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Tesla driver says car was in autopilot when it crashed at 60mph | Technology

Tesla driver says car was in autopilot when it crashed at 60mph | Technology


The driver of a Tesla car that failed to stop at a red light and collided with a firetruck told investigators that the vehicle was operating on “autopilot” mode when it crashed, police said.

A Tesla Model S was traveling at 60mph when it collided with the emergency vehicle in South Jordan, Utah, on Friday, causing minor injuries to both drivers, officials said Monday. The Tesla driver’s claim that the car was using the autopilot technology has raised fresh questions about the electric car company’s semi-autonomous system, which is supposed to assist drivers in navigating the road.

The exact cause of the crash, which left the driver with a broken ankle, remains unknown, with Tesla saying it did not yet have the car’s data and could not comment on whether autopilot was engaged. South Jordan police also said the 28-year-old driver “admitted that she was looking at her phone prior to the collision” and that witnesses said the car did not brake or take any action to avoid the crash.

“As a reminder for drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles, it is the driver’s responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times,” the police department said in a statement.


The scene of the crash in Utah. Photograph: Courtesy of the South Jordan police department

While driverless technology is expected to make the roads significantly safer by reducing human error and crashes, companies like Tesla are currently in a transition period that some experts say has created unique risks. That’s because semi-autonomous features, research has shown, can lull drivers into a false sense of security and make it hard for them to remain alert and intervene as needed.

Tesla has faced backlash for its decision to brand the technology “autopilot”, given that the drivers are expected not to depend on the feature to keep them safe.

After a Tesla autopilot crash in March resulted in the driver’s death, the company issued a series of lengthy statements blaming the victim for “not paying attention”.

On Monday, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk complained about an article on the Utah crash, writing on Twitter: “It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage.”

He also wrote that it was “actually amazing” the collision at 60mph only resulted in a broken ankle: “An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death.”

Musk has on numerous occasions forcefully chastised journalists investigating Tesla crashes, arguing that the unflattering news coverage was dissuading people from using the technology and thus “killing people” in the process. After Tesla recently labeled an award-winning news outlet an “extremist organization”, some critics compared the company’s hyperbolic denouncements of the press to the anti-media strategy of president Donald Trump.





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Tesla factory to be investigated over safety concerns | Technology

Tesla factory to be investigated over safety concerns | Technology


Tesla is facing an investigation by Californian safety regulators into reports of serious injuries at its factory in Fremont, California, where it is struggling to scale up production of its Model 3 mass-market electric car.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on Wednesday it had begun an inspection on Tuesday, a day after the news website Reveal alleged that Tesla failed to disclose legally mandated reports on serious worker injuries, making its safety record appear better than it was.

A Tesla spokesperson said the Californian agency was required to investigate any claims, whether merited or not. They said: “We have never in the entire history of our company received a violation for inaccurate or incomplete injury record-keeping.”

The agency typically reviews an employer’s log of work-related injuries and illnesses to ensure serious injuries are reported directly to the administration within eight hours. Tesla said the injury rate at its Fremont factory, which it took over from General Motors and Toyota, was half what it was in the final years under its previous owners.



Robots assembly a Tesla Model S at the firm’s factory in Fremont, California. Photograph: Paul Sakuma/AP

But this is just the latest issue in what Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, described as “manufacturing hell”, as the company struggles to hit production targets for its crucial new car.

The firm has repeatedly failed to hit its weekly production targets of 2,500 Model 3 vehicles in the first quarter of 2018, and has been forced to halt production twice in three months, most recently this week. The difficulties have fostered doubt within the industry that Tesla will be able to hit its 5,000-a-week target in three months’ time, despite Musk saying the company was able to produce a steady stream of 2,000 vehicles a week at the factory.

The significant production shortfall of the Model 3 has delayed customer deliveries, which have stacked up from billions of dollars of orders. Musk said he was forced to take direct control of the production line at the beginning of April, working through the night and sleeping at the factory.

