By on June 9, 2018

Image: Wikimedia

Hell, maybe they could use a driver monitoring camera, too. In other words, Cadillac’s Super Cruise system. How else would one react to seeing this video of a Tesla employee apparently dozing behind the wheel of a Model S while flying down a California highway?

The video, uploaded by YouTube user Mike Cagulada and posted on Twitter by Amir Efrati of The Information, was apparently shot near Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant on June 4th. By the looks of it, this driver isn’t bobbing for apples — he or she is asleep.

It’s a short video, so we can’t say exactly long the driver of this Tesla Mobile Service vehicle stayed with their head on their chest.

“Sleepy,” says the video’s narrator.

Let’s hope, if that’s the case, that the driver awoke and took manual control of the vehicle, which obviously has its Autopilot features (traffic-aware cruise control and lane-holding autosteer) enabled. As Efrati points out, the dangers of semi-autonomous steering features becomes crystal clear after watching this video.

Early versions of Autopilot, regularly abused by Tesla fanatics who considered it a fully self-driving system, would start an abort procedure if too much time went by without the driver’s hands exerting any force on the steering wheel. The car would slow to a halt after a series of escalating prompts and warnings. After Tesla upgraded the Autopilot system in late 2016, switching from a primarily camera-based system to a radar-guided one, the system became less forgiving. The vehicle issues a visual warning (a message on the gauge display, followed by flashing lights), followed by three series of beeps. If the driver doesn’t comply with requests to retake the wheel, Autopilot features turn off, remaining unavailable until the vehicle is stopped and placed in park.

At speeds under 45 mph, five minutes can pass without the vehicle asking for a wheel hold. This shortens to three minutes for vehicles following a car over 45 mph, or one minute of there’s not a leading car. If the system issues three warnings over an hour of driving, the same lockout occurs. Again, it’s too bad the Fremont video doesn’t run longer.

With General Motors’ Super Cruise system, a Driver Attention Camera monitors the driver’s head position to detect signs of drowsiness or distraction. In both vehicles, you can remove your hands from the steering wheel for certain periods of time. However, while the same lane-holding and adaptive cruise control features exist as in a Tesla, Cadillac’s system goes further to alert the driver.

If the system detects that you’re not paying attention to the road, a light bar in the steering wheel flashes green. If there’s still no retaking of the wheel, the light bar flashes red, the Safety Alert Seat buzzes the driver’s backside, and a series of beeps is emitted. Cruise control also shuts off, slowing the vehicle (this must be manually turned on again if the driver retakes the wheel).  Should that fail to rouse the driver, a voice prompt is heard. After that, if there’s still no driver input, the vehicle slows to a stop in its lane, Super Cruise disengages, four-way flashers come on, and the vehicle contacts OnStar Emergency Services.

Hands up if you feel Tesla’s system could use further improvement.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)]

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28 Comments on “Maybe Tesla Vehicles Could Use a Seat-shaker Feature…...”


  • avatar
    RHD

    A car that doesn’t monitor my head position (and report it to headquarters) would be much preferable. Let’s ditch the stupid technology and drive the non-lazy, real way, okay? Next thing in this progression (which includes telling Amazon what your thermostat is set at and whether your refrigerator is low on orange juice) will be a body monitor that tells the main office where your hands are when you are sleeping.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      They already have the beds that monitor your sleep position and adjust the mattress, then give you a report in the morning (which you know gets uploaded to corporate every day). So they DO know where your hand is at…

  • avatar
    gasser

    The biggest problem with all these driver’s aid (like AEB) and semi-autonomous driving is that NONE of them are reliable enough and mixing full manual drivers with oblivious drivers together will not end well.

  • avatar
    gasser

    The biggest problem with all these driver’s aid (like AEB) and semi-autonomous driving is that NONE of them are reliable enough and mixing full manual drivers with oblivious drivers together will not end well.

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    Tesla headrests need to be configured to apply a dope slap or two. One for thinking you can drive on “auto pilot” without paying attention to the road.

