On a rainy winter night in December 2019, college student Maria Smith noticed flashing state soldier and police lights on Route 24, Massachusetts. She pulled to the side of the road. Next: Smack! Something hit her car from behind and shattered the window behind her. “I was scared,” she said.
Running in autopilot mode, Tesla crashed into a state soldier cruiser and crashed into Smith’s car.
No one was injured in the collision, but it is part of a thorough investigation initiated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority in August. NHTSA hit 12 similar episodes in three years with 17 injured and one dead when Tesla vehicles traveling at various speeds hit police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles. I am investigating.
NHTSA has released a survey and noted that all Tesla vehicles involved are running either autopilot or traffic-aware cruise control. .. NHTSA said it will investigate factors such as how to ensure that the vehicle is paying attention to the driver and how to detect visual clues to collision scenes such as blinking lights and flares.
But the investigator also delves into questions about more basic technology. Why is Tesla’s forward collision avoidance system not good at preventing collisions like Smith, at least when the computer is driving?
Compared to so-called advanced driver assistance systems such as autopilot, frontal collision avoidance systems are relatively crude. It is designed to answer one question — is the frontal impact imminent? — Respond to danger by sounding a warning and, if necessary, triggering a subsystem called automatic emergency braking. Unlike the autopilot, which must be selected manually and is only available under some driving conditions, the autopilot will be applied by default unless manually turned off.
First developed in the mid-1990s, automatic emergency braking is effective in preventing or reducing the severity of collisions, said David Aylor, manager of active safety testing at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. .. IIHS has discovered that an automatic braking system can reduce the incidence of front-to-back collisions by 50% and improve performance at low speeds and in good visibility conditions.
“This is a great technology and should be on every car,” says Aylor.
“The benefits are incredible,” said Kyle Funkhouser, Head of Connections and Self-Driving Cars for Consumer Reports. “This is one of the technologies that keeps family and friends from buying a car.”
Tesla calls its vehicle “the safest car in the world” because of the combination of structural engineering and advanced technology. However, when it comes to forward collision avoidance systems, Tesla owners report a significantly higher percentage of problems compared to similarly equipped vehicles.
In the first three quarters of 2020 and 2021, NHTSA received 131 complaints about Tesla’s system. In contrast, Mercedes-Benz had 55 cases, Audi had 28 cases, and Volvo had 14 cases. Each of the four automakers has standardized collision avoidance systems for all vehicles ahead of the voluntary industry deadline later next year.
The rate of complaints about Tesla was more than three times that of other automakers compared to the number of cars sold in the United States in 2020.
Tesla has no media department, and CEO Elon Musk refused to seek comment.
Conflict and complaint patterns are alarming between safety advocates and automotive technology professionals.
“Tesla is hitting a stationary object,” said Alan Kornhauser, head of the self-driving car engineering program at Princeton University. “You shouldn’t.” If the company’s car couldn’t avoid a crash scene marked with flares and traffic cones, he said, “How can you trust what else you can do with the autopilot?” ..
In July 2020, the accident site where Tesla collided with a police car and an ambulance in Cochise County, Arizona. The photo was posted on Twitter by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Tesla Mystery: Why didn’t automatic braking work?
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