to still be aware to take over at any point of an emergency. Level 3 technology would add a third level of control from the car, to take more of the responsibility off of the driver in dealing with emergency situations. Level 4 is considered fully autonomous, with no user intervention needed, but the vehicle would still have a steering wheel and other controls until Level 5.

Victor feels that the Level 3 technology shown in current Tesla models is not safe. This is because it frees up the driver to multitask, but there is still an expectation of awareness. Volvo will be releasing its Drive Me autonomous car as a pilot next year. It will employ Level 4 autonomous technology. Victor shared:

“It’s important for us as a company, our position on autonomous driving, is to keep it quite different so you know when you’re in semi-autonomous and know when you’re in unsupervised autonomous . . . In our concept, if you don’t take over, if you have fallen asleep or are watching a film, then we will take responsibility still. We won’t just turn [autonomous mode] off. We take responsibility and we’ll be stopping the vehicle if you don’t take over.”

In the end, as various levels of autonomous technology come to the surface, it will be up to lawmakers to determine what is “allowed”. Infrastructure needs to be updated to assure the success of the technology. Decisions will need to be made concerning responsibility in accidents. Insurance companies will be up against a mess of re-working policies. Fortunately, Congress is already holding hearings, and preliminary steps are underway, to move toward the future of autonomous driving.

Source: The Verge

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72 responses to "Volvo Engineer Calls Tesla Autopilot An “Unsupervised Wannabe”"

  1. beta995 says:

    If you’re going to sling mud, don’t live in glass houses.
    Volvo prices?

    1. Holger says:

      Wasn’t it a Volvo that ran over people, because the human detection mode wasn’t turned on?

    2. evcarnut says:

      This guy sounds like a ****…Those comments are not necessary & I hope it comes around to bite him in the ass…Tesla has more technology in the falcon Wing Doors than Volvo has in an Entire Car….

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        “This guy sounds like a ****…Those comments are not necessary & I hope it comes around to bite him in the ass…Tesla has more technology in the falcon Wing Doors than Volvo has in an Entire Car….”

        Your last sentence really applies to your first sentence.

        You should change your name from evcarnut to TeslaNut. LOL.

    3. evcarnut says:

      You Mean ….Throw Stones…..L M A 0…..

  2. Bill Howland says:

    Volvo bases the whole company on its safe cars. The dude gave his rationale in the article.

    1. jelloslug says:

      The entire Tesla lineup is safer than Volvo though….

        1. Garrity says:

          Volvo has an excellent reputation for safety.

          But the site listed, only measured the 2014 model s with no autopilot safety factored in.

          We are in a new era of safety now, crash avoidance. Auto-brake is just the tip of the iceberg

          If tesla can actually show that their cars are avoiding accidents altogether, it will be a major coup.

          I’ve only seen one video of a car avoiding getting side swiped and that was a Tesla.

          I’m sure Volvo and other cars will show that too, but it will be “oh yeah, Tesla’s been doing that for awhile now”

        2. CK says:

          Thanks for posting the NCAP scores. I thought the Model S would perform better.

          I was surprised to see the Model S did not get a high score in the frontal offset or side lateral tests. Most cars perform much better and certainly the Volvo did.

          1. Dan says:

            It’s not just the safety assist technologies that make up the difference. Notice the adult, child, and pedestrian numbers. The pedestrian numbers are a canary in the coal mine. In the long run, cars are likely to face increasingly stringent measures to prevent pedestrians from going under the car – nose designs that might restrict how aerodynamic the car is. As more and more people leave the suburbs and move into the cities, it is not aero that is the dominant feature – it is how safe it behaves in a city environment at low speeds.

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        “The entire Tesla lineup is safer than Volvo though….”

        Based on your Tesla fan opinion or facts?

        Facts says that Volvo lineup is pretty darn safe especially in terms of death per mile or death per units sold.

        The new and old XC90 has passed IIHS’s small frontal overlap crash with flying colors and Tesla has yet to test its cars…

    2. evcarnut says:

      Volvo cars are Not as safe as they claim to be …You couldn’t give me one of those Homely looking contraptions for free!