The technology entrepreneur admitted “excessive automation” had slowed production, saying a “crazy, complex network of conveyor belts” had not worked out. “Humans are underrated,” Musk said.



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Tesla halts Model 3 production as firm scrambles to improve automation | Technology

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Tesla has temporarily suspended its Model 3 assembly line as Elon Musk’s electric car firm struggles to deliver on targets.

The company said the move was a planned production pause of up to five days. It is the second time since February that Tesla has halted its production line for the Model 3 at its Fremont, California plant.

“These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates,” said a Tesla spokesperson.

The shutdown took Tesla staff at the plant by surprise, forcing them to use vacation days or stay at home without pay, according to reports from BuzzFeed.

Tesla suspended production of its Model 3 for four days in February in what the company said was planned work to improve automation and address bottlenecks. It warned of possibly more periods of downtime in coming months.

Car manufacturers typically stop or slow production of new models when ironing out problems with production. Tesla took shortcuts with testing of its production line in order to get to market more quickly, which some experts say have resulted in early manufacturing problems.

Musk recently admitted that “excessive automation” at the Tesla plant had contributed to what he calls “manufacturing hell” and had actually slowed down manufacturing of the crucial mass-market model.

“We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing,” Musk told CBS.

The electric car firm has repeatedly missed targets and is now trying to reach a production volume of 2,500 vehicles per week. Musk recently said Tesla was managing to make 2,000 Model 3s a week, but failed to assuage doubts about the company reaching its 5,000-a-week target in three months time.

Musk tweeted on Friday that Tesla would be profitable and cash flow positive in the third and fourth quarters, with no need to raise money.

Many analysts dispute this analysis, which hinges on a rapid rise in production of the Model 3 sedan. Delays and lower-than-expected volume have postponed revenue from cars being delivered to customers from reaching Tesla’s bottom line.



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Arizona suspends Uber’s self-driving car testing after fatality | Technology

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Arizona governor Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s self-driving vehicle testing on Monday following a pedestrian fatality in a Phoenix suburb last week.

Ducey told Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi that video footage of the crash raised concerns about the company’s ability to safely test its technology in Arizona.

He said he expects public safety to be the top priority for those who operate self-driving cars. “The incident that took place on 18 March is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation,” Ducey said.

The move by the Republican governor marks a major step back from his embrace of self-driving vehicles. He previously welcomed Uber and other autonomous vehicle companies to use Arizona as a place for testing under few, if any, regulations.

In early March, he authorized self-driving vehicle companies to run tests without a person in the car to act as a safety operator.

Police in Tempe released a 22-second video showing a woman walking from a darkened area onto a street just before an Uber SUV strikes her. The Volvo was in self-driving mode with a human backup driver at the wheel when it struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, police said.

Uber’s human backup driver appears on the video to be looking down before crash and appears startled about the time of the impact.

Experts who viewed the video said the SUV’s sensors should have seen the woman pushing a bicycle and braked before the impact.

The fatal crash in Tempe was the first fatality involving a self-driving vehicle in the US. Uber immediately suspended its self-driving vehicle testing in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

On Friday, The New York Times reported the company’s own documents showed the testing program was rife with issues. They included trouble driving through construction zones and requiring far more human intervention than competing companies.

In Arizona, companies such as Uber only need to carry minimum liability insurance to operate self-driving cars. They are not required to track crashes or report any information to the state.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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Waymo expands self-driving taxi plans with Jaguar Land Rover link-up | Technology

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The self-driving car company Waymo will buy up to 20,000 electric vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover to help realize its vision for a robotic ride-hailing service.

The commitment announced Tuesday marks another step in Waymo’s evolution from a secret project started in Google nine years ago to a spinoff that’s gearing up for an audacious attempt to reshape the transportation business.

The Jaguar deal will expand upon a fleet of self-driving cars that Waymo has been gradually building in partnership with Fiat Chrysler since 2015.

