Don’t try this at home, if you want to have a home life to come home to. Specifically, no matter how much you love your Tesla, and no matter how much faith you have in Tesla’s safety tools: Do. Not. Use. Your. Spouse. To. Test. Tesla. Auto-Braking.
What sounds like fake news apparently is real news. Some guy on the internet and YouTube who goes by the handle KrisXstream created a video of himself and his Model S doing an emergency-aut0-braking test. The video shows a near miss.
The video has since been removed from YouTube — common sense finally prevails — but our friends at Jalopnik copped a peek at the video before it went off to ion-land. Jason Torchinsky reports:
It’s worth pointing out that in his first test, he has autopilot on and gets up to a speed of around 30 kph, around 18.6 mph. That’s a pretty good clip when you’re talking about 4,000 pounds of Muskmachine hurling at a human woman. In the first test, the car barely manages to stop before hitting the woman; at about 0:41 seconds into the video, you can see that the car is still going about 26 kph/16 mph when his wife is close and directly in front of the car. A human would have slowed down and stopped way, way earlier than this. Yes, the car did soon stop, hard, but had she not scampered a bit out of the way or fallen down …
But in a second test, it appears Autopilot didn’t brake, based on video showing the Autopilot-active icon in the instrument panel, and an “alarmingly close” situation avoided only when the driver turns to manual braking on his own.
Our advice, if you want to try this, is to get hold of a life-size pool float and toss that in the path of the moving vehicle. In the photo (right) of a Bigmouth Inc. Gummi float (yes, it exists), that would be the red thing, not the woman in blue.
Actually, it’s not all that easy, because pool floats tend not to be tossable long distances, so the tosser has to get close to the car’s path, with possible bad results. [Thanks for clarifying this. -Ed]
Automakers who set up test scenarios for themselves and for journalists to sample emergency braking or forward collision warning often use a mylar silhouette of the back of a car. It’s attached on a long boom from a truck and rides above the pavement one lane over, so if there’s a mistake, the car being tested rams a piece of fabric, not another vehicle.
Something like this test is dumb on many levels, starting the potential for injury or death. It may also run afoul of motor vehicle laws that say, effectively, that a driver is obligated to avoid doing something that could cause an accident or injury. “I was only curious … ” may not hold up in court.
At a recent meeting of the International Motor Press Association, NYC traffic engineer and consultant Sam Schwartz, better known as Gridlock Sam, said the future of self-driving cars could be endangered in urban areas. Modern-day saboteurs would simply walk in front of autonomous vehicles and they’d stop. At least once self-driving is perfected. Done by dozens or thousands of people, it could cripple self-driving.
Note that what happened here is not a failing of autonomous driving but rather a failing of a human with more curiosity than common sense, and the inability of one sub-system — emergency braking — to deal with a critical situation, at least in this case.
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