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        “Volvo cars are Not as safe as they claim to be …You couldn’t give me one of those Homely looking contraptions for free!”

        By your opinion or facts, certainly not based on facts.

  3. Rich says:

    I would love to see competition in the autonomous drive technology.
    “Volvo will be releasing its Drive Me autonomous car as a pilot next year”. How many years before this is implemented on every model in the fleet?
    Volvo, less trash talk and more action!

  4. Anon says:

    Autopilot seems to have generally been a force for good, and not the prophesied seeds of destruction and death that were filling blogs and automotive boardrooms across the planet, mere months ago, when it was first released.

    If you work at Volvo, and your cars are no longer the safest on the planet– you have to say SOMETHING to shareholders, even if your version of Autonomous driving isn’t available to your customers yet. And yeah, it does come off sounding a bit like sour grapes. *shrugs*

    1. Mxs says:

      That’s a pure BS you have posted. sorry, but you have no clue how new things make their way into cars these days.

      The only reason Musk brags about his autopilot adoption is because he plays a bit of Russian roulette and uses a non existing regulation loophole for autopilot implementation.

      All it takes, is one nasty lawsuit and we will all watch who will be found guilty …. Driver, Tesla or the autopilot programmer? Who are you putting your money on?

      I can assure you that Volvo could release Tesla-like autopilot “tomorrow” if they were as irresponsible as Tesla.

      You can laugh all you want, but that is the way the real world is.

      1. jelloslug says:

        The “real world” is that Tesla has the tech on the road right now.

        1. evcarnut says:

          BTW……Tesla uses Space age metals in their car’s Electricals & it comes from Musk’s Spacex Rocket Co., That just lately shot off a rocket with a Successfull payload to outer space, came back & “Landed Upright” On a Postage stamp sized Barge in the middle of the ocean …Try That….L O L….. Volvo!

      2. Tim says:

        If I understand your comment, it’s basically do not put any autonomous features in a car until … and that’s when I got lost.

        So a car that self-brakes and will bring the car to a full stop in the event of a (perceived) imminent collision? That’s ok, right?

        Automatically adjusting cruise control? How about that?

        Lane departure prevention? Stopping for a red light or stop sign? Detection of cross traffic? Avoidance of a car that is veering into your lane?

        1. Mxs says:

          Until it’s safe to do so …. And it should be a clue to you why is Tesla the only one doing so …. What other proof or clue do you want?

          Why is the government regulating presence of mirrors, yet has no provisions for something as autopilot?? Because they are behind, and because of that it’s left to the sanity and risk assessment testing of the manufacturers themselves and since they have been in this much longer than Tesla they know, it’s far from ready. That is the only difference …. Whether you choose to believe it or not, I don’t really care.

      3. ffbj says:

        One nasty lawsuit? Now who is living in a fantasy world. Car companies have killed, maimed, hundreds, thousands, of people for years and they are still in business.
        Or if they went out of business governments saved them.

        I find your summation off point and not very accurate, which is normal. Keep up the good work.

      4. chris says:

        Mxs – not sure where these “facts” come from but last time I checked, musk is on record saying Level 2 and 3 autonomy puts liability strictly at the driver at all times. If you read the Tesla manual, the documentation clearly states this too. Laws will need to be re-written to allow any change to this in practice. The problem with Volvo is that it’s late to the party and obviously feels tge need to dig at competitors who are further ahead. Did you know Tesla has the Chief Architect of the AMD Chip processing company creating the level 4 system for future cars including Model 3 ?

        Bottom line: No other car (or tech) company on the planet has more live real time autonomous data gleaned from all the sensors in real customer’s cars around the world… And the data trove is growing every second.

        That data is what enables “machine learning” or A.i and is what is going to mean the difference between Volvo, Google cars pilot, and established auto’s and Tesla lead position.

        1. Spider-Dan says:

          Putting liability at the foot of the driver doesn’t solve anything.