The minivans will be part of a ride-hailing service that Waymo plans to launch in Arizona later this year.

Jaguar will deliver its vehicles for Waymo’s ride-hailing from 2020 to 2022. Waymo says the 20,000 I-Pace models will provide up to 1m rides per day.



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Uber to sell south-east Asia business to competitor Grab | Technology

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Ride-hailing firm Uber has agreed to sell its south-east Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab, marking the US company’s second retreat from an Asian market.

The deal is the industry’s first big consolidation in south-east Asia, home to about 640 million people, and puts pressure on Indonesia’s Go-Jek, which is backed by Alphabet’s Google and China’s Tencent.

A shake-up in Asia’s fiercely competitive ride-hailing industry became likely earlier this year when Japan-based SoftBank’s Vision Fund made a multi-billion dollar investment in Uber. SoftBank also invested in Grab.

As part of the transaction, Uber will take a 27.5% stake in Singapore-based Grab and Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, will join Grab’s board.

“It will help us double down on our plans for growth as we invest heavily in our products and technology,” Khosrowshahi said.

For Grab, the deal is a boon for its meal-delivery service, which will now merge with Uber Eats. A more robust food service will give Grab an advantage over Go-Jek, according to a person close to Grab.

“It was really a very independent decision by both companies,” Grab’s president, Ming Maa, said, adding that SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son was “highly supportive”.

In addition to its stakes in Uber and Grab, SoftBank is also one of the main investors in several other big ride-hailing firms including China’s Didi Chuxing and India’s Ola.

Ride-hailing companies throughout Asia have relied heavily on discounts and promotions, driving down profit margins and increasing pressure for consolidation.

Uber, which is preparing for a potential initial public offering in 2019, lost $4.5bn last year and is facing fierce competition at home and in Asia, as well as a regulatory crackdown in Europe.

Uber invested $700m in its south-east Asia business, less than the $2bn it burned through in China before ceding its operations there to Didi.

Uber anticipated making more deals with rivals, but said it had no plans for another sale in which it consolidates its operations in exchange for a minority stake in a rival.

“It is fair to ask whether consolidation is now the strategy of the day, given this is the third deal of its kind … The answer is no,” Khosrowshahi said in a note to employees.

“One of the potential dangers of our global strategy is that we take on too many battles across too many fronts and with too many competitors.”

A source familiar with Uber’s strategy said the company was going to step up its battle with Ola in India, another competitive and costly market where rivals have heavily subsidised rides in an effort to gain market share. Uber has close to 60% of the market there, by some estimates.

Uber’s two previous retreats, from China and Russia, happened under former CEO Travis Kalanick. The deal with Grab is the first operations sale by Khosrowshahi, who started in September.

Uber includes the US, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America among its core markets – regions where it has more than 50% market share and is profitable or sees a path to profitability.



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Uber offers to share journey data with London city planners | Technology

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Uber is to share data from journeys made in London, as it bids to be what it terms a “better partner” and reclaim its licence to operate in the capital.

The ride-hailing service said information arising from aggregating millions of journeys would help London planners in their work.

London becomes the first British city among 10 worldwide featured in Uber Movement, an online tool which compares journey times for different periods, potentially showing how variables such as road closures or major events impact traffic.

Fred Jones, head of UK cities at Uber, said: “For example, our data shows the impact on travel times of moves like the closure of Tower Bridge in 2016 which could be useful when similar projects are planned.”

He added: “Under Uber’s new leadership we want to be a better partner to city planners and regulators, so we hope this data will help give them valuable insights for the future.”

Uber plans to add Manchester and Birmingham to the tool, Jones said.

Transport for London last month suggested it was considering forcing private hire operators to share data as part of new licensing regulations, after seeing a drop in passengers on the tube. A TfL spokesperson said: “We welcome any move that has the potential to provide a greater insight into how people move around London.”

David Leam, of London First, said: “London businesses will welcome this initiative as a sign that Uber is committed to working in closer collaboration with city and transport planners to keep London moving.”

