Tag: NTSB

By on May 16, 2019

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

A fatal March collision between a Tesla and a semi trailer that bore a strong resemblance to a crash in the same state three year earlier was more similar than initially thought.

Following the March 1st collision between a Tesla Model 3 and a semi on US 441 in Delray Beach, Florida, in which the car underrode a trailer crossing the divided roadway, the National Transportation Safety Board went to work. A preliminary report is now out, confirming suspicions that, like the 2016 crash, the car was under the guidance of Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist system at the time of the crash. (Read More…)

By on March 4, 2019

tesla model 3

Two fatal Tesla crashes in Florida last week, one of which bears a striking similarity to an earlier 2016 crash, have the NHTSA and NTSB on their toes.

While both federal safety agencies are looking into Friday’s West Delray, Florida collision, which involved a Model 3 and transport truck, only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is probing the previous Sunday’s Davie, Florida crash. Both groups want to know if Autopilot was turned on at the time of impact. (Read More…)

By on February 5, 2019

 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its “Most Wanted List” of Transportation Safety Improvements it would like to see implemented by 2020, placing the obligatory emphasis on enhanced safety regulations. While it’s not surprising that a safety board would be a stickler on the public’s welfare, the NTSB is pushing for more safety nets in an era where cars are less dangerous than ever. That meant the agency’s recommended occupant protection measures dealt more with refining infrastructure and curtailing undesirable behaviors than modifying automobiles — but there was some of that as well.

According to the NTSB, automakers, motorists, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should be focusing on finding better solutions to curtail distracted driving, operating a vehicle under the influence, and speeding. Then, and only then, can we achieve the NTSB’s dream of death-proof driving.  (Read More…)

By on October 8, 2018

Image: Wikimedia

The deadliest U.S. transportation accident in the last decade occurred in upstate New York this weekend, but it didn’t involve a airliner, train, or bus. The vehicle in question was a modified 2001 Ford Excursion. All 18 occupants of the aging limo died after the vehicle failed to stop at an intersection, with two pedestrians struck and killed in the parking lot where the runaway vehicle ultimately came to rest.

In the vehicle was a group of young people, including many couples and relatives, who were headed to a birthday celebration. While limo operators are already subjected to federal oversight, the National Transportation Safety Board plans to probe existing regulations as part of its investigation. (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2018

This week, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a statement urging people to stop jumping out of moving vehicles in order to dance. That’s the kind of folksy wisdom we appreciate from the government, but we were curious as to what spurred it.

Apparently, youths everywhere are engaging in a social media challenge where they film themselves dancing to Drake’s new song “In My Feelings” next to their automobile. Hoping to seek some clarity as to why this is happening, we hunted down the music video for the track. This revealed two important things: Drake’s portrayal of a love-fueled killing machine is totally implausible, and the song is not nearly good enough to warrant such behavior.

The new cultural phenomenon is highly reminiscent of — and no less idiotic than — “Ghost Riding,” which peaked in popularity roughly a decade ago. The only appreciable difference is that the present-day participants actually seem to be taking slightly less risk and aren’t actually required to exit a moving vehicle. Some just just decided to keep the car in motion for the hell of it.  (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2018

screencap tesla model x crash

The March 23rd death of a Tesla Model X driver in Mountain View, California prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to probe why the vehicle, driving in Autopilot mode, left its lane and collided with a concrete lane barrier on a clear day. The impact killed 38-year-old Walter Huang, an Apple engineer.

In the wake of the crash, the safety agency booted Tesla from the investigation after the automaker released details relating to the vehicle’s (and victim’s) actions in the moments leading to the crash. We now have the NTSB’s preliminary report on what happened before, during, and after the collision. (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2018

The Volvo XC90 that hit Elaine Herzberg on a darkened Tempe, Arizona street was travelling 43 mph at the time of impact. Guided by a combination of cameras, radar sensors, and lidar designed to cut through the gloom, the two-ton SUV “saw” the victim 6 seconds before impact, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Volvo, operated by Uber Technologies, applied the brakes 1.3 seconds after impact. However, it wasn’t autonomous software that ended up sending pressure the front and rear pistons. A human did that. (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2018

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

The fatal collision between an autonomous Volvo XC90 operated by Uber Technologies and 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in March could have been prevented, had the vehicle’s software not dismissed what its sensors saw.

That’s what two sources briefed on the issue told The Information, but Uber isn’t divulging what led to the Tempe, Arizona collision. What it will admit to, however, is the hiring of a former National Transportation Safety Board chair to examine the safety of its self-driving vehicle program. (Read More…)

By on April 22, 2018

autonomous hardware

Thanks to the incredibly lax and voluntary guidelines outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers have had free rein to develop and test autonomous technology as they see fit. Meanwhile, the majority of states have seemed eager to welcome companies to their neck of the woods with a minimum of hassle. But things are beginning to change after a handful of high-profile accidents are forcing public officials to question whether the current approach to self-driving cars is the correct one.

The House of Representatives has already passed the SELF DRIVE Act. But it’s bipartisan companion piece, the AV START Act, has been hung up in the Senate for months now. The intent of the legislation is to remove potential barriers for autonomous development and fast track the implementation of self-driving technology. But a handful of legislators and consumer advocacy groups have claimed AV START doesn’t place a strong enough emphasis on safety and cyber security. Interesting, considering SELF DRIVE appeared to be less hard on manufacturers and passed with overwhelming support.

