The German magazine Der Spiegel reported last week that a Munich court has ordered Tesla to reimburse a customer most of the 112,000 euros ($112,884) paid to purchase a Model X SUV due to problems with the Autopilot function.
The Munich district court found Tesla’s autopilot assistance system unreliable, terming it a “massive hazard” in city traffic.
The ruling, 5,800 miles from Silicon Valley, is unlikely to alarm the 100,000 amateur test drivers who have joined Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta test program. These volunteers are, after all, willing guinea pigs, eager to help Tesla “improve” its software and surely disinclined to seek reimbursement for mishaps with Tesla’s still-glitchy FSD.
Nevertheless, the German consumer’s complaint should give pause to carmakers rolling out highly automated features in their new passenger vehicles.
Many auto companies, we notice, are quietly distancing themselves from Tesla, especially on safety issues with advanced automated driving features. But we also believe that, sooner or later, consumers – even pro-business Americans — will start asking questions: How safe is your ADAS? Does your ADAS guarantee safety for both passengers and pedestrians?
Although not every current ADAS in every model is created equal, carmakers have advanced ADAS over the years by adding better sensors, deploying powerful processors, enhancing software algorithms and developing more accurate mapping. Among the improvements are forward collision and lane departure warning.
The standard blanket statement about ADAS is that it makes driving safer. But third-party testing outfits like IIHS and AAA have found that many vehicles fall short of the high expectations touted for features that require “active” ADAS to intervene when the driver does not react to a warning.
There remain a few critical open questions:
- Does active ADAS work in all weather?
- Can automatic emergency braking (AEB) see in the dark and stop a vehicle, after dusk, when a pedestrian appears?
- Certain ADAS features are designed for specific Operational Design Domains. But how will drivers be kept informed when their ADAS vehicles go beyond operational domains? Der Spiegel reported that Tesla lawyers argued Autopilot was not designed for city traffic. The court responded that it’s “not feasible for drivers to switch the feature on and off manually in different settings as it would distract from driving.”
- How will carmakers address such issues as “mode confusion” for drivers? It’s hard for drivers to recognize a vehicle’s current “mode” or what they have to do in any particular mode. The transition among modes is likely to be even less understood. Worse, vehicles might take control or relinquish control unexpectedly. Understanding neither the different modes of a particular car nor the proper response to a mode shift is the definition of “mode confusion.” Yes, this is as dangerous as it sounds.
- As we know, human drivers are imperfect. How do carmakers prevent drivers from leaning too hard on automation?
- How safe is so-called hands-free highway driving?
- The goal for many carmakers these days is emulating Tesla and rolling out connected vehicles capable of over-the-air software updates. Again, how would drivers know whether models (their own vehicles or rentals) have the latest software updates, and if their driving responsibility have changed?
To answer these and other questions, the Ojo-Yoshida Report, in collaboration with Silicon Catalyst, presents a webinar, “How Safe Are We with Today’s ADAS?” at 8:30AM PDT, on Wednesday, July 27.
Junko Yoshida, Editor-in-Chief of The Ojo-Yoshida Report
Bolaji Ojo, Publisher and Managing Editor of The Ojo-Yoshida Report
Matthew Lum, Engineering Program Manager, AAA National
David Aylor, Vice President of Active Safety Testing, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Jordan Greene, Co-Founder, GM of Automotive & VP of Corporate Development, AEye, Inc.
Chuck Gershman, President & CEO, Owl Autonomous Imaging, Inc
Manju Hegde, CEO & Cofounder, Uhnder, Inc.
Patrick Denny, Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence and Industry Expert in Automotive Imaging, University of Limerick
Junko Yoshida is the editor in chief of The Ojo-Yoshida Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.