Uber has launched a series of changes to its working practices to demonstrate a changed culture to London’s transport authorities, who deemed it an unfit company when refusing to renew its operating licence in September.

This week, changes came into force on its app to ensure only London-licensed drivers were picking up passengers in the capital. It has also introduced driver hours limits, a 24-hour phone line, and pledged to proactively report serious incidents to police.

Its legal appeal against the licensing decision will be heard in June.



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Rage against the machine: self-driving cars attacked by angry Californians | Technology

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The great promise of self-driving cars is that they will save innumerable lives by removing the most fallible and unpredictable element from vehicle traffic: the human.

But in San Francisco at least, fickle human behavior is taking a stand.

Two of the six collisions involving autonomous vehicles in California so far this year involved humans colliding with self-driving cars, apparently on purpose, according to incident reports collected by the California department of motor vehicles.

On 10 January, a pedestrian in San Francisco’s Mission District ran across the street to confront a GM Cruise autonomous vehicle that was waiting for people to cross the road, according to an incident report filed by the car company. The pedestrian was “shouting”, the report states, and “struck the left side of the Cruise AV’s rear bumper and hatch with his entire body”.

No injuries occurred, but the car’s left tail light was damaged.

In a separate incident just a few blocks away on 28 January, a taxi driver in San Francisco exited his car, approached a GM Cruise autonomous vehicle and “slapped the front passenger window, causing a scratch”.

The police were not called in either case.

The two human-on-robot assaults are not the first time San Franciscans have fought back – physically – against robots.

In December, the local SPCA animal shelter removed its 400lb Knightscope security robot from the streets around its building amid backlash from residents and the homeless population who complained the robot was harassing them. While most residents simply complained about the robot’s presence, one person reportedly “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors”.

And in April, a drunk man was arrested after he allegedly attacked and knocked over another Knightscope security robot in Mountain View, the Silicon Valley town that is home to Google.

Other efforts to rein in robots have been more genteel.

Last year, the San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim launched a thus far unsuccessful effort to tax robots that take human jobs. And in December, San Francisco passed a bill strictly limiting the number of autonomous delivery robots that are allowed to roam the city’s sidewalks.

Gary Turner
(@garyturner)

Not shitting you, but I actually just rescued a robot in distress on the street after someone had tipped it over. This is one of those weird dreams, right. pic.twitter.com/Jh57DNqw1M


February 23, 2018

“Not every innovation is all that great for society,” the San Francisco supervisor Norman Yee, who authored the legislation, said at the time. “If we don’t value our society, if we don’t value getting the chance to go to the store without being run over by a robot … what is happening?”





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Elon Musk to open Tesla R&D plant in Greece | Technology

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Elon Musk may have plans to colonise Mars but back on planet Earth he is extending his reach to Athens, by opening an engineering facility called Tesla Greece.

Musk’s electric car business is an unsung success story for the Greek diaspora, with three of Tesla’s top designers boasting degrees from the National Technical University of Athens. Tesla’s plans for the country have such “game-changing potential” that the head of the Hellenic Entrepreneurs’ Association, Vasilis Apostolopoulos, has pledged to hand over his own industrial plant for free as a testing ground for new products.

Addressing delegates at the annual Delphi economic forum, Apostolopoulos said: “I have personally emailed Musk to welcome Tesla Greece … and to say that for the next 10 years I will give, at zero cost to his company, my group’s own industrial plant outside Corinth so that Greece can be on the frontline of global innovation.”

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Describing the move as a “vote of confidence” in the debt-stricken country, Apostolopoulos, who is chief executive of the Athens Medical Group, a leading private healthcare provider, said he was also prepared to offer full medical coverage for a year to all of Tesla Greece’s staff members and international staff visiting the country on company business.

“It is the least we can do to thank and welcome Mr Musk’s vote of confidence in Hellenic business, research and technology,” he told the Guardian.

