First Look: How Tesla’s Autopilot Camera Captures Accident Video

13 Sep

What’s the difference between a dashcam and the Mobileye camera in your semi-autonomous car? Not much.

Infamous Telsa hacker and P85D owner Jason Hughes was able to pull eight frames of video from a salvaged Model S, depicting the final seconds before it collided with an Acura:

Autopilot Crash

Read the rest over at The Drive…

Tesla’s Autopilot 8 Update Could Have Saved Joshua Brown’s Life

12 Sep

Autopilot 8

Autopilot 8—the second generation of Tesla’s semi-Autonomous Driving suite—is two weeks away, and Elon Musk claims the latest round of improvements might have saved Joshua Brown’s life.

“Perfect safety is an impossible goal,” Musk said in a conference call on Sunday, “there won’t ever be zero fatalities. The world is a very big place. It’s about minimizing the probability of death.”

Critics have suggested Autopilot—whose capabilities fall somewhere between what NHTSA calls Level 2 & 3 automation—doesn’t live up to its name, but Musk was confident in both the data underlying Autopilot’s safety record and the promise of version 8’s myriad functional improvements.

“The Model S and the X are by far the safest cars on the road,” said Musk, “by several orders of magnitude. These improvements aren’t about going from bad to good . . . but from good to great.”

The two big changes?

Read the rest over at The Drive

7 Predictions For Tesla’s Autopilot 8

7 Sep

Autopilot 8

Any minute now, Elon Musk will reveal details of the biggest update to Tesla’s Autopilot suite since its release in October of 2015. He was supposed to do this last Wednesday, then, when that didn’t come to pass, over the weekend. I’m sure he had bigger fish to fry, which gave me more time to digest the lessons of my most recent Tesla cross-country drive, and contemplate what we can expect to see in Autopilot 8.

Without further ado…read the rest over at The Drive.

Is Tesla Autopilot Actually an Autopilot?

31 Aug

Tesla Autopilot

Tesla presumably named its semi-autonomous driving suite “Autopilot” for a reason. After all, it’s not a made-up bit of marketing jargon—it’s the commonly-used term for the self-piloting technology found in aircraft.

In fact, let’s take a look at one definition of an autopilot system, from Wikipedia:

“…[A] system used to control the trajectory of a vehicle without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the vehicle, allowing them to focus on broader aspects of operation…”

Now, let’s look at Tesla’s own description of Autopilot:

“[The system] allows [the] Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed…[and] while truly driverless cars are still a few years away, Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear. The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. What’s more, you always have intuitive access to the information your car is using to inform its actions.”

So, is Tesla Autopilot actually an Autopilot?

Read the rest over at The Drive

The War For Autonomous Driving, Part Deux: The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

18 Aug

Mercedes Drivepilot

What follows is a full review, as promised, of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), including the new Drive Pilot feature and what Mercedes calls “semi-automated” driving features. This is a follow-up to my original and disputed comparison of this technology suite to Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving capabilities.

I note that this test included, over the course of one week, about 250 miles of real-world testing in a top-of-the-line E-Class with Premium 3 Package; 400 pages read (and re-read) of the E-Class owner’s manual; heavy perusal of the company’s website and public statements regarding Drive Pilot; and two undercover visits to dealerships to ask questions of the sales people.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Why I Plan to Reassess the Mercedes-Benz DrivePilot System

10 Aug

DrivePilot

I’ll give Mercedes-Benz credit: I didn’t expect to hear from them after my recent story comparing their DrivePilot to Tesla’s Autopilot. I took a flamethrower to Stuttgart’s latest semi-autonomous driving technology, calling it a disaster—and, worse, potentially unsafe. In a world where manufacturers regularly attempt to sidestep bad press, Mercedes could easily have stayed silent.

Then, six days after Musk gloatingly retweeted the story, my phone rang.

I should note that it’s rare for a blatantly negative review to appear in the mainstream media for any consumer product, let alone about a juggernaut brand whose tagline is “The Best or Nothing.” When one does show up, it’s generally centered around criteria with little real-world impact—things like design, or zero-to-sixty times. Criticizing a major manufacturer for a perceived issue at the heart of their latest safety technology is basically unheard of.

Read the rest over at The Drive

It’s Not Just Tesla Autopilot—Everything Is in Beta

3 Aug

Everything Is In Beta

I remember my first real girlfriend. We were eleven; promises were made. My first car? I was going to keep it forever. My parents were together, until they weren’t. I remember the girl I wanted to marry—the first girl and the third. I remember my father’s voice from the next room. Then on an answering machine, which stopped working, then on a voicemail, which I lost when I switched to T-Mobile. Then, only in my memory.

Nothing is static. The world, with all of us in it, is in a constant state of change. Everything is in beta, and anyone who says otherwise is selling you something.

Love or hate Elon Musk, his greatest societal contribution isn’t “Premium Electric Vehicles” or reusable rockets. It might just be his use of language—specifically that phrase, “in beta.” Did you think that term means “not ready,” “incomplete,” or “needs testing”? It can, and it does, but now, it also means something else: In the world of automotive technology, especially autonomy, “in beta” now means: We have to move faster.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Why The FTC SHOULD Investigate Mercedes’ ‘Misleading’ Self-Driving Car Ads

28 Jul

Mercedes Self-Driving Car

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-class may be amazing, but it is not a self-driving car. Not even close. But their early ads say it is, in exactly that language. This is how people get killed, and now Consumer Reports is rightfully calling on the FTC to investigate what they call a “misleading” campaign.

Consumer Reports specifically called out a Mercedes TV ad called “The Future,” in which a narrator’s voice-over says, “Is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself? An autonomous-thinking automobile that protects those inside and outside. Ready or not, the future is here.”

Stuttgart, we have problem.

Read the rest of my article over @The/Drive

The War For Autonomous Driving: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS. 2017 Tesla Model S

27 Jul

Drive Pilot

Looking for a comparison of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the 2016 Tesla Model S? This is not that. Both are brilliant, gorgeous cars—best-of-breed luxury sedans in the war between internal combustion and electricity—but who cares?

The future belongs to Autonomous Driving.

The 2017 E-Class is the first Mercedes-Benz available with Drive Pilot—the brand name for their latest semi-Autonomous Driving (AD) suite—and is the first direct assault on Tesla’s Autopilot, which has captured the public’s imagination, for better or worse, since its release in 2015.

What is AD? It’s what happens when you combine Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Automatic Steering, and then a car begins to drive itself. How long, how well and how safely it does this is the difference between today and tomorrow, between semi-Autonomous and truly Self-Driving Cars.

Does Mercedes’ Drive Pilot deliver what it calls The Best or Nothing? Or is Autopilot—despite recent controversy—still the state-of-the-semi-Autonomous-art?

That depends on your expectations.

Read the rest over at The/Drive

Tesla Is Right. Consumer Reports Is Wrong. And Trying To Kill You.

16 Jul

Tesla Is Right. Consumer Reports Is Wrong. And Trying To Kill You.

Consumer Reports is trying to kill you. It’s true: The non-profit my parents trusted for advice on washing machines, coffee makers and sunscreen has crossed the line. CR, an organization claiming to serve consumers through unbiased product testing has chosen to enter the debate over Tesla’s Autopilot in the most ill-informed and irresponsible way possible. In doing so, the brand is putting additional lives at risk.

No company has done more to bring autonomous driving (AD) to market than Tesla, and yet they are now the target of a misinformation campaign rapidly coalescing around a single message: Tesla Autopilot is dangerous.

This is nonsense.

Read the rest of over at The/Drive.com