    Optional dope slap for buying these toys. I’ve got an electric slot car in the basement – don’t need a pretender on the road.

  • avatar
    dwford

    “coming to a stop in its lane” seems like a dangerous final result for an autonomous feature that only works on HIGHWAYS.

    • 0 avatar
      civicjohn

      @dwford, yes, that would be a problem but hopefully the cars behind will notice the brake lights coming on and then the hazard flashers.

      Then the only vehicle that would hit it would be a Tesla on AP because they are attracted to immovable objects.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    The video is not clear enough, but it could be the ‘driver’ is staring at some electronic device.
    Either way, asleep or monitoring the car’s gadgets or just on the phone, that’s a crash that’s waiting to happen.
    Hopefully this ‘automatic’ driving does not end in a giant crash that takes out a lot of people. A school bus for example.

  • avatar
    Booick

    The tesla autopilot system is a PR nightmare. If the gov steps in and forces them to do a recall or disable features, TSLA could tank. I have positioned myself for that possibility by buying some low risk options plays.

    So far, tesla has gotten very lenient treatment for this fiasco.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Fortunately, this never happens in cars that aren’t equipped with autopilot:

    http://www.sunjournal.com/police-says-driver-fell-asleep-before-rolling-over-into-wales-used-car-lot/

    http://www.ktvu.com/news/8-year-old-dies-in-sunol-colission-driver-tells-chp-he-fell-asleep

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/75676375-157.html

    https://www.cbsnews.com/video/greyhound-bus-passengers-catch-driver-falling-asleep-behind-the-wheel/

    https://bangordailynews.com/2018/04/09/news/mid-maine/driver-rear-ends-maine-deputys-parked-cruiser-after-falling-asleep-at-the-wheel/

    http://kutv.com/news/local/driver-falls-asleep-at-the-wheel-crashes-truck-on-i-15-exit

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Fortunately, those cars didn’t fool the driver into thinking they’d simply drive themselves while he/she catches up on Facebook or falls asleep. They were just accidents.

      Your point is that there are people who fall asleep in other cars, and you even went out and found “proof” that it happens. Congratulations, an excellent way to waste your time trying to make a moot point that has no bearing on the dangerous situations that AutoPilot causes.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @johntaurus: Maybe I am wasting my time. If I do, that’s my problem and not yours. For one thing, I was pointing out that it happens a lot without autopilot. It happens anyway. Elon Musk or no Elon Musk people are falling asleep at the wheel. Autopilot or no autopilot people text and drive, put on makeup, and read with or without autopilot. It happens anyway. They do it anyway.

        And another thing – I’m doing something about it and using a decade of aviation collision experience with successful systems currently in operation to develop better systems. You’re just commenting and doing nothing about it other than whine about it on a backwater website. I’ve also complained for years that these systems weren’t ready for prime time yet. Look back years ago and you’ll see where I was complaining about fundamental flaws in the designs. Better solutions are on the way, but they aren’t here yet.

        • 0 avatar
          conundrum

          @ mcs

          I’ll back you up that you’ve been posting on the autonomous driving scene since at least 2011, and making shrewd observations all along due to your professional career and experience. I’ve complimented you before. Probably the only true expert who posts here. Please keep doing so.

    • 0 avatar
      civicjohn

      @mcs – news flash – I would think most people are aware of the dangers of falling asleep behind the wheel.

      Save yourself some time and quit scrambling to google up some examples of ICE accidents and use your mad skillz to convince Sir Elon to stop the bulls**t and dangerous marketing of “AutoPilot”.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @civicjohn: It’s my business if I want to spend time googling and not yours. Understand. Maybe you can stop wasting your time worrying about how other people are wasting their time. If you don’t like autopilot and don’t like what musk is doing, come up with a better system, send tweets to musk, or write your congressman. Don’t waste your time worrying about me or what I’m doing.