          The unavoidable result is that once there is a notable autopilot accident (e.g. the car gives control back to a heavily distracted driver who doesn’t react properly to the emergency), insurance companies will jack up premiums on Level 3 cars and the technology will become unaffordable for the masses.

          It is very important for the technology to be robust enough that the manufacturers are willing to take liability for it. That’s when you’ll know it’s really ready for prime time.

          1. Mxs says:

            Thanks for stating the obvious …. I cannot believe these people just cannot see the large writing on the wall.

          2. TomArt says:

            That is not a realistic expectation in a market-driven economy regulated by a Legislature that’s asleep at the wheel and on the take from the very companies they are supposed to be keeping in line. We are all guinea pigs.

  5. georges says:

    Good article. It was worth pointing out the definition for the various levels of autonomy.

    Level 4 coming up. We will see this in TM3…….

    but how much will it cost?

    2500$ ?

    Probably more. That’s were Tesla will make their money. In the options.

    1. Andrei says:

      volvo automatic brake system… no comments needed. Tesla +1. Volvo who is the wannabe?

      1. theflew says:

        At least this was being tested in a test scenario. That’s how you build better systems.

      2. ModernMarvelFan says:

        Didn’t Tesla had to fix its remote system before CR complained about it ran over objects in the real world.

        Yes, Tesla fixed it with SW updates and it was great.

        But this is a volvo testing video which is great that they actually test the feature before release, right? Instead of letting its fans or owners be the beta testers..

  6. Mxs says:

    For the misguided Tesla fanboys. As repeated many times before, stop believing that Tesla is sometimes ahead of the curve in R&D …. They are not, as much as you don’t want to believe that.

    Anyone working in auto-industry knows, that many other companies refuse to release autopilot-like features, because it would not have passed their risk assessment. Only because the government only regulates stuff like mirrors, but not autopilot features, doesn’t make Tesla’s very young autopilot mature. All Tesla autopilot adopters are essentially guinea pigs to a degree ….

    I would not exactly throw mud around because the Volvo guy speaking te truth. Volvo certainly knows what they are talking about.

    1. jelloslug says:

      The proof is in the pudding. Tesla has the tech on the road where no one else does.

      1. Chris says:

        Along with actually being on the road they are collecting billions of data points using machine learning, putting all other autonomous systems years behind.

    2. Get Real says:

      Spoken as the true serial Tesla/Musk hater that you are Mxs.

      The reason that Volvo and other companies are getting off their asses and starting to innovate and hopefully implement these SAFETY and convenience features (not to mention EVs) is because little, tiny upstart Tesla is ahead of them in getting it on the road.

      The laggard OEMs only have their inertia to blame for getting behind at this point.

      1. Mxs says:

        Not really true …. What I hate truly though is the Tesla fanboyism wide spread on this site. Somebody has to keep you folks in line …. LOL

        Should there be a reliable/affordable/well behaving Tesla hatchback in the future, I will consider it. I have no problem giving Tesla my money. I am not brand blind, like many others here.

    3. evcarnut says:

      EAT YOUR HEART 0UT!

    4. Speculawyer says:

      It really isn’t the fancy technology that Tesla is winning with. They are combining the right things. The list I compiled earlier:
      1) Larger batteries so you can do 98% of your daily driving with your overnight charge.
      2) Company-supported strategically placed DC fast-chargers for long distance driving.
      3) Great aerodynamics so you have decent range at high speeds.
      4) Sexy car designs that people want to buy.
      5) Use a skateboard design with the battery at the bottom so you get: ability to swap the battery out, lots of space for passengers and cargo, low center of gravity for stability.
      6) Periodic refreshes of the car with new technology.

      Any automaker could do those things . . . but they are not doing it because . . . who knows? I guess the ICE mentality.

      1. Tim says:

        Every time I read someone claim that the existing car manufacturers could do everything Tesla does but choose not to, it makes me think of all the times I told people I could be a professional tennis player … but I choose not to.

        There’s a lot to be said for proving you can do something by actually doing it.

        1. Mxs says:

          “great mature analogy” …. You want to take another stab at it?

