When Stanford Roboticists Review Tesla Autopilot, They Don’t Send Their Best

3 Jun

Stanford

The usual storm of clickbait was pierced by a lightning bolt of ignorance this week, when a Stanford roboticist demonstrated a shocking level of misunderstanding of both Tesla Autopilot and the nomenclature around autonomous cars.

Heather Knight, who works at Stanford’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, claims her research is “half social robots, half autonomous driving.” Based on her May 27th post in Medium, “Tesla Autopilot Review: Bikers will die”, she’s contributing to the very problem one would hope she’s trying to solve.

Degrees don’t bestow wisdom, nor an understanding of the tragically power of titles in a world of TL:DR.

Dear Stanford: if Journalism 101 isn’t a PhD requirement, make it one. Also, please discourage clickbait.

You don’t need to be a Stanford brainiac to know that a headline like “Bikers will die” will become the story. Incredibly, Knight actually claimed to like Tesla Autopilot in a comment posted 48 hours after initial publication, but the damage had been done. Whatever analysis of human-machine interfacing (HMI) she hoped to share was buried as the story was widely reposted.

Beyond the title, Knight’s amateurish post has so many errors and omissions it has to be deconstructed line-by-line to comprehend its naïveté. Let’s begin:

“My colleague and I got to take a TESLA Autopilot test drive on highways, curvy California roads, and by the ocean.”

Knight would seem to be off to a good start. California’s highways are the ideal place to use Tesla Autopilot. Curvy roads? Not so much. Does Knight read the news? My 74-year-old mother knows not to “test” Autopilot anywhere but on a highway or in traffic.

Then Knight commits credibility suicide.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Dear Elon Musk: You Need Me For the Self-Driving Tesla Cannonball Run

22 May

Tesla

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Dear Elon:

Just over 100 years ago, Erwin “Cannonball” Baker drove a Stutz Bearcat from Los Angeles to New York City in 271 hours, ushering in the era of coast-to-coast endurance driving records that still bear his nickname. Although “Cannonballing” is often conflated with reckless driving, Baker’s feat—and his 142 records that followed—was intended to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the internal combustion technology that would transform the 20th century.

With your claim that a Tesla will make the first “full self-driving” cross-country run before the end of 2017, a new era is about to dawn, and with it a new series of records showcasing the electric and autonomous technologies that will transform the 21st.

Among all the potential benefits of self-driving cars, the moral imperative to reduce injuries and deaths caused by human driving towers above all others. Tesla already commands 40% of global press in the automotive sector; combined with the hope, fear and anticipation over the arrival of self-driving cars, the first Level 4 Cannonball Run record will be one of the most important events in the history of transportation, if not human history.

The public spectacle of a Tesla’s safe journey across the United States will likely become the hinge upon which public faith in autonomous driving will swing.

But only if the public believes it.

An edited video isn’t going to cut it. Continue reading

Why Semi-Autonomous Driving Will Never Be As Safe As Augmentation

22 Apr

Augmented Driving

The self-driving car industry is blowin’ it.

The definitions of self-driving—from ADAS to SAE automation levels to the inconsistent nomenclature used by the media—are a semantic disaster concealing a vast opportunity. There is no doubt increasing automation will make driving safer, but the safest possible implementation is one that maximizes human capabilities rather than treating them like a cancer.

Automakers are missing the biggest opportunity to profit from saving lives on what is likely to be a long, gentle ascent to Level 4. It requires tossing the insufficient logic behind L2/L3 semi-autonomy and probably even Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), and deploying the same hardware and software being developed for L4 as a way to augment human driving.

Though augmented driving represents a clear break from the current crop of semi-autonomous systems, it’s not without precedent. Aircraft are being transformed by automation just as profoundly as cars, but because there is no impetus to move toward pilotless airliners, flight automation systems have been developed to enhance rather than replace human pilots. By following the example set by the commercial aviation sector, automakers can replace the risks inherent to semi-autonomy with the comprehensive assistance of augmented driving. Continue reading

Why Radar Detectors Matter More Than Ever

12 Apr

Radar detectors matter more than ever, but you wouldn’t know it from the poorly researched clickbait that was Doug Demuro’s recent article, “Radar Detectors Are Useless Now.”

I like DeMuro. We’ve met. I’ve been reading him since he started at Jalopnik. At his best, Demuro is the Dave Barry of automotive. I laughed out loud at DeMuro’s Plays With Cars. He’s a great entertainer. I also know he’s not an idiot, so I can only assume he was too lazy to Google some basic facts, and willing to sacrifice his readers’ wallets on the altar of alternative facts. Sad!

Why should you trust my opinion? Because I led the team that broke the Cannonball Run record in 2007, driving from New York to Los Angeles in 31 hours and 4 minutes. I also led the teams that set the electric and semi-autonomous records in 2016 (55 hours), the 3-wheeled record (41 hours), the Key West to Seattle record (45 hours, 24 minutes), and similar records across Sweden, Spain and Portugal.

How many tickets did I get? Zero.

If you like speeding tickets, higher insurance premiums, giving your money to the government and trusting people you’ve never met, DeMuro’s your guy. If you don’t, let’s learn why detectors still matter by deconstructing DeMuro’s article line-by-line, starting with the headline:

“Radar Detectors Are Useless Now”

Did DeMuro consult with anyone before his making this sweeping generalization? RDforum.com and RadarDetector.net have tens of thousands of posts from avid detector users. If he needed a second or third opinion on the efficacy of detectors, not only does he have my phone number, he’s friends with Ed Bolian, who broke our Cannonball Run record in 2013 using the same detector I use.

I’ve recently come to a conclusion about radar detectors—an item that many car enthusiasts have considered crucial to avoiding speeding tickets for the last few decades. And my conclusion is: these days, in these modern times, they’re useless. It’s over. There’s simply no point in having a radar detector anymore.

I get emails on a daily basis from car enthusiasts asking what detector to buy. Does DeMuro? Maybe this was his way on cutting down on e-mails and comments he didn’t want to (and couldn’t) answer. That opening paragraph is perfectly constructed to maximize SEO. That last sentence? A beautiful slug complementing the title in Google search results.

Read the rest over at The Drive