fbpx
Connect with us

News

NTSB: Tesla Autopilot, distracted driver caused fatal crash

Inside Telecom Staff

Published

 on

Tesla Autopilot

By TOM KRISHER AP Auto Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tesla‘s partially automated driving system steered an electric SUV into a concrete barrier on a Silicon Valley freeway because it was operating under conditions it couldn’t handle and because the driver likely was distracted by playing a game on his smartphone, the National Transportation Safety Board has found.

The board made the determination Tuesday in the fatal crash, and provided nine new recommendations to prevent partially automated vehicle crashes in the future. Among the recommendations is for tech companies to design smartphones and other electronic devices so they don’t operate if they are within a driver’s reach, unless it’s an emergency.

Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the problem of drivers distracted by smartphones will keep spreading if nothing is done.

“If we don’t get on top of it, it’s going to be a coronavirus,” he said in calling for government regulations and company policies prohibiting driver use of smartphones.

Much of the board’s frustration was directed at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and to Tesla, which have not acted on recommendations the NTSB passed two years ago. The NTSB investigates crashes but only has authority to make recommendations. NHTSA can enforce the advice, and manufacturers also can act on it.

But Sumwalt said if they don’t, “then we are wasting our time. Safety will not be improved. We are counting on them to do their job.”

For Tesla, the board repeated previous recommendations that it install safeguards to stop its Autopilot driving system from operating in conditions it wasn’t designed to navigate. The board also wants Tesla to design a more effective system to make sure the driver is always paying attention.

If Tesla doesn’t add driver monitoring safeguards, misuse of Autopilot is expected “and the risk for future crashes will remain,” the board wrote in one of its findings.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on the March 2018 crash of a Tesla Model X SUV, in which Autopilot was engaged when the vehicle swerved and slammed into a concrete barrier dividing freeway and exit lanes in Mountain View, Calif., killing Apple engineer Walter Huang.

Just before the crash, the Tesla steered to the left into a paved area between the freeway travel lanes and an exit ramp, the NTSB said. It accelerated to 71 mph and crashed into the end of the concrete barrier. The car’s forward collision avoidance system didn’t alert Huang, and its automatic emergency braking did not activate, the NTSB said.

Also, Huang did not brake, and there was no steering movement detected to avoid the crash, the board’s staff said.

NTSB staff members said they couldn’t pinpoint exactly why the car steered into the barrier, but it likely was a combination of faded lane lines, bright sunshine that affected the cameras, and a closer-than-normal vehicle in the lane ahead of the Tesla.

The board also found that Huang likely would have lived if a cushion at the end of the barrier had been repaired by California transportation officials. That cushion had been damaged in a crash 11 days before Huang was killed.

Recommendations to NHTSA included expanded testing to make sure partially automated systems can avoid running into common obstacles such as a barrier. The board also asks that NHTSA evaluate Autopilot to determine where it can safely operate and to develop and enforce standards for monitoring drivers so they pay attention while using the systems.

NHTSA has told the NTSB it has investigations open into 14 Tesla crashes and would use its enforcement of safety defects to take action if needed.

The agency issued a statement saying it will review the NTSB’s report and that all commercially available vehicles require human drivers to stay in control at all times.

“Distraction-affected crashes are a major concern, including those involving advanced driver assistance features,” the statement said.

Sumwalt said at the start of Tuesday’s hearing that systems like Autopilot cannot drive themselves, yet drivers continue to use them without paying attention.

“This means that when driving in the supposed ‘self-driving’ mode, you can’t read a book, you can’t watch a movie or TV show, you can’t text and you can’t play video games,” he said.

Under questioning from board members, Robert Molloy, the NTSB’s director of highway safety, said the NHTSA is taking a hands-off approach to regulating new automated driving systems like Autopilot. Molloy called the approach “misguided,” and said nothing is more disappointing than seeing recommendations ignored by Tesla and NHTSA.

“They need to do more,” he said of the federal highway safety agency.

Autopilot is designed to keep a vehicle in its lane and keep a safe distance from vehicles in front of it. It also can change lanes with driver approval. Tesla says Autopilot is intended to be used for driver assistance and that drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.