Of course, it also passed before the one-two punch of vehicular fatalities in California and Arizona from earlier this year. Now some policymakers are admitting they probably don’t understand the technology as they should and are becoming dubious that automakers can deliver on the multitude of promises being made. But the fact remains that some manner of legal framework needs to be established for autonomous vehicles, because it’s currently a bit of a confused free-for-all.  (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2018

screencap tesla model x crash

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is currently investigating last month’s fatal crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot system, has removed the electric automaker from the case after it improperly disclosed details of the investigation.

Since nothing can ever be simple, Tesla Motors claims it left the investigation voluntarily. It also accused the NTSB of violating its own rules and placing an emphasis on getting headlines, rather than promoting safety and allowing the brand to provide information to the public. Tesla said it plans to make an official complaint to Congress on the matter.

The fallout came after the automaker disclosed what the NTSB considered to be investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the investigative team. On March 30th, Tesla issued a release stating the driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning before the accident. It also outlined items it believed attributed to the brutality of the crash and appeared to attribute blame to the vehicle’s operator. The NTSB claims any release of incomplete information runs the risk of promoting speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash, doing a “disservice to the investigative process and the traveling public.” (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2018

Driving aids are touted as next-level safety tech, but they’re also a bit of a double-edged sword. While accident avoidance technology can apply the brakes before you’ve even thought of it, mitigate your following distance, and keep your car in the appropriate lane, it also lulls you into a false sense of security.

Numerous members of the our staff have experienced this first hand, including yours truly. The incident usually plays out a few minutes after testing adaptive cruise control or lane assist. Things are progressing smoothly, then someone moves into your lane and the car goes into crisis mode — causing you to ruin your undergarments. You don’t even have to be caught off guard for it to be a jarring experience, and it’s not difficult to imagine an inexperienced, inattentive, or easily panicked driver making the situation much worse.

Lane keeping also has its foibles. Confusing road markings or snowy road conditions can really throw it for a loop. But the problem is its entire existence serves to allow motorists to take a more passive role while driving. So what happens when it fails to function properly? In ideal circumstances, you endure a moderate scare before taking more direct command of your vehicle. But, in a worst case scenario, you just went off road or collided with an object at highway speeds.  (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board is one of two federal agencies probing the recent fatal Tesla Model X crash in Mountain View, California, and it isn’t too pleased with the automaker for releasing information gathered from the car’s digital log.

Apple engineer Wei Huang died after his Model X slammed into a concrete barrier on the southbound US-101 freeway on March 23rd. The vehicle was operating in Autopilot mode, the company revealed days later. Accompanying Tesla’s blog post were details about the events leading up to the impact, including the claim that Huang didn’t have his hands on the wheel during the six seconds leading up to the crash.

This data release didn’t sit well with the NTSB. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2018

uber volvo

Ever since last week’s  fatal accident, in which an autonomous test vehicle from Uber struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, it seems like the whole world has united against the company. While the condemnation is not undeserved, there appears to be an emphasis on casting the blame in a singular direction to ensure nobody else gets caught up in the net of outrage. But it’s important to remember that, while Uber has routinely displayed a lack of interest in pursuing safety as a priority, all autonomous tech firms are being held to the same low standards imposed by both local and federal governments.

Last week, lidar supplier Velodyne said Uber’s failure was most likely on the software end as it defended the effectiveness of its hardware. Since then, Aptiv — the supplier for the Volvo XC90’s radar and camera — claimed Uber disabled the SUV’s standard crash avoidance systems to implement its own. This was followed up by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issuing a suspension on all autonomous testing from Uber on Monday — one week after the incident and Uber’s self-imposed suspension.  (Read More…)

By on March 22, 2018

On Wednesday evening, the Tempe Police Department released a video documenting the final moments before an Uber-owned autonomous test vehicle fatally struck a woman earlier this week. The public response has been varied. Many people agree with Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir that the accident was unavoidable, while others accusing Uber of vehicular homicide. The media take has been somewhat more nuanced.

One thing is very clear, however — the average person still does not understand how this technology works in the slightest. While the darkened video (provided below) does seem to support claims that the victim appeared suddenly, other claims — that it is enough to exonerate Uber — are mistaken. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, does indeed cross directly into the path of the oncoming Volvo XC90 and is visible for a fleeting moment before the strike, but the vehicle’s lidar system should have seen her well before that. Any claims to the contrary are irresponsible.  (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2018

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Details are trickling in about the fatal incident in Tempe, Arizona, where an autonomous Uber collided with a pedestrian earlier this week. While a true assessment of the situation is ongoing, the city’s police department seems ready to absolve the company of any wrongdoing.

“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” explained Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

This claim leaves us with more questions than answers. Research suggests autonomous driving aids lull people into complacency, dulling the senses and slowing reaction times. But most self-driving hardware, including Uber’s, uses lidar that can functionally see in pitch black conditions. Even if the driver could not see the woman crossing the street (there were streetlights), the vehicle should have picked her out clear as day. (Read More…)

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