      2. Mxs says:

        Can’t you really see it why the others cannot …. They have been looking after all of us providing ICE technology for you and me for very long time, whether you like it or not. So, they have complicated ownership schemes and stockholders to please and money to make. When they don’t trouble rises …. Which is a direct opposite of Tesla …. The new kid on the block, not having to really please anyone seriously yet. So without an ICE baggage and people expecting their dividends now they can think, manufacture and implement freely. Something obviously the others cannot, yet. But that doesn’t mean that they will not once it makes sense to the economics of the real world, which many of you including Tesla do not live in, at least not when you post always against the ICE ….

        To think that somehow Tesla has major advantage in any of their used technologies is laughable. They are ahead obviously in using the currently available tech, but that is a very different statement.

        Yeah, so keep laughing at Volvo …. It will not be the last laugh you will be having though.

        I am sure Tesla is enjoying the number of volunteers for their autopilot. Who would not ….. Until something goes wrong.

        1. ffbj says:

          Something has gone wrong, you continue to post.

  7. Speculawyer says:

    Wannabe is a good term that described Volvo overall.

  8. I agree with professor Victor’s main point, which is that people are expecting too much of Tesla’s autopilot and we’ve all seen the youtube videos of not just complacency, but dangerous abducation of the drivers’ responsibility.

    On the other hand, Tesla can track the middle of the lane, whereas Volvo performs lane keeping by bouncing along one side of the lane. They’ll eventually get it right, but “wannabe” is an extremely unfortunate choice of words for a competitor whose current product outperforms yours.

  9. The autopilot in my Tesla gets better all the time… I wonder if I will be the case with Volvo?

  10. evcarnut says:

    Volvo ….Is a
    brain wash car!..They still Volkswagen Engines ….That can’t be good!

    1. neoLITE says:

      “They still Volkswagen Engines”
      Exactly what are you trying to say?

      1. evcarnut says:

        Volvo , used VW engines @ one time for sure , Not 100% certain that they still buy their engines from VW …Pretty sure they still do …& that can’t be good…They can’t build an engine & they are building Cars!??

        1. neoLITE says:

          As far as I know Volvo used 6-cyl diesels (only) from VW until 1998 or something like that. Volvo have owned their own engine factory in Skovde, Sweden since 1935 and that factory is now manufacturing all(!) engines, diesel and petrol, used in Volvo Cars.

        2. ModernMarvelFan says:

          “Volvo , used VW engines @ one time for sure , Not 100% certain that they still buy their engines from VW …Pretty sure they still do …& that can’t be good…They can’t build an engine & they are building Cars!??”

          “pretty sure they still do”?

          YOu should just remove evcar from your name…

          You are just a Tesla fan boy nut who is totally clueless..

          90% of your comments here are nothing but cheerleading useless crap…

  11. Mister G says:

    Volvo can kiss Tesla Arse

  12. Carcus says:

    2016 Volvo XC90 review & Auto Pilot Assist test (POV)

    13:30/16:54

  13. Carcus says:

    Volvo Pilot Assist – Low-Speed Autonomous Driving Review

  14. evcarnut says:

    Volvo vs Tesla …Like comparing a Model T to a Rocket ship……

  15. Spider-Dan says:

    Setting the Tesla vs. Volvo part aside, it is clear that there is potentially a very dangerous chasm as we implement more and more autonomous driving features.

    I’m of the opinion that Level 3 autonomous driving cars are the biggest concern; they are just good enough at driving themselves to maximally distract a driver, and then they release control and expect the driver to immediately take over in emergency situations when the driver hasn’t been paying attention.

    There is enormous potential for disaster there.

    1. Carcus says:

      Every time you step inside any automobile there is enormous potential for disaster.

      1. Spider-Dan says:

        Technically, there is “enormous potential for disaster” every time you get out of bed.

        Handing emergency controls over to a fully distracted driver is far more dangerous than the same driver being in control the whole time.