Sumwalt said the board had made recommendations to six automakers in 2017 to stop the problem and only Tesla has failed to respond.

Teslas can sense a driver applying force to the steering wheel, and if that doesn’t happen, it will issue visual and audio warnings. But monitoring steering wheel torque, “is a poor surrogate measure” of monitoring the driver, Ensar Becic, the NTSB’s human performance and automation highway safety expert told the board.

Messages were left Tuesday seeking comment from Tesla.

Sumwalt said the NTSB had called for technology more than nine years ago to disable distracting functions of smartphones while the user is driving, but no action has been taken.

Don Karol, the NTSB’s project manager for highway safety, told the board that the staff is recommending that cell phone companies program phones to automatically lock out distracting functions such as games and phone calls while someone is driving. The staff also recommends that companies enact policies to prevent use of company issued cell phones while workers are driving.

Tesla has said Autopilot was put out initially in “beta,” meaning it was being tested and improved as bugs were identified, Karol told the board.

That brought a response from Vice Chairman Bruce Landsburg, who said if the system has known bugs, “it’s probably pretty foreseeable that somebody’s going to have a problem with it. And then they (Tesla) come back and say ‘oh, we warned you.'”

Advertisement

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

India introduces new rules to regulate online content

Associated Press

Published

 on

India introduces new rules to regulate online content

India on Thursday rolled out new regulations for social media companies and digital streaming websites to make them more accountable for the online content shared on their platforms, giving the government more power to police it.

The Information Technology Ministry said the new regulations would require social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to swiftly erase content authorities deem unlawful. The regulations include a strict oversight mechanism that would allow the government to ban content affecting “the sovereignty and integrity of India.”

The regulations would also require social media companies to assist investigations by India’s law enforcement agencies. They were announced as debate swirls over free speech and the suspension by Twitter of some Indian accounts linked to farmers’ protests after regulators ordered them to be blocked.

Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the new regulations were a “soft touch progressive institutional mechanism” required for the “security and sovereignty of India, public order, and rape or any other sexually explicit material.”

They will require social media companies to remove illegal content as quickly as possible, but within no more than 36 hours after they receive a government or legal order.

The new rules also require social media platforms to appoint what the government calls chief compliance and grievance officers to handle complaints from law enforcement agencies. These officers should be Indian citizens and must send monthly compliance reports to the government.

“The government welcomes criticism of the government and the right to dissent, but it is very important that the users must be given a forum to raise their grievances against the abuse and misuse of social media,” Prasad said during a televised news conference.

Social media messaging sites must also disclose to the government the original source of any “mischievous information.” It was not immediately clear if this would mean messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Signal and others would have to break end-to-end encryption in India in order to comply.

Apar Gupta, executive director of India Freedom Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group, said the government asking social media platforms to give details about originators of information “undermines user rights and can lead to self-censorship if users fear that their conversations are no longer private.”

The new regulations are to take effect within three months. They also will apply to digital streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which will have to set a “classification rating” to describe the content on their platforms.

Twitter found itself in a standoff with the government earlier this month when it refused to fully comply with a government order to remove some accounts, including those of news organizations, journalists, activists and politicians, citing its “principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression.”

The government said the accounts — unspecified in number — were using provocative hashtags to spread misinformation about massive farmer protests that have rattled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Twitter’s actions appeared to irk Modi’s government, which over the years has sought to tighten its grip over social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. It served Twitter a non-compliance notice and threatened its officials with a fine and imprisonment of up to seven years for violating the order.


NEW DELHI (AP) — By SHEIKH SAALIQ

Continue Reading

News

Digital exchange Coinbase takes a step toward going public

Associated Press

Published

 on

Coinbase has filed papers with U.S. regulators to become a publicly traded company as digital currencies continue to march toward mainstream acceptance.

The digital currency exchange is seeking a direct listing, which would allow company insiders and early investors to convert their stakes in Coinbase into publicly traded stock.

In a Thursday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Coinbase also revealed how interest in digital currency is gaining steam on the exchange.

Revenue more than doubled to $1.14 billion in 2020 and the company swung to a profit of $322.3 million after losing tens of millions the previous year.

There were 43 million verified Coinbase users in 2020, with 2.8 million making transactions monthly.