        • 0 avatar
          civicjohn

          @mcs, funny, you get all worked up about googling ICE accidents, I don’t give a crap how you spend your time, but obviously you felt the need to explain to all ICE illiterates.

          I wasn’t worried at all until seeing that your fragile feelings were being hurt, no reason to lash out.

          I don’t like AutoPilot and I don’t like what Musk is doing, so:
          1) I don’t know how to code (I just pay the bills)
          2) I don’t tweet (and your savior EM should stop)
          3) I’ve known my congressman for 30 years and I don’t need to write to her

          If you think I’m worried about you, well that’s kind of delusional. Go help EM install solar panels at GF1, maybe you can get an extra Eagle Scout badge.

        • 0 avatar
          civicjohn

          @mcs,

          as I did in the other thread, let me offer my apologies for going off the rails. It has been mentioned here that you are a reliable individual regarding all things autonomous.

          I just get unnerved over the whole concept – I’m trying to wrap my head around it – but it’s tough.

          I mean, GM is going to build Bolts without a steering wheel? And the stock trades like a tech company?

          Anyway, I’m sorry. I like to keep my streets clean.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      OK, yeah, point taken – if a car has autonomous capability, perhaps that’s a safety benefit in situations like these, where people are obviously incompetent or incapacitated.

      Problem is, of course, that it also makes it more likely that peoples’ driving behaviors will become more incompetent, or that people who are incapacitated will drive anyway. And it’s just a matter of time before some a-hole Autopilots his Tesla or Super Cruises his Caddy into a school bus full of kids.

      Will you defend the tech then?

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        For sure it’s a double edge sword. I don’t think the tech is ready yet and I have a lot of reasons. Personally, I’d only trust the current tech in stop and go freeway traffic below 35 miles per hour. Maybe if it was a segment I trusted I’d go to a higher speed. Still, what happens if a piece of debris is covering the lines.

        The technology I’m working on will be better than a human and light-years ahead of what’s out there now. The problem is that we need sensor improvements and there is a huge amount of AI work to be done. My design philosophy is that the vehicle should just react to road situations, but should anticipate them. Analyzing what the other drivers are doing on the road and predicting what they might do next. Understanding weather conditions and how it affects roads and concepts like flooded underpasses.

        Think of a new human driver, When they start out, they’ll only react to situations as they are happening. An experienced human driver anticpates problems and can avoid dangerous situations. That’s what we need for autonomous driving systems.

        • 0 avatar
          civicjohn

          Glad to know that you are single-handily solving this problem.

          “New human driver” – are you referring to my kids?

          Waymo, MobilEye, get out of the way, mcs is about to leave you in the proverbial dust.

        • 0 avatar
          dantes_inferno

          >The technology I’m working on will be better than a human and light-years ahead of what’s out there now.

          SKYNET – is that you???

  • avatar
    ByTheLake

    Nothing to see here … Tesla will fix this driver’s level of engagement with an over-the-air update. Now, please look this way where we have future models coming in 2 years from a plant that hasn’t yet been built.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    “Production hell” been going on too long.
    Employees have to hit the road and get some rest.

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    Idiot-proof automobiles are no match for idiots. These nanny technology initiatives amount to nothing more than an exercise in perpetual futility.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Females would just drive from LA to SD all way on the hard shoulder.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    I’m sure the seat shakes when Supreme Leader Elon’s AutoPilot technology fails to see traffic sitting in the traffic lane. Even the most basic forms of adaptive cruise control sense when traffic is in front of them. Seems odd that The con man would release beta level software that can’t even see traffic.

    As much as I’m against government intervention, the feds need to step in and do two things. First force Tesla to disable Autopilot on all vehicles. It’s clear that it’s a menace to the roads. Secondly, the government needs to stipulate what they will allow Tesla to do with “autopilot” which would basically regulate it to just an adaptive cruise control and force Tesla to change the name.

  • avatar
    Gregg Mulry

    I would say let the dozing doofus get a Darwinian award, except he or she is also putting others at jeopardy.


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