        1. Carcus says:

          “The closest production car is the Volvo XC90, which has a platooning mode for highway driving where the car controls its own steering and speed. It is nothing like this. Many high-end cars have some form of automated steering, but they tend to sway a bit on the road and ask you to put your hand on the wheel. Curiously, the Model S does the same thing, but not for the same reason. It wants to check if you are really paying attention, but not because it is confused about anything.”

          Tesla Model S P90D in ‘Ludicrous Mode’ is pure technology heaven
          http://www.computerworld.com/article/3063562/personal-technology/tesla-model-s-p90d-in-ludicrous-mode-is-pure-technology-heaven.html?google_editors_picks=true

  16. Heisenberghtbacktotheroots says:

    Well volvo and Tesla are quite different when it comes to taking a risk…

    Nonetheless both companies have helped to increase road safety.

    There is no use in fighting.

    The most important aspect is that both companies are far ahead of other companies. Who else has yet adopted a plan to reduce fatalities to 0?

    This is not about tech. This is about business and ethics. If anyone here wants to throw stones choose some other target. Neither volvo nor Tesla are promoting the “this is my road get out of the way or my car will overrun you ” kind of attitude.

    Once again this morning is not about tech. Both companies develop in house and rely on external suppliers. Both companies have a track record when it comes to developing safety systems. (although Tesla just started and we still have to wait for more data…)

    Both companies are better than their competitors and both take different approaches. Which is just fine. Like always there is not a single “best ” approach.

    Any approach to increase road safety is better than none. Even if that approach includes to heat the discussion. Tesla has still a lot of work to do. Volvo has still a lot of work to do. They both work. Others don’t…

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “There is no use in fighting.”

      Tesla fan boys don’t tolerate others..

      They are bunch of religious freaks…

  17. Rich Lucas says:

    “In our concept, if you don’t take over, if you have fallen asleep or are watching a film, then we will take responsibility still. We won’t just turn [autonomous mode] off. We take responsibility and we’ll be stopping the vehicle if you don’t take over.”

    Umm, Tesla autopilot does that now.

  18. offib says:

    OH, he’s looking for a world of trouble now!

  19. carcus says:

    Tesla most likely IS ahead of the curve, where autonomous driving is concerned, even though Tesla AND Volvo (and many others) are using the same mobileye system:
    ———
    “A very pertinent point to make here is that there is a difference between the core Mobileye DNN and the system Tesla is using to ‘learn’ – they are not the same. To reiterate:

    The system Tesla EVs use to make the autopilot ‘learn’ over time is an implementation of their own design and not related to Mobileye”

    Exclusive: The Tesla AutoPilot – An In-Depth Look At The Technology Behind the Engineering Marvel
    http://wccftech.com/tesla-autopilot-story-in-depth-technology/4/#ixzz47QVKUpnK
    ———

    So if I were to guess, I would say that is the actual “rub” between Volvo and Tesla. And now Tesla’s cars are likely learning (and becoming safer) at a much faster rate than any of the competitors because they’ve got so much more data coming in from the actual customer cars (not company test cars on the company test track).

    1. ffbj says:

      Yep. Simple and effective analysis.

  20. MaartenV says:

    Tesla fanboys, guess what, Mxs is right. Volvo is not trying to catch up with Tesla.
    It is Google who scares the hell out of them.

    A few years ago when Google drove a blind guy through the city, the old, sleepy autonomous drive departments of Volvo, BMW, Daimler etc. were jolted out of their coma. Volvo’s response was to start a test project with (iirc) 20 cars driving commuters on a highway until a few miles out of town. The traffic got to intense for their system closer to the city.

    Volvo’s comments on those people in California who did not understand a jota about cars was less nice than their current comments on Tesla.
    – Google’s hardware at $150K was way too expensive to ever be used in a car.
    – It was ridiculous to use $70K lidar sensors.
    – They needed datacenter computing facilities instead of the build in processor of the car.
    – Google relied heavily on very detailed maps which were hard to come by.
    But three or four years later the lidar sensors are below $1k, Nvidia is offering an affordable supercomputing board to process the data and Google Street View has recorded many million miles of roads in high detail. Google is five years ahead with lidar image processing compared to everybody else. And only lidar gives a high enough resolution of the cars surroundings to develop true autonomous driving.