Coinbase is taking the step toward becoming public at at time when chatter about cryptocurrencies is everywhere, even at the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Tesla this month said that it was buying $1.5 billion in Bitcoin as part of a new investment strategy, and that it would soon be accepting Bitcoin as payment for its electric cars.

Also this month, BNY Mellon, the oldest bank in the U.S., said it would include digital currencies in the services it provides to clients. Mastercard said it would start supporting “select crypto currencies” on its network. And Blue Ridge Bank of Charlottesville, Virginia, said it would allow cardholders to purchase and redeem Bitcoin at 19 of its ATMs.

But volatility currently makes the use of digital currency for the exchange for goods and services untenable.

This month, the price of a single Bitcoin exceeded $50,000 for the first time. It’s value is up 450% over the past year, down 8% this week, and up 4% Thursday.

An early digital currency adopter, billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya, tweeted this month that he bought an empty lot in Lake Tahoe using $1.6 million in Bitcoin in 2014. He converted that pricetag to the equivalent of what he would have paid in February, or what he would have in his pocket if he had just held on to his Bitcoin: $27.5 million.

Coinbase Global Inc. is looking to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “COIN.” It won’t raise any proceeds from the listing.


By MICHELLE CHAPMAN

Continue Reading

News

Airbnb reports huge loss in first time out as public company

Associated Press

Published

 on

Airbnb reports huge loss in first time out as public company

Home-sharing site Airbnb posted a $3.9 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2020 as it suffered from the pandemic downturn in travel and recorded one-time costs for becoming a public company.

In results released Thursday — Airbnb’s first as a publicly traded entity — the company took a charge of $2.8 billion for stock compensation related to the IPO. A year earlier, Airbnb lost $352 million.

Revenue fell 22% to $859 million in the quarter that ended Dec. 31. That was still more than analysts expected, according to a FactSet survey, and a far smaller percentage decline than reported by rivals Expedia, Tripadvisor and Bookings Holdings.

Airbnb declined to offer a forecast for 2021 profit and revenue. Company executives said they are upbeat about a recovery, but they said the unknown pace of vaccinations make it difficult to know how quickly people will be willing to travel. The company did say revenue will not decline as much in the current quarter as it did in the fourth quarter of last year.

In late January, Airbnb said a survey it commissioned showed that just over half of Americans have already booked a trip or plan to travel this year.

Since the start of the pandemic, Airbnb has shifted its focus to beach towns and mountain destinations — outdoorsy places where the risk of contracting the coronavirus is perceived to be lower. The company expects rentals in big cities to come back last.

It has also slashed costs and jobs to ride out the pandemic, much like airlines and others in the travel industry.

CEO Brian Chesky said his company will benefit from changes in travel and jobs as many people work from somewhere other than the office — maybe a rental far from home.

“When travel comes back, we believe it will look different than before,” Chesky said on a call with analysts. “People are living more nomadically. Some people are taking longer-term stays, one or two months at a time in Airbnb.”

The company is counting on adding hosts. It believes that people who book long-term rentals will also turn to Airbnb to rent their empty homes.

For all of 2020, Airbnb lost nearly $4.6 billion including the charge for stock-based compensation and a separate charge of $827 million for stock warrants tied to a loan. That compared with a 2019 loss of $674 million. Even as revenue increased, the company also lost money in 2017 and 2018 as it spent heavily on marketing and technology and added new lines to the business.

Despite the years of losses, Airbnb generated sky-high expectations from investors, which led to a winning debut on the stock market in December, when its shares more than doubled the San Francisco-based company’s target price and gave it a valuation of just over $100 billion. At $3.7 billion, it was the biggest U.S. IPO in 2020, according to Renaissance Capital.

Airbnb faces challenges, including opposition from hotels. Some cities have stepped up restrictions on short-term rentals. Critics say Airbnb contributes to higher rents and home prices in some markets. Some of the company’s hosts aren’t just sharing their homes, they are turning them into businesses catering to tourists, reducing the supply of housing for local residents, according to some researchers.

Before the release of financial results, the company’s shares fell 9.1% to close at $182.06. They rose less than 1% in after-hours trading.


By DAVID KOENIG

Continue Reading

Trending