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Musk Laments “Excruciating” Toll He’s Faced at Tesla

But no plans to give up post as CEO.

by on Aug.17, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that he feels like this has been the toughest year of his life.

Forget the amusement park. Anyone who wants to ride a roller-coaster might be better off purchasing Tesla stock. But no one has faced more ups-and-downs during the last year than the automaker’s co-founder and CEO Elon Musk.

Even as Tesla appears to be resolving its production problems and seems poised to deliver a long-promised profit, the automaker and its CEO are facing a probe by the SEC, lawsuits filed by several short-sellers, additional investigations by the NLRB, NHTSA and the NTSB, and allegations of safety and quality problems by several self-styled whistleblowers.

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No wonder, “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” Musk said in an interview newly published by the New York Times. “It was excruciating.” (more…)

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Could Cause, Not Prevent Crashes, Warns New IIHS Study

Drivers may expect new systems, like Tesla Autopilot, to completely take over driving duties.

by on Aug.07, 2018

Tesla's own semi-autonomous Autopilot tech came under suspicion after this January crash.

Federal safety investigators raced to the scene of a crash involving a Tesla Model S sedan last January after the vehicle slammed into the back of a firetruck stopped on a California highway, regulators wanting to know why that happened despite the vehicle using the carmaker’s advanced driver assistance system specifically designed to prevent such a crash.

“ADAS” systems are being introduced on a wide range of vehicles and, according to industry experts, could substantially reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities on U.S. roads. But a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety raises serious concerns about the technology. After testing five different systems offered by four automakers, IIHS warns that even though ADAS can prevent some accidents, the technology also could miss some potential problems and, in some situations, actually steer into a crash.

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A major concern is that these new, semi-autonomous systems still require drivers to be constantly vigilant, and occasionally intervene, said IIHS chief researcher David Zuby. But that’s often easy to forget. “If the systems seem too capable, then drivers may not give them the attention required to use them safely.” (more…)

Automakers Offer Possible Solutions as Child Heatstroke Deaths Rise

Issue shows rare Washington bipartisanship, but Hot Cars Act yet to pass.

by on Jul.31, 2018

Nissan's Rear Door Alert system uses the horn to sound an alert to remind the driver to check the back seat.

The record heat scorching the country has been blamed for a series of devastating wildfires and other natural disasters, while contributing to what is on pace to become a record year for heatstroke deaths among children left in hot cars.

As July draws to a close, authorities have so far counted 29 child heatstroke deaths, a figure expected to soon surge pass the annual average of 37. Heatstrokes are not only the number one cause of non-crash vehicular deaths among children 15 years of age and younger, but also one of the most preventable. That’s led to a bipartisan push for new legislation on Capitol Hill, while several automakers have begun taking steps that could lower the deadly toll.

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“No one thinks a hot car tragedy can happen to them or their family and that is why these tragedies continue to happen,” said Janette Fennell, founder and president of the nonprofit child safety organization KidsAndCars.org. (more…)

Uber Ready to Resume Autonomous Testing in Pittsburgh

Company reviewed, revised protocols, including adding 2nd driver.

by on Jul.27, 2018

Uber is ready to resume testing its autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, but several changes have been instituted to ensure improved safety.

Uber is reviving its self-driving vehicle test program in Pittsburgh, after a nearly four-month hiatus implemented in the wake of the pedestrian death in Arizona.

Company officials said there are and will be significant changes to the program to help avoid another fatality or other issues. First, there will be two employees in every vehicle. The “mission specialists” will occupy the two front seats.

The Last Word!

Additionally, the vehicles will be driven by a person instead of by the machine. This is to help the system “learn” more about a variety of situations drivers may encounter ranging from the everyday to once-in-a-lifetime. The second “specialist’s” role it to document anything out of the ordinary. No word on when the vehicles will drive themselves again. (more…)

Former NTSB Chief Calls for Duck Boat Ban

Vessels weren't designed for current usage.

by on Jul.23, 2018

Salvage crews recover the duck boat from the bottom of the lake where 17 died last week.

Just days after a duck boat sank, killing 17 people near Branson, Missouri, the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board called for a ban on using the crafts for tourism or pleasure cruises.

The push for a ban came after the boat sank in rough conditions caused by a sudden storm on Table Rock Lake. There were two duck boats on the lake at that time, only one was able to navigate the wind and high waves an make it back to shore.

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The boat, which carried 31 people, is based on a World War II military landing craft that known as DUKWS. They were originally designed to spend only a short amount of time in the water. However, since the end of the war, many have been modified to be used for tours occurring on land and water. (more…)

Mercedes, Bosch Team to Launch Self-Driving Car Service

Set to debut in late 2019 in Silicon Valley.

by on Jul.11, 2018

Initially, Daimler will use the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan for the pilot ride-sharing project.