Outside the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, the electric car manufacturer has no presence in Europe. Its Greek office is expected to attract at least 50 engineers to run a research and development centre out of the state-run Demokritos Centre for Scientific Research. The centre is expected to act as a base for southeast Europe. “Greece has a strong electric motor engineering talent, and technical universities offering tailored programmes and specialised skills for electric motor technology,” a spokesperson told Electrek, a US news website.

It is understood that Tesla’s three Greek designers – principal motor designer Konstantinos Laskaris; motor design engineer Konstantinos Bourchas; and staff motor design engineer Vasilis Papanikolaou – are preparing to move back to Athens under the company’s plans. Demokritos has welcomed the news. “We are very happy to receive all the talented engineers who are returning to work beside us,” it said in a statement.



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Next-level driverless cars: how to solve the problem of humans falling asleep | Technology

Next-level driverless cars: how to solve the problem of humans falling asleep | Technology


Next wave of development will see drivers only expected to intervene when the car requests it, say researchers






Studies have shown that drivers can fail to spot when systems reach their limits and can have trouble retaking control of the vehicle, especially in an emergency.
Photograph: Volvo/AFP/Getty Images

Driving down the motorway in a swanky semi-autonomous car, the vehicle is at its own wheel, humming along smoothly. But coming off a slip road it is over to you. The only trouble is, you’ve fallen asleep.

The goal of a completely driverless car is considered top of a six-level scale of autonomy, and researchers believe it will one day be possible to achieve that aim. But for now, cars are stuck at level two on the scale – in which the driver must still perform several key aspects of driving – while engineers work out how to crack the problem of keeping drivers alert.

However, researchers say they are working on sensor-based systems to provide an answer and move towards level three, in which the driver would only be expected to be ready to intervene when the car requests it.

It’s an issue that has been underscored by recent cases of drivers ending up in accidents while their level two car was apparently on autopilot. “Under level three you’re not allowed to sleep, you need to be there and able to do things. But you don’t need to drive all the time. You can have your office there, or relax. Then the system tells you, ‘OK, in 10 minutes you need to take over’,” said Anna Anund of the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, who is presenting research into tackling this transition point at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week.

By tapping into our understanding of sleep, stress, inattention and anxiety in humans, and knowledge of challenges such as weather and road conditions, Anund and colleagues are working on sensor-based systems to spot when the transition from car to driver might be hazardous, and ensure drivers can take the helm safely. The systems, it seems, will be sophisticated.

“It will not spray water in your face,” said Anund, who is leader of a project focusing on developing software for such sensor systems. “If we are talking about truck drivers, their main problem is they have been driving on the motorway too long doing nothing. Then the countermeasure could be to communicate [with] the driver, ask them to do things,” she said. “If you are driving in the middle of the night, then nothing will help except stopping.”

The idea is far from sci-fi: General Motors has already announced that its Cadillac Super Cruise will include eye-tracking technology.

But Anund says the systems could involve many types of sensor. “This is not retinal cameras only,” she said. “In a motorbike we can have sensors in protective gear – gloves, jacket, helmet. Also we can have sensors in the drivers’ seat. It’s not a sensor developing project. These sensors exist. It’s about using them.”

Should the sensors spot that a driver at the controls is becoming sleepy, or is drunk, the system could also prompt the car to take over, Anund added. “This is a critical state – for you and for anyone oncoming and passing you,” she said.

Ian Reagan, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the US, said it was important to tackle the issues around semi-autonomous cars.

“Anything less than fully automated driving will introduce new challenges for the people who ride along. Experimental studies demonstrate that drivers can fail to notice when systems reach their limits and can have trouble retaking control of the vehicle, especially in emergency situations.”

Level three autonomy, he noted, presents an inherent difficulty. “Drivers are given permission to turn their attention elsewhere but must be ready to take control at a moment’s notice,” he said. “Automated systems need to be programmed to seek a safe state on their own, such as pulling to the side of the road and stopping, without depending on human drivers to take over.”





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