    Google is far ahead of the pack. It has decided that only level 5 is save. The risk is not a driver not able to take over the wheel when needed, but a driver taking over when he/she shouldn’t. They learned the hard way. By a million test miles.

    Volvo plans to test by 2020 with lv 4 cars what Google is doing for over a year in a few cities with their lv 5 cars. From the tests they conduct and the features they have in their cars it looks like Volvo is slightly behind Mercedes and on par with BMW, Nissan and Toyota.
    Tesla is somewhere halfway between Google those five.

    1. carcus says:

      Even though Elon has stated his case against LIDAR implementation:

      “There’s more that can be done, but the sensor suite is not the full autonomy suite. For full autonomy you’d obviously need 360 cameras, you’d probably need redundant forward cameras, you’d need redundant computer hardware, and like redundant motors and steering rack. For full autonomy you’d really want to have a more comprehensive sensor suite and computer systems that are fail proof.

      That said, I don’t think you need LIDAR. I think you can do this all with passive optical and then with maybe one forward RADAR… if you are driving fast into rain or snow or dust. I think that completely solves it without the use of LIDAR. I’m not a big fan of LIDAR, I don’t think it makes sense in this context.

      We do use LIDAR for our dragon spacecraft when docking with the space station. And I think it makes sense [in that case] and we’ve put a lot of effort into developing that. So it’s not that I don’t like LIDAR in general, I just don’t think it makes sense in a car context. I think it’s unnecessary.”

      LIDAR “pucks” have been spotted on a Model S.

      Prototype Tesla Model S with potential next gen fully-autonomous Autopilot hardware and LiDAR spotted in California
      http://electrek.co/2016/03/18/tesla-model-s-test-vehicle-autopilot-lidar/

      1. carcus says:

        … add, pretty cool when you can throw in a passing reference involving your “dragon spacecraft docking”.

        That can probably tossed around with varying effect at a press conference or a cocktail lounge. Must be fun being Elon.

      2. MaartenV says:

        I didn’t know about Elon’s thoughts about LIDAR.
        In the end it will be costs versus resolution what decides which technology will be used.
        I was just illustrating how completely wrong Volvo was three years ago in their critique on Google.

        My personal favorite is the Nissan IDS concept car, and the way it switches between lv1 and lv5 driving. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nissan+ids

      3. TomArt says:

        Hmmm…excellent point. LIDAR might work better against dust and fog if it uses wavelengths well into the infrared, maybe…but visible or near visible wavelengths will be rendered useless by any sort of hazardous conditions like dust and fog. If you can’t see, then the LIDAR can’t see. RADAR or microwave would work just fine, as well.

  21. TomArt says:

    Well, the adaptive cruise control is a wonderful invention, emergency braking has saved lives across all brands that have it, and all the various lane and proximity warnings have their safety value, as well.

    However, when you talk about releasing a L2 or L3 system on a population that, as a whole, is so )*&^)*% stupid that legislatures have to pass laws banning the use of cell phones, like TEXTING while driving…then I would agree that enabling L2 or L3 features is an irresponsible thing for a manufacturer to do. Too few people have enough damn sense to use it responsibly.

    They are great features, and I will order my Model 3 with autopilot, if it’s legal then, but I know not to rely on it for every last thing that might happen.

  22. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Instead of bashing Volvo, I think Volvo engineer has some valid points. It is true that perception of the Tesla “auto pilot” is more dangerous than the danger of auto pilot itself.

    (remember the idiot who bought an RV and on the way home, put the RV on cruiser control and went back to make a cup of coffee?)

    The perception is that Tesla auto pilot is more ready than what it is today. That is a valid concern. The good thing about Tesla autopilot is that it is constantly learning and improving with real world usage which is something that Volvo only does in the lab.

    They are two different approaches. Bashing one company in favor the other is just kid level stupidity, thus the term “fan [boy]”…