Mercedes-Benz is teaming up with German mega-supplier Bosch to launch a new ride-sharing service in Silicon Valley next year that will rely on self-driving vehicles.

The project marks the latest entry into the fast-expanding field that, by some estimates, could eventually account for as much as a quarter or more of the miles Americans travel by automobile. Other planning to launch ride-sharing services using self-driving vehicles include General Motors, Google spin-off Waymo and Uber, the country’s largest ride-sharing service.

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While Mercedes’ parent Daimler AG is referring to the vehicles it will use as “automated shuttle(s),” customers will be able to ride in style. When the project initially gets underway during the second half of 2019, it will rely on modified versions of the luxurious S-Class Sedan. Eventually, the goal is to switch to a production version of the edgy Mercedes concept vehicle, the F 015.

(more…)

Tesla Batteries Reigniting After Being Put Out by Fire Departments

NTSB reports find lithium-ion power packs catching on fire again.

by on Jun.27, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board launched a second investigation into a Tesla crash. This time a Model S burst into flames after spinning into a wall.

Tesla’s lithium ion batteries have reignited on two separate occasions after the initial fires were extinguished, according to NTSB reports.

The National Traffic Safety Board sent teams to investigate Tesla crashes in Florida and California and in both cases found that after the fire departments put out battery fires, the powerplants each reignited and had to be extinguished again.

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In May, a Tesla Model S that crashed into a wall at high speed in Fort Lauderdale burst into flames, killing two teens and injuring a third.The Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue Department found the Tesla “fully engulfed in flames” at the crash scene and extinguished it with 200 to 300 gallons of water and foam, the report stated. (more…)

Uber Fatality Now Deemed “Entirely Avoidable”

Safety driver was watching television right before crash.

by on Jun.22, 2018

The Tempe (Arizona) Police Department released the video footage of Uber's collision with a pedestrian.

After initially faulting the pedestrian killed in a crash with an autonomous Uber car in March, the Tempe (Arizona) Police Department is calling the collision “entirely avoidable” after determining the safety driver was streaming Hulu on her phone while behind the wheel.

According to the department’s 318-page report, the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was watching a television show on her phone for 5.3 seconds prior to looking up and seeing 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg crossing the road in front of her.

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Vasquez applied the brakes just 0.5 seconds before the collision. The report says that Vasquez could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. She was watching the television show “The Voice” for 42 minutes with it ending at 9:59 p.m., which is about the time that Herzberg was struck. (more…)

Despite Concerns, Safety Probes, Musk Promise “Full Self-Driving” Autopilot to Debut in August

But CEO Musk doesn’t explain what that actually means.

by on Jun.12, 2018

According to a new tweet from Tesla CEO Musk, products like the new Model 3 may soon be updated with full "self-driving" capabilities.

Tesla Version 9, an apparently major software update to the operating system used for the automaker’s vehicles, will debut in August and, according to CEO Elon Musk, add “full sell-driving” capabilities to the controversial Autopilot system.

The news, announced in a Musk tweet late Monday, comes at a time when earlier versions of the semi-autonomous Autopilot system have come under intense scrutiny. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board has raised serious concerns about how it functioned in the moments leading up to a fatal crash of a Tesla Model X SUV in California earlier this year.

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But Musk has repeatedly downplayed such concerns — even pointing his finger at owners who may not have used Autopilot properly – while promising a far more advanced version of the system was coming. And in his late Monday tweet, Musk said, “to date, Autopilot resources have rightly focused entirely on safety (but) with V9, we will begin to enable full self-driving features.”

(more…)

NTSB: Model X Accelerating, Driver Took No Action in Crash

Report doesn't assign blame, just determines final moments.

by on Jun.08, 2018

A fatal March crash involving a Tesla Model S in Mountain View, California. Pic courtesy KTVU.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the crash of a Tesla Model X determined that seconds before the crash the vehicle was in Autopilot mode, accelerating and had no input from the driver to avoid the collision.

Walter Huang, 38, was killed on U.S. Hwy 101 in Mountain View, California, when his Model X slammed into a road divider, hit two other vehicles and then burst into flames, Huang, who according to his wife had complained previously about the failure of Autopilot in the same area before, was pulled from the vehicle before it caught on fire.

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Huang had the vehicle in its semi-autonomous Autopilot mode for nearly 19 minutes before the crash and it was set at 75 miles an hour. However, due to traffic in front of him, the vehicle was traveling at 65 mph before the vehicle in front of him moved, allowed the Model X to accelerate to the selected speed